We recently interviewed Peter Agnew to find out more about his new role as a director at Hyphen. Peter has been at Hyphen for more than 15 years, contributing to the success of our UK business, leading numerous inter-office projects in the data centre sector, and overseeing Hyphen’s information technology.
Congratulations on becoming a director! What are your expectations in this new role and what are you most looking forward to?
Thank you. I hope this new role will allow me to spend more time working with offices across the group, to spread knowledge and strengthen our offer in the data centre sector internationally. I’m looking forward to working closely with the other directors and seeing where this role will take me.
Tell us what this new chapter in your career means to you on a personal level?
This promotion is hugely rewarding for me as a recognition of success and hard work. Hyphen has given me opportunities to work on a variety of projects over the years, develop skills, and take on additional responsibilities. I also met my wife at the company and became a father, so it’s been a pivotal part of my life. The people I work with are like a part of my extended family. Becoming a director of the company was a distant goal when I first joined. I hope I can support those following in my footsteps to find a home and develop their own careers at Hyphen.
How did you get into the data centre sector?
Over the course of my career at Hyphen, I’ve been fortunate to work on projects across all sectors. My very first project, when I joined as a work experience student during the summer of my second year at university, was drawing tiling elevations for office spaces in Southampton.
Over the years, I’ve worked on housing projects, hotels, education, and retail, learning from some great mentors. Richard Rogers, one of our directors in Winchester, was a major influence in my early career, especially for projects in the retail sector. I have really enjoyed the variety of projects and learnt something different from each one.
I first started working on data centres in 2007, when we only had a handful of projects in the sector each year. My first project was developing façade concepts for an extension to a hyperscale data centre in Amsterdam.
In 2010, I started working in London’s Docklands for another leading client in the sector, and I saw that project through from inception to completion in 2013.
Tell us about your role in leading our technology business function…
I’ve always been interested in technology and IT, but it’s entirely self-taught (my maths wasn’t good enough to study IT at school). I accidentally deleted Windows off my first home computer and had to fix it myself. Back then, PC users had to manually configure hardware and resolve clashes, so you had to tinker to get the latest game or sound card running.
When I started at Hyphen, we had a couple of technicians who looked after the IT in the office. When they left, I was the only one who vaguely knew how it all worked, so I took on their role – setting up new machines and purchasing software.
As the company has grown, my IT role has expanded, and I was instrumental in connecting all the offices together onto one network and moving towards cloud systems. Thankfully these days I have support and can focus on IT strategy, rather than day-to-day problem-solving.
You were promoted to senior associate in 2019, after being instrumental in the growth of Hyphen’s work in the data centre sector. What’s changed since then?
Since 2019, we have continued to grow our relationships and win new work with existing clients in the data centre sector and, on the back of our track record with hyperscale facilities, we have won work for other major cloud hyperscalers in Europe and Latin America. Our fee turnover in the sector has increased threefold over the last three years.
The pandemic has massively changed the way we work. Back in 2019, I took over 70 flights to visit project sites across Europe, but remote meetings have now taken over our calendars. Whilst this is undoubtedly good for the planet, remote meetings don’t always foster the building of relationships in the same way and don’t allow for all the side-conversations that happen when groups gather in the same place. I hope that we can find a good balance between the two extremes.
What are you most looking forward to in 2023?
As a director, I’m looking forward to being in the room (or on the call) when important company matters are discussed and being able to contribute positively to decisions made. I plan to visit other offices, introduce new staff to the data centre sector, and spread some of the knowledge I’ve learnt over my career. I will be supporting those who have helped me in these projects to step-up and take more responsibility.
On the technology side, we’re focussed on strengthening our ability to work remotely and flexibly and supporting the business as it continues to grow.
Finally, tell us something else that people at Hyphen might not know about you?
Over my time in Winchester, the office hasn’t moved, but I have sat on every floor of the building (including in a spot that is now a cupboard under the stairs!). We’ve gone through two major office refurbishments, six directors and a re-brand.
I’ve also not paid for a haircut since the pandemic. A £20 set of clippers from Amazon was my best investment.