Q&A with James Newkirk, CenturyLink Cloud VP of Engineering

This week CenturyLink will celebrate the opening of our Cloud Development Center in Bellevue, WA.  I sat down with James Newkirk, Engineering VP for CenturyLink Cloud, who anchored the team designing and overseeing the build out of the new Center’s space to get his insights on what went into the design.

Why did we select Bellevue, WA as the home of our new Cloud Development Center?

Seattle and its surrounding area are the growing center of the cloud universe. We know that if we want to tap into the growing talent pool of cloud computing experts and developers, the greater Seattle area is a great place to be.

We chose our new location in Bellevue for a couple of reasons.  First, as a nod to our heritage with Tier 3 which was founded and headquartered in Bellevue.  Secondly, was access to transportation – a lot of employees use public transport and our new location is close to the transit center.  Finally it’s very central to great restaurants – we wanted employees to have options to get quality food on lunch breaks or easy access to social outlets. We all know engineers like food.

It’s a bit unusual for an engineering exec to lead office space design. Why did you get involved?

My take on this:  If you want a specific result you have to be involved.  Space design in important enough to both culture and developer productivity that I felt it was critical for me drive it versus someone may not bring the same perspective on our DevOps work style. Plus, I wanted to bring unique point of view to the project that combined function and style. I also saw it as a fun and challenging opportunity – how many engineers get to say they designed an office space?

What was your most important design philosophy for the site?

I wanted the site to bring people together – to not only foster collaboration, but to really connect us as people. There are so many benefits to connecting with people:  we build trust and understanding that enables us to interact at different levels. We collaborate better with people that we know and collaboration is essential at work.

As we were designing the space we focused on these goals of connecting and collaborating with our space planning team.  Selecting the space was the first hurdle - a space is either conducive to this or its not, so space and space planning are critical.  I know our efforts there are paying off because we are seeing the connections and collaboration happening in team rooms and common areas. In the common area people are eating lunch or enjoying a drink together where often the conversation evolves from work to social topics, so coworkers can relate as individuals. These are the types of things we wanted to happen, because ultimately it enables us to all work better together.