In the last article on the Government Technology Insider, we featured an interview with Kristi Alford-Haarberg, the President and CEO of E2 Optics. Alford- Haarberg’s company is a leading technology integrator and provider of end-to-end technology solutions that are helping to drive the digital transformation and modernization initiatives that remain priorities across the public and private sector today.
During the first part of our discussion with Alford-Haarberg, we discussed her background in technology, her experience starting the company, and the solutions and services that E2 Optics provides for today’s increasingly digitally-dependent enterprises.
In the second half of our discussion, we talked about the company’s evolution from infrastructure integration to an end-to-end technology solutions provider, and how companies like E2 Optics are helping organizations from hospitals to government agencies to hyperscalers move towards a more modern, connected world.
Government Technology Insider (GTI): Why would a data center owner or operator need a company like E2 Optics to outfit and manage their IT solutions? Why not recruit and onboard these skilled people themselves?
Kristi Alford-Haarberg: There are a number of reasons why these data center owners and operators want to work with a company like E2 Optics. Hyperscalers have become very sophisticated. They also operate at an incredibly fast pace. They have tight deadlines to build and outfit these facilities so that they can meet the demands of their customers. It takes a highly-skilled, and highly trained team to meet those deadlines and staff their operations departments.
It’s also incredibly important that everything is done correctly. Hyperscale data center owners and operators rely on those facilities to power the solutions that – in turn – power their customers. The work that E2 Optics does is complicated and specialized.
Our people are doing equipment installations on massive construction sites. They require technical knowledge, as well as construction knowledge and experience. They need to understand and be educated on safety procedures and protocols.
We have become a leader in the hyperscale movement by focusing on and investing in our people. We have three BICSI certified training centers across the country that we utilize to recruit talent, put them through training, get them certified, and help them grow their careers. We invest heavily in training to ensure that our employees are staying ahead of the most cutting-edge technologies so that we can leverage those new technologies and solutions to meet the business needs of our customers.
For many hyperscalers to build a skilled workforce like what exists at E2 Optics, they would effectively have to create an entire company within their company.
GTI: The company has branched out significantly since its founding, and has grown tremendously – even being named one of the fastest-growing companies in America. What new services and offerings has the company introduced, and what markets – in addition to the data center market – is it servicing today?
Kristi Alford-Haarberg: The industry has evolved and changed. Today, low voltage cabling extends beyond copper and fiber cabling for data. Now it’s used for audio-visual, wireless, security, and other essential systems both inside and outside of the data center industry. With our skills and expertise in low voltage cabling, E2 Optics and its employees are uniquely qualified and well suited to provide these new services and solutions to our customers.
“What we’re doing is exciting. We’re building the cloud. We’re building the backbone of the business world today. We’re the people making the modern economy, the modern classroom, the modern hospital, and the modern workplace possible.” – Kristi Alford-Haarberg
E2 Optics is still one of the leading hyperscale data center installers in the country. But we’ve naturally evolved and grown our portfolio of services to become a true, end-to-end technology integrator. We’ve also expanded our customer base beyond the data center, and have started servicing companies in the financial services industry, energy and industrial industry, healthcare industry, and even organizations in higher education and the public sector.
Today, E2 Optics is considered one of the nation’s leading high-end technology integrators servicing hyperscale data center operators, hospitals, colleges and universities, and some of the country’s most widely known and respected businesses.
GTI: To what do you attribute the company’s impressive growth? There are many integrated IT solution providers for data center operators, healthcare companies, and other organizations to work with. Why do they choose to work with E2 Optics?
Kristi Alford-Haarberg: Our customers choose to work with E2 Optics because of our culture, values, and go-to-market strategy. We’ve never approached business development and sales as transactional. We don’t respond to as many RFPs or submit as many proposals or bids as possible in an attempt to book as much business as possible. Instead, we have a much more consultative approach to how we work with prospects and customers.
E2 Optics wants to feel like a natural extension of our customers’ operations. We work hard to understand each individual customer and prospect. We take the time to understand their operations, their mission, and their requirements, and then work to craft a solution and service which meets their needs. We’re not a bidding machine that looks at each customer engagement as a transaction. We want to build long-term relationships that deliver value to both parties well into the future.
“For many hyperscalers to build a skilled workforce like what exists at E2 Optics, they would effectively have to create an entire company within their company.” – Kristi Alford-Haarberg
This is why many of the world’s largest hyperscalers have worked with us since day one – and continue to work with us decades later. We understand their needs. We’re a trusted consultant and advisor, and an integral part of their business and operations.
GTI: What makes the work that E2 Optics does on behalf of its customers so rewarding?
Kristi Alford-Haarberg: I’m incredibly proud of the culture we’ve built at E2 Optics. It’s a culture that has diversity and inclusion at its core, and that values free-thinking and idea-sharing among every team member. Our people are invested and feel like they’re truly a part of the company. In fact, many employees have claimed to be “E2 Lifers” that want to make this the last company they ever work for.
But there is something bigger than our company and our culture that makes this work rewarding. As we discussed, technology is now fundamental for customers and their operations. Many of our customers are doing important, revolutionary things, and we’re providing the end-to-end IT solutions which are enabling that.
What we’re doing is exciting. We’re building the cloud. We’re building the backbone of the business world today. We’re the people making the modern economy, the modern classroom, the modern hospital, and the modern workplace possible. That’s something that is incredibly rewarding, and something to be proud of.
GTI: Women have traditionally struggled to break into the technology field. And COVID has resulted in many more professional women in IT and technology leaving the workforce. How do we change that?
Kristi Alford-Haarberg: Much of that originates from, “the way things have always been.” Women have historically had a certain role in society. But, thankfully, women business leaders are changing that perception.
As a new generation of young women enters the workforce, they need to see women business leaders in their communities, and in some of these traditionally male-dominated industries. They also need coaching and training to enter many of these industries – including the technology industry.
“Hyperscalers have become very sophisticated. They also operate at an incredibly fast pace…It takes a highly-skilled, and highly trained team to meet those deadlines and staff their operations departments.” – Kristi Alford-Haarberg
At E2 Optics, we’re making concerted efforts to identify talented women in the organization and elevate them into leadership positions. We hope that seeing other women in leadership positions can make a difference for young women, and show them that it is possible and that they can do that too.
But it’s not just about getting women who are already in the company – and in the technology industry – into leadership positions. We also need to get a new generation of young women to embrace technology careers in the first place.
To help accomplish that, E2 Optics – through our community outreach and recruitment efforts – is trying to reach these young women early.
We partner with school districts, universities, and economic development organizations to do outreach to young women. We work to bring them into the industry early through internships and give them valuable career training and coaching. We try to show them the variety of job roles and responsibilities within our organization – construction management, project leadership, engineering – so that they can find their passion.
To learn more about E2 Optics, click here.