NetApp’s Living Our Values (LOV) Awards, a peer-nominated and peer-judged recognition program, is the highest honor NetApp employees can receive. These semiannual awards recognize three winners and up to six honorable mentions worldwide who embody the company values. Ingrained into day-to-day work, NetApp’s seven values are: Leadership, Trust & Integrity, Simplicity, Adaptability, Teamwork & Synergy, Go Beyond and Get Things Done. Each winner is brought to Sunnyvale for a Company All Hands, where they are thanked by the CEO. NetApp also gives a gift of $5,000 in each winner’s name to the charity of their choice.
If you ask most of NetApp’s Living Our Values (LOV) Award Winners how they go about actually living the company’s values on a daily basis, most are actually unaware—at least consciously—that their day to day actions with their teammates and NetApp’s customers and partners reflect the companies core values of leadership, trust and integrity, simplicity, adaptability, teamwork and synergy, going beyond and getting things done. Most of them say they are just doing their job.
Or as APAC LOV Winner Jessie Zhang puts it, “I just want to do my job and get things done with my team together. I still have a long way to go.”
However, according to Jessie’s teammates in the Beijing office and greater China, she is living the company values whether she consciously sets out to or not.
“Jessie is a true leader in terms of driving her peers and coworkers to do the right things, pushing partners to do the things right. She can always engage the team (a virtual team actually) in setting specific, measurable goals, as well as concrete outcomes. She creates an environment in which team members can find innovative ways of motivating themselves in driving business growth. She is highly self-aware and holds others accountable for their own perception management,” says one of her LOV nominators.
Another nominator says, “Jessie is honest, diligent, hardworking and reliable. We are all willing to share business situations with her, hoping to get her help.”
New ideas from a relative newbie
Like Americas LOV Winner Arvind Venigalla, Jessie has only been with NetApp for a short time—it’s been just over a year since she joined NetApp in June 2017 as a Channel Development Manager. But in that short time, she’s made significant strides with NetApp’s partner community in North China, gaining the trust of companies that NetApp had not been able to do business with in the past and spearheading a partner bootcamp that has set a new standard for partner training in all four of China’s sales regions.
“The past year has seen a number of changes happen in China. As a newcomer to NetApp,” said one nominator, “Jessie has handled the changes well and supported both the channel and alliance programs. This has not only demonstrated her ability to cope with change but resulted in improved team dynamics.”
Jessie, who also handles partner alliances in the region, says everything she’s worked on has succeeded due to the work and collaboration of the larger China team.
“It’s not my personal credit—it’s our teamwork. I’m very grateful that I’m surrounded by many talented and hardworking people on the China team. They are very brilliant, and they are quick to pick me up when I need support from them.”
One example, Jessie says, is the partner bootcamps she has organized along with the partner sales and pre- and post-sales teams. “They provide service training to our partners as well, so it’s totally teamwork.”
The partner bootcamps came out of Jessie’s experience working with partners prior to coming to NetApp. Jessie says that all too often people attending partner training sessions would get called away to deal with customer emergencies or write a proposal or some such during their training sessions. So rather than getting a full day or two worth of training, partners would get distracted and either not receive the full training or the full benefits of the training they did get.
After seeing that scenario play out too many times over the years. Jessie decided to take a different approach to training once she got to NetApp by asking that partners give their full attention to training—without cellphones or laptops—in order to get the most out of the experience.
“I persuaded our partner executives that if they really wanted to focus on the business together with NetApp, anyone they sent for training had to dedicate their whole day or two days’ time together with us. There are no laptops, no cellphones at all. They can only check their cellphones at break time for 10-15 minutes. They must be 100 percent focused on the training and not just listen. And after the training we hold a sales and SE contest and every person who attends the bootcamp has to present what they learned from the bootcamp,” she says. (Laptops are used only during hands-on portions of the training, Jessie notes.)
The results have been positive. As one nomination mentioned, “By conducting workshops in this way, Jessie effectively enabled many partners on our new products and solutions and received very positive feedback from the participants, NetApp colleagues and partner executives.”
Jessie says partner executives have endorsed the approach. “They want someone from their team to be an expert in NetApp products and solutions. From the engineer perspective, they feel really good because they can focus to improve their skills and there are no excuses to pick up the phone and deal with email or any distractions to their learning. Both the partner executives and engineers feel good.”
In addition to bringing her experience to bear on changes to the partner bootcamp model, Jessie has also been able to bring previous partner relationships to NetApp, resulting in new business for the company. Because she already had good, established relationships with some partners that the commercial sales team had wanted to engage with, she was able to help them establish new partnerships with NetApp.
“Before Jessie joined NetApp, the impression for partners in North China was one or two big partners and the others were small. But things changed dramatically after Jessie worked with them for a couple of months. Jessie showed them she was a trustworthy partner and thus they treat NetApp as a trustworthy partner,” one nomination said.
Another program that the channel development team has implemented is a pre-sales contest for each of the four regions in China. Jessie says that each region holds a competition where partners are tasked with illustrating how to best pitch NetApp products. The top three winners are invited to Beijing for a final competition. “They present how NetApp solutions are combined with their strong industry background to provide a unique solution for customers,” Jessie says.
Judges for the competition are selected from the sales and engineering departments and the final competition is broadcast live so partners can vote online for the best presenter.
One nominator said of the contest, “To sharpen the skills of partner sales and SE, we organized a sales/SE content in China. The expectation was low since a lot of people thought it was just another channel activity. But the standard was set much higher, and Jessie got SE leaders, senior SEs PDM and marketing involved and set the goal to build our brand and let the partners find their potential. The result of the contest was phenomenal; all the partners showed their best performance. This is the best contest we ever had.”
Jessie’s teammates also credit her with helping to make their FY18 Innovation Forum one of the most successful events they’ve had.
Jessie says working closely with partners is an important part of working in channel development. “I don’t like to stay in the office,” she says. “I travel a lot to see partners and work together with them, talk with them and see if there’s anything I can do for them to boost our business together.”
Jessie says the key to successful partner relationships is to do more than just build a casual relationship with them. “They care that you can give them proper guidance on how to develop the business together and that you show respect, that you care for them and you provide the proper training. Then they have the willingness to do business with us. And you do that not just on email or the cellphone—it’s in person,” she says.
Jessie’s example of relationship building has extended to her teammates as well. “She can work across functions and easily get support from the sales team, systems engineers, marketing and even other vendors,” one nominator said.
Another said, “Jessie had a strong sense of teamwork, a high overall view and applies all of our energy to work. It helps us make common progress in business and actively develop channels.”
An avid reader, bicyclist and meditator in her personal life, Jessie says she is humbled by the recognition she’s received from her colleagues. Getting to travel to Sunnyvale to meet CEO George Kurian and new colleagues at headquarters was a highlight of winning the LOV awards “I love the working environment here,” she said. “I still cannot believe I’m here – it’s exciting, of course, and I’m honored.”
Since LOV winners also have the opportunity to donate $5,000 to the charity of their choice from NetApp, Jessie has chosen to donate to the Green & Shine Foundation, an organization that helps provide education opportunities to children in rural China where the educational systems are poor. She currently volunteers with the foundation to help improve rural school conditions. And while she was in Sunnyvale, Jessie had the opportunity to volunteer with Sunnyvale Community Services, along with the Organizational Effectiveness team from HR.
As for teammates and customers, Jessie’s approach to collaborating with them has worked. “She has a lot of followers internally and externally,” says one nominator.
Jessie says she is focused on delivering the results she knows she should deliver. “I’m a results-oriented person,” she says. “If I do something, I want to make it very serious. And have it benefit both NetApp and the partner.”