Saad Minhas – Equinix
Though it’s not true that the cloud can be contained in a building the size of a football field, data centers used by cloud service providers are frequently that large.
In the case of Equinix, a provider of digital infrastructure and cloud services and solutions currently celebrating its 25th anniversary, its 250 data centers are located in more than 70 metropolitan areas on six continents. The company currently connects more than 2,000 network services, 3,000 cloud and IT services, 450 content and digital media services, and 5,000 enterprises.
Saad Minhas, the company’s corporate senior legal counsel for the Americas, manages the legal matters for Equinix’s expansion in Canada, the U.S. and South America. He uses his experience and expertise in construction, renewables and real estate law to help procure sites, develop a network of contractors who can build or convert structures into energy-driven technology hubs and ensure Equinix continues to be a market leader in renewable energy.
Though he says being versed in those practice areas while working in technology is unique, he adds value because he understands the scale and scope of constructing large, complex and high-security projects like data centers.
“We’re essentially a digital highway because we provide space, power and connectivity to propel the internet. A data center can contain much more than servers—such as cooling units to ensure efficiency and serviceability, and conduits running in, through and out,” Minhas says. “The location and structure are chosen to secure data and how customers access and use data.”
Equinix was founded in Silicon Valley in 1998 as a data center provider enabling competing networks to securely connect and share data traffic.
Its solutions propel services such as providing drivers with data from their vehicles, linking payment systems, and streamlining supply chains for manufacturers and for the Internet of Things. Equinix partners with Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Oracle and Amazon Web Services, among other cloud providers.
While he’s tasked with managing legal advice for expansion from North to South America, Minhas expresses a distinct pride in projects closer to his Toronto home as of late as he guides the construction of a second Equinix data center in Montreal.
MT2, Equinix’s second International Business Exchange, or IBX, data center in Montreal, is scheduled to open later this year. The new site will add digital infrastructure capacity to support customer expansions in one of the fastest growing edge metros in the world.
“It’s one of the hub locations for many different industries within Canada,” Minhas says, who worked alongside the transactions team to acquire land. He also led negotiations on the construction contracts for the project.
Listening and learning
Based in Toronto, Minhas was Equinix’s first Canadian hire for its legal team, and the rapidly growing team includes specialists in employment law, government and commercial contracting.
“It’s important to acknowledge the procurement, construction and design teams I support,” Minhas says. “The projects are sizable and complex.”
He adds that one of his strengths is managing the variety of transactions needed to build new data centers, whether it’s negotiating real estate purchases or drafting agreements with contractors that ensure projects are delivered on time and on budget. This often includes extensive due diligence on environmental matters, structuring the acquisition, and ensuring insurance, regulatory and tax risks are considered.
As he develops relationships with third-party stakeholders such as contractors, the extent of the regions Minhas covers requires him to work closely with outside counsel to understand and comply with local laws and practices, too.
An atypical approach
Minhas was born in Saudi Arabia and emigrated to Canada with his Pakistani parents when he was a boy. His father had the foresight to build a career in technology, including helping organizations prepare for Y2K and the notoriously anticipated disruptions to digital networks. His mother is an entrepreneur who arrived in Canada unable to drive and developed a significant number of Montessori schools and a college to train teachers for them.
He studied conflict resolution at the University of Toronto and decided to join family in London to study law at the University of Westminster, where he was elected president of the law society and served as editor-in-chief of the law review.
He spent a couple of professional years as part of an influential boutique consultancy in the construction industry while paying off law school debt and deciding what areas of law he wanted to practice. As a contracts and commercial specialist for Lakeland Consulting Inc., he worked at project sites throughout Canada before and after earning his law degree.
Minhas trained with the province’s central infrastructure authority on public-private partnerships as legal counsel for Infrastructure Ontario. He then joined RBC, Canada’s largest bank, as corporate real estate counsel for its global portfolio and led all construction projects. Before joining Equinix, he was director of real estate and special counsel for WeWork’s Canadian operations during a historically tumultuous time for the company.
He says he also adds value beyond his role at Equinix by mentoring new attorneys and helping them become systematic and creative about their career goals.
“I certainly don’t fit in a box. I practice atypically,” Minhas says. “I enjoy helping others coming into the industry because there’s no one clear path. I’m living proof that there are many approaches to a successful career in law, and welcome conversations about this from those entering or growing in the profession.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Fall II 2023 Edition here.
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