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March 16, 2011

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I am curious what is not working at 10k that needs changing that was working past 5k. I am also curious what company you feel has the same/similar culture

Hopefully, the inevitable increasing degrees of separation between the lowest ranking employees to upper management doesn't diminish the ability to communicate freely up and down the ranks.

If that occurs, that is when a company begins treating an employee as a number.

Dave, Your message is like an ephiphany for me. After being in NetApp for several years, I always prided about NetApp's culture. When I joined NetApp after briefly working for a startup, I was dumbfounded to see such a friendly culture. I could not believe such a place existed. I still remember casually chatting with Dan outside the rear door of building #1. Our leader, Tom kind enough to speak at the Toastmeisters club @ NetApp.
Accessible leadership, friendliness among employees, reaching out (rather than being pushy), casual but still focused in execution and lastly, no fingerpointing are some of the hallmarks of our culture and there are many... As you stated (seems right) behaviors may change but values tend to stay the same. But, what I am concerned is change of behaviors affecting our values "culture of trust and utmost integrity". Hope it does not!

As someone who is soon to be part of that "second" ten thousand employees I would hope that you are able to preserve what has worked so well to date.

Up until a few days ago I stayed away from "large" companies for fear of the scenario Mark describes a couple of posts above. My biggest fear was getting into one of these companies only to find that I was surrounded by people who didn’t share the same passion for their career as I do. The reasons for that are many of course, and not all are the fault of the employer. Let’s list few decisions that these companies make which impact employee satisfaction:

-Lack of opportunities for advancement; people “siloed” into one specialty until they quit or retire. Yes I realize that people are hired to do a job but if they think they can offer their employer more by trying a different specialty shouldn’t we at least have that conversation? A company should always be looking inward for how existing employees can make new and exciting contributions to the organization.

-No two way communication between different layers of the organization. I’m sure that books have been written about this one; let’s just say that a company is either a team or it isn’t. If I feel like just another group among a company with hundreds how will I ever know if my contribution is really valued? I don’t need someone telling me every hour that I am important but if I feel like my department could easily be a separate company that means that I don’t feel like I am part of a team.

-Poor hiring decisions. This takes many forms including but not limited to new management who insist on changing things to match what they did at their previous employer or technical staff who just don’t fit in with their team. I’m not saying that change isn’t good from time to time BUT whatever happened to “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”? By all means if someone has an idea to improve things they should be encouraged to share it but let’s make sure that the resulting dialogue is two way.

-Forgetting the basics. Yes I realize that during bad economic times adjustments may need made but we must remember what made us the great company we are today. Taking that a step further, if sacrifices need made let’s make them as a group and ensure that everyone understands the why and how. If there are options why not put them to a vote? Each employee has their own opinion about what changes will impact them the most; ask them.

-Uncertainty. I will (most likely) never know what it is like to be a C level employee with a global leader in the storage arena. I make it a point to understand the market within which the company competes, and how to do my job to the best of my ability, but beyond that there are things I will never know. This meshes somewhat with item 2, but we must find ways to keep the information flowing regularly. I’m not saying that we need to match our competitors press release for press release but it is good to know what is going on within the organization. Unless given news from within employees will make their own observations and start forming their own opinions, be they misguided or not.

This list is by no means comprehensive; it is just a listing of a few things that I have noticed during my 12 year IT career. Some of these things may be more personal to me than to others, but I’d like to think that if you found an employer who as able to incorporate most of these ideas you’ve probably found a pretty good place to work. In any case it requires the effort of everyone within the organization to make this vision a reality. Some examples of that might be:

-If I do not respect my employer and share my opinions how can I ever expect them to do the same?

-If I am never taking the initiative why should I expect them to do so with my career?

-If I am not being “part of the solution” why should I expect the problems to go away?

I have to be honest; it took me awhile to realize some of these things. I think that a lot of IT professionals expect their managers to be miracle workers and fail to realize that career satisfaction requires a shared effort between a manager and his team. Some seem to think that working 60 hours a week is all that is needed to make their career a success and fail to realize that perhaps there is a better way to impress their manager and further their career. I’ve found that some of my most impressive achievements had less to do with clicking a mouse and more to do with a big whiteboard and a long brainstorming session with my coworkers.

I am certain that NetApp will continue to be a highly regarded place to work if for no other reason than those existing 10,000 employees making sure that it stays that way.

Dave - it is indeed changing as I experienced recently. Two of your HR executives called me and they didn't know that the other was taking to me. It appeared that one of them had escalated to their boss that the other was getting into her pie. Then I told the boss to sort things out, but the boss was just defending her people saying that we are growing so fast that these things happen - I didn't have to think twice not to pursue the case further. May be you need a better HR software in place!

Hi Dave,

First of all, congratulations on passing the 10,000 employee mark. That is a great accomplishment! I am a business student in Canada studying HR Management, and for one of my classes, my team and I have decided to analyze Netapps's business strategy and find the link between the HR strategy/practices. Seeing as Netapp is one of America's top employers, there are many interesting business practices.

After having scoured your website and different news sites, we are still having some trouble narrowing down the business strategy of Netapp to be able to make the link with the HR practices. I saw that you are targeting medium companies, where your competitors still lag behind, as well as several acquisitions.

I was wondering if you would be able to guide my teammates and I a bit and help us narrow down the business strategy of the company a bit. As we are studying HR, we are able to identify the key strategies. However, we are not 100% where your business strategy lies and one of the main points of our project is to make the link with that and make sure the HR practices are actually contributing and are aligned to the company's growth.

Any guidance you can give us would be greatly appreciated as we see that Netapp is seeing great success lately and we would like to better understand this. Are you aiming for growth? Market shares in a particular domain? Specializing in a specific domain?

I would be happy to send you our report afterwards if ever our HR analyses could be of help to your company :) Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance!

I was amazed at how approachable you and other execs were when I was touring NetApp HQ a few years ago. I hope that the leadership of NetApp continue to be down-to-earth as it makes everyone feel welcome and part of a team. I think that is a key part of the team ethos that I have always noted and been envious of at NetApp. I don't get the same feeling when I visit EMC or VMware for example. Good luck with the next 10k!!!

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