NSA Needs Geeks in Utah

If you can manage a data center while keeping quiet about it, the NSA might have a job for you.

Despite a job market for IT specialists that seems a little rocky at moments, there’s a huge new opportunity for IT people with the right skills, the will to relocate, and a little discretion. Actually make that a lot of discretion.

The NSA is building a $1.2 billion data center in Bluffdale, Utah, south of Salt Lake City. When the facility opens this fall, it will need to be fully staffed with everything from IT trainees to high-performance computing specialists able to keep up with what’s reported to be the world’s fastest supercomputer. There will also be a need for data scientists capable of sorting through (digital) mountains of information.

Staffing a whole new datacenter is always a challenge, thanks in large part to the number of highly skilled professionals required. Bluffdale’s population of 7,623 (no matter how well-educated) couldn’t begin to fill all the jobs the NSA would create. The Salt Lake City area boasts a significant population of IT specialists, thanks to the presence of a number of prominent technology companies, but it’s likely that the NSA will still need to cast a wide net to find the right workers.

Two years ago, the NSA addressed this potential hiring crisis long before it had to do any actual hiring, with officials approaching the University of Utah to ask if the school would be willing to create a program designed to teach computer science and engineering with an emphasis on skills actually needed by the NSA, according to a recent story in the Salt Lake Tribune.

That curriculum, designed for undergraduate and graduate students in the school’s college of engineering, asks those studying computer science, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering to take courses in all three disciplines. The intention is to teach potential datacenter experts that there is more to running a computer than managing a computer. Without experts in electricity and power management, heating, cooling, facilities management and construction, security, disaster recovery and other skills, the NSA might not be able to keep the lights on and the walls standing long enough to break any codes.

That program won’t start until this fall, according to Brown, who estimated that the first class would include about 20 students. Meanwhile, the NSA has posted jobs for everyone from interns to mid-career data-center specialists—but exactly as you’d expect, many of those jobs don’t guarantee a particular working location.

 

Image: wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock.com

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