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Dallas 500

Meet the Dallas 500: Eric Schwartz, CyrusOne

The datacenter leader discusses how being thrown into the fire of managing a business unit early in his career shaped his leadership abilities, how generative AI is changing the industry, and more.
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Eric Schwartz, CyrusOne

Datacenter provider CyrusOne is two years removed from being acquired by KKR and Global Infrastructure Partners for $15 billion. At the helm of the North Texas giant is Eric Schwartz, who is most proud of cultivating a workforce of engaged personnel. “On top of our commercial performance, our employee engagement levels have risen dramatically over the past year,” he says.

Across the globe, CyrusOne owns and operates nearly 50 datacenters, eight of which are in Texas.

In Schwartz’s extended 2024 Dallas 500 Q&A he reveals personal anecdotes like why he has avoided coffee and business insights like what he learned from the first time he was thrown into a major position of leadership.

Birthplace: Urbana, Illinois

Education: Harvard University (MBA), Stanford University (BS, BA)

First Job: “I did landscaping at Ralph’s Nursery. I planted flower and shrubbery beds on long, hot summer days in South Florida. It taught me to work until projects were finished professionally and to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when projects were completed well. ”

Best Advice: “Be authentic. Humans are highly evolved to quickly judge whether a person is trustworthy. I became a much more effective and successful leader once I learned to focus on building trust and rapport with customers and colleagues.”

Dinner Party: “If I could have dinner with any two local business leaders it would be Mark Cuban and Harlan Crow. Harland helped me get started in my career as an entrepreneur and real estate professional. He has tremendous curiosity about the world. Mark has a broad set of interests and is incredibly energetic.”

Destinations of Choice: “I love beach vacations. I enjoy Tampa, Florida; Newport Beach, California; Tybee Island, Georgia; and anywhere in Hawaii.”

I Collect: “I collect t-shirts from events and trips. My favorite t-shirts are from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the 1984 presidential election, and the 1991 Harvard Business School volleyball team.”

Hobby/Passion: “I used to be an avid beach volleyball player. As my knees aged, I switched to road cycling.”

Industry Change: “I’d like to contribute to broader understanding of the role that datacenter infrastructure plays in the economy and in support of technology generally. There is an opportunity to have productive dialog about where and how this infrastructure is built and deployed to support technology deployment while constructively addressing environmental and societal objectives as well.”

Local Fare: “I enjoy Mia’s on Lemmon. The Fajitas Sunset is my favorite dish.”

Guilty Pleasure: “Chinese dim sum”

Fun Fact: “When I was young, my father told me that drinking coffee would stunt my growth as a way to stop me from stealing his coffee at breakfast. As a result, I’ve only had one cup of coffee in my life, and it was at the age of 50 at a business ceremony in Muscat, Oman. It turns out that my father was correct because not drinking coffee enabled me to grow to be 6-foot-3.”

Toughest Challenge: “My first experience in real estate development was an extremely challenging mixed-use development in downtown Atlanta. My partners and I faced numerous hurdles in getting the project financed, constructed, and delivered, and that experience taught me the importance of perseverance especially at times when people believe that you will fail.”

First Car: “1985 Red Chevrolet Camaro. It was a fun car to drive and helped to offset my self-image as a nerd.”

Proud Moment: “On top of our commercial performance at CyrusOne, our employee engagement levels have risen dramatically over the past year which I see as a clear sign that we are building an effective and enduring corporate culture where people are actively involved in building our company.”

A Better DFW: “I believe that we need to expand our investment in people including education and training at all levels (K-12, college, vocational, and beyond). Our growth and success as a region and a community is directly linked to enabling businesses to access the skills and talent they need while supporting North Texans in their efforts to develop and expand their capabilities.”

Pivotal Moment: “I led the acquisition by Equinix (my former company) of a company in Europe. The plan for the acquisition assumed that the existing leadership team in Europe would remain in place and drive the business. Shortly after the acquisition closed, the senior leaders of the acquired company stepped down, and, despite never having lived in Europe or managed a business unit in my career, I was asked to move temporarily to Europe to lead the business while we found a permanent solution. My family and I moved to Europe and ended up staying there for 11 years while the European division of Equinix grew 20-fold. Working across different countries and cultures and leading the growth of the business has been the defining experience in my career so far and has positively changed my family’s lives in countless ways. My experience has made me a big believer in serendipity.”

Walk-up Song: “Zac Brown Band’s ‘Chicken Fried.’ It’s an upbeat, energetic song with lyrics that are comfortable and remind me of enjoying time outdoors with friends.”

Must-read: The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder is a great story about teamwork and leadership that is inspiring to people taking on fresh challenges.”

Spirit Animal: “I am an elephant. Great memory, thoughtful, and committed to the herd but not the most stylish dresser.”

Alternate Reality: “I find the complexity and intricacy of modern software systems fascinating, and I enjoy problem-solving. Working in an architecture group in a software development and integration company would be a wonderful opportunity.”

Embarrassing Moment: “I clicked ‘Reply All’ at the wrong time on an email from an important customer. In my case, I mistakenly included a customer on an email message that was intended only for my internal team. The customer knew it was a mistake and was reasonably understanding. I ended up making a special trip to Raperswil, Switzerland, to apologize to the customer and straighten things out.”

Bucket List: “I finished the Fietselfstedentocht, an annual one-day, 150-mile bike ride in the north of the Netherlands, for the fifth time. I wasn’t able to finish in 2022 due to wind and freezing weather, so I was determined to go back this year, finish the ride, and achieve the milestone.”

Key Leadership Strategies: “I have worked most of my career in service industries and believe strongly in the ‘servant leadership’ model. Leaders who see their roles as serving others—customers, employees, and the broader community—can accomplish great things.”

Future Forecast: “Artificial intelligence is creating a new segment in the datacenter industry with substantial demand. CyrusOne is well positioned to support large-scale requirements from customers in this fast-emerging and dynamic environment.”

Author

Ben Swanger

Ben Swanger

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Ben Swanger is the managing editor for D CEO, the business title for D Magazine. Ben manages the Dallas 500, monthly…

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