One of the principles that NetApp was founded on 25 years ago—and that remains part of NetApp’s DNA today—was the desire to do the right thing—for customers, shareholders, employees, partners and the community—purely because it was the right thing to do. Former CEO Dan Warmenhoven called this building a “model company.”


Lofty as that may sound, there was good reason behind it. As legend has it, in his career before NetApp, Warmenhoven had the misfortune of seeing what happens when companies don’t do the right thing. He’d witnessed how mistrust and a lack of checks and balances could lead to a culture run amok—and how the collapse of a business affects people’s lives. Having lived through that, Warmenhoven, along with NetApp founders Dave Hitz and James Lau and current Vice Chair Tom Mendoza, set out to create something different—something they could be proud of because it placed people at its core.


Years later, Dave Hitz outlined the tenets of a model company in his book, How to Castrate a Bull.


A Model Company is created by:

  • Driving customers’ success and earning their loyalty through products, services, knowledge sharing, and other solutions that further the appliance concept, delivering unparalleled value.
  • Providing our shareholders with exceptional value through predictable performance and significant growth in revenue and profits.
  • Attracting and retaining performance oriented employees who thrive in a challenging and supportive environment and are recognized and rewarded for their achievements and contributions.
  • Developing and nourishing partnerships to deliver superior solutions for customers.
  • Maintaining good relationships with neighbors and communities where we work.

Underlying each of these is not only the desire to do the right thing, but also to be of service to others, whether through products that help customers and partners manage the world’s data, providing an award-winning culture and work environment or through volunteer outreach to our local communities worldwide.


Giving back is obviously a long-held tradition here—it’s been part of the NetApp ethos and the model company concept since the beginning. Taking that desire to be of service into the communities where NetApp operates and giving back in the form of volunteer hours or donations has also been an important part of the NetApp tradition. In fact, NetApp was one of the first companies to give employees a volunteer time off (VTO) benefit—and it’s since become the standard for corporate volunteer programs everywhere.


NetApp’s VTO program continues to be one of the company’s most admired and appreciated benefits. In surveys, employees consistently say they admire and appreciate NetApp’s VTO program and it draws many of them to NetApp.


So as the company approached its 25th anniversary this year, it just made sense that service should be an integral part of how we celebrate this incredible milestone.


As part of our anniversary commemorations this year, the Global Giving and Employee Engagement teams have kicked off the company’s first ever global giving campaign, Food For All (#food4all). We chose to join the fight against hunger because it is an issue that affects every community we operate in. Even in a seemingly prosperous region like Silicon Valley, one in 10 people rely on the support of local food providers—and the United Nations says famine has reached crisis levels this year with more than 20 million people facing starvation in Kenya, Yemen, South Sudan and Somalia alone.


As such, we’ve challenged our employees to celebrate our 25-year milestone with service by donating 25,000 volunteer hours to hunger-related organizations by the end of 2017. Again, it’s another lofty goal, but NetAppers have never shied away from a challenge—if we had, we wouldn’t have made it 25 years in this industry.


To support Food For All, employees can choose a variety of volunteer options to help us reach our service goal. First, we are partnering with Rise Against Hunger, a relief organization that distributes food and aid worldwide, to hold meal packaging events at many of our major sites, including our Sunnyvale headquarters, Research Triangle Park (RTP), Wichita, Kan., Pittsburgh, Waltham, Mass., Bangalore, Singapore, Munich and Paris. Since the campaign was kicked off at our Senior Leaders Meeting in March, NetAppers have packaged more than 220,000 meals.


In addition, NetApp sites across the globe will be working with food banks in their areas to provide much needed nourishment for local residents. Events are already planned in Sunnyvale, RTP, Pittsburgh, Boulder, Colo., Vienna, Va., Waltham, Amsterdam, Bangalore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sydney and Tokyo, with more to come! Employees can also reach out to hunger-related organizations of their own choosing to volunteer on their own or as a team, and the company will be donating $250,000 in corporate gifts to many of the food-based organizations that we have established ongoing relationships with over the years.


The race to 25,000 volunteer hours is on! With more than 2,300 hours donated in our first month of the campaign, we’re excited about the impact that the Food For All campaign will have in the areas where NetApp operates worldwide.


We also know that many of you—including our customers and partners who have become part of the extended NetApp family over the years—may be interested in helping toward these efforts. While our 25,000-hour service goal is something we aim to achieve as an employee population, there are other ways that you can get involved or help support your NetApp teams and their local efforts. You can help us support Rise Against Hunger through their website or you can check in with your NetApp teams to see how they are supporting food organizations in your local communities.


As we Celebrate with Service throughout this year, we look forward to sharing updates with you on our progress toward our goal. Look for video updates on our YouTube Food4All playlist and for additional stories of service in the weeks and months to come.


NetApp’s mission is to help our customers change the world through data. But we know that it takes people to make change—whether that change is improving business outcomes or feeding the world. Together, we can change lives and make an impact on this important issue to help provide Food For All.

Lisa Melsted

Lisa Melsted develops culture strategies and content for NetApp’s Employee Engagement team. A tech industry veteran with more than 15 years’ experience in various communications and marketing roles, she holds Master’s degrees in Creative Non-Fiction from Emerson College and English from the University of Iowa. She has also written articles about technology for publications such as Forbes BrandVoice and TechPageOne.

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