First, there's the sweltering heat. Then, there's the constant humming and pulsing of fans. But inside the sprawling computer room at Yahoo in La Vista, it's the sight of the hardware that's most impressive: Tens of thousands of blinking servers signaling that somewhere in the world, one of the Internet giant's users is sending an email, posting a picture or checking stock prices.
“It's almost like a cornfield,” said Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb. “Just rows and rows and rows” of servers.
Yahoo on Monday offered a behind-the-scenes look at its data center located at 108th Street and Giles Road in Sarpy County. The tour, which included Terry, featured the company's entire 300,000-square-foot facility, part of which recently underwent renovations to expand its customer experience and factory operations.
About 25 people have been hired since the customer service facility opened two weeks ago, and Yahoo hopes to fill another 65 positions by September. Positions are also open for the factory. About 20 were created for that space.
When hiring is complete, Yahoo will employ about 130 workers in La Vista. The company also employs more than 250 people at a call center at 14010 FNB Parkway in west Omaha.
Celebrating Yahoo's job growth was the main reason Terry visited, he said, calling the new positions ones that can help to define Nebraska's economy.
“Yahoo is creating 21st century jobs right here,” he said.
The data center tour, which was led by Chuck Whitney, senior manager for Yahoo's data center operations for the central U.S. and Latin America, started with a look inside the data center's tape storage room where data is backed up on disks.
Next was the computer room. A cooling system helps keep the ideal climate for servers, pushing warm air into the main room.
“If anyone's ever missing, this is the first place we look,” Whitney said from inside the cool pod, smiling.
Also on the tour were the network room, where the Internet is fed via fibers into the building, and the electrical room, where power is distributed for the center. Thirteen generators in seconds can restore power and keep operations running 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.
The warehouse, or factory, is where individual components are put into Yahoo's server cabinets and shipped off to other locations in tall wooden boxes. Workers there are involved in logistics, warehousing and have computer experience.
Upstairs was the expanded customer service area. The Sarpy data center, along with one in Lockport, N.Y., are two locations where Yahoo customer service centers are being moved to the same location as its data centers.
Vikram Subramaniam, vice president of customer experience, said at the expansion announcement in June that the company's emphasis on customer service jobs is part of its efforts to bring those jobs back to the United States. By the end of this year. Yahoo aims to have all of its customer service workers in the U.S.
The company said in June that Yahoo users want to talk with people in the U.S. A company spokeswoman declined to comment on the cost of moving the jobs.
Whitney noted that the La Vista facility now serves more than one purpose for Yahoo. It's been a $300 million investment since ground was broken, according to Yahoo.
“It started out as just a data center and now we've got multiple business units for Yahoo in one location,” he said. “It kind of cements Yahoo's presence in Nebraska.”
Qualifications for the customer services jobs include candidates with a bachelor's degree in any area of focus and a GPA of 3.3 or higher. Previous experience in a related field is valuable, but not a must. Yahoo declined to comment on salary ranges. More information on jobs is available at us.careers.yahoo.com.
“Overall we're looking for energetic, enthusiastic candidates,” said a spokeswoman, noting that the company wants to give individuals the opportunity to grow in their careers at Yahoo.
Already, about 20 representatives are working at the La Vista data center to assist Yahoo users.
The customer service area is an open room of cubicles with plenty of purple and white Yahoo memorabilia, plus meeting rooms and a kitchen where lunch is catered in every day. Many of the rooms are themed with famous Westerns like “For a Few Dollars More,” “McClintock!” and “Stagecoach.”
Scott Merrill, who was hired at the end of June, said the most-asked question by users — who call in from all over the U.S. and Canada — is related to the security questions they need to correctly answer to regain access to their accounts.