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.
Like many LOV winners, Markus Christmann was taken by surprise when his manager placed an early morning call with the news that Markus had won the LOV Award for EMEA. In fact, he thought his manager was joking with him.
“I asked him, ‘What are you doing sending me these messages?” Markus said, noting that his manager, Klaus Reile, is, in fact, known for some good-hearted kidding and joking with his employees. However, when Klaus told Markus to go back and read his email and told Markus that he had indeed won the LOV award, Markus said he started screaming, he was so excited.
“I was glad no one was in the house anymore,” he said. “Then I saw the email and I was like ‘whooooo!’ You cannot describe it.”
Markus then called his wife and afterward teammate and GEM Christopher Benecke, both of whom he says “screamed with me, too.”
“It’s incredible, it’s really unbelievable when you think of only six people in the world getting this award from the company each year. And I was one of them,” he says.
Markus Christmann joined NetApp in 2013 as a Support Account Manager (SAM) in the Stuttgart, Germany office. According to Markus, Stuttgart is known for its “cars and soccer.” However, it’s also known for some of NetApp’s large global customers, one of which Markus supports as a Global Support Account Manager. And within the Stuttgart district, Markus says, the entire office is known for being a great team that works together.
“Everyone is helping each other. Sales is helping support and support is helping sales and the engineers are helping both. We are one. It’s like the larger NetApp family but within the team,” he says.
A huge soccer fan and avid player, Markus likens how his team works together and pushes each other to how a winning football team works. “Soccer is a team sport and only as a team you win. You don’t win on your own. You always win or lose as a team and everybody has to do something and you push each other,” he say.
Amongst his colleagues, though, Markus is known as the unofficial team leader. One nominator said of him, “Markus is the secret team leader of the overall account team. He is always checking how other team members spread all over the world are doing and he does take care of them. He really lives the one team spirit like no other.”
Another said, “Markus is a true team player internally and externally facing the customers. He has become a teammate for the customer. They see him as an internal employee, which helps us in getting information very quickly.”
Reliability and trust
Of course, gaining such a level of trust within a customer engagement is no small feat. Although Markus thinks of what he does as “just doing my job,” he says he tries to live NetApp’s values by being reliable and trying to do everything he can to serve the customer and his team. In fact, he says that he was a bit worried that when he made the move from being a SAM working with multiple customers to being a Global SAM working with just one customer his teammates would stop asking him for help on other matters. However, they all knew that they could count on each other for help, so the level of internal support amongst the team continued. “I try to help everyone if I can do it,” Markus says.
As one nominator noted, “He never puts himself in the foreground but delivers what is needed to support the customer and the team.”
As another notes, “Markus is a great teammate and everybody within our Stuttgart office likes his support and helping hand.”
Markus’ colleagues say that the level of trust that Markus has garnered with the customer has been instrumental in making significant changes within the customer’s environment. “Markus took it upon himself to turn the account from a reactive engagement to a proactive one,” said one nominator.
Markus believes the most important thing that he can do as a SAM is to constantly be in contact with the customer and understand their needs—and if they can stay one step ahead of the customer, even better. He says he’s always looking for ways to make things easier and better for the customer so that things run well for them.
That takes relationship building and trust. As is to be expected, Markus says he had to build that trust with the customer when he first began working on the account. “You have to prove yourself,” he says.
Not long after he began on the account, a situation in one of the customer’s product plants allowed Markus to do just that. An after hours call, Markus got in touch with everyone who needed to be involved and stayed on the phone with the customer until the issue was fixed. “I stayed with them and helped them, getting the right people at the right time, getting things done. This was one big step in gaining their trust,” he says.
Trust and reliability are also the things that Markus says he appreciates the most about the NetApp culture.
“Everyone is helping everyone. This is not common. But when you have a question, everybody is here to help you,” he says.
A team effort
Markus says it’s a “very big honor” to be recognized by his colleagues through the LOV Award. “This is why I’m in support—because of the ‘thank you’ from the customers and the other guys. It’s amazing.”
Markus says the recognition he’s gotten and the assurance that he’s doing a good job are the best things about receiving the LOV award. After appearing at All Hands and receiving the award from CEO George Kurian, Markus says the emails of congratulations started flowing in. He particularly appreciated emails he received from executives. SVP and GM of EMEA Alex Wallner thanked him for “doing more than just your job.” And Cindy Warner, SVP, WW Enterprise Services emailed to tell him that she was “very proud” of him for the “much deserved” LOV Award. “You exemplify what it means to go above and beyond for our customers each and every day. You are truly a rock star!”
“I’m still surprised I was picked,” Markus says.
As a soccer player, though, Markus knows that credit for doing a great job does not fall to him alone. He credits his manager and team for pushing him to be better.
“This is because of various people. My manager—I wouldn’t be at NetApp without him. He got me here, and he pushes me. And also the guys from our account team and the German guys from the Stuttgart district. They’re brilliant, great people to work with. Ten years ago, I never thought I would work with such cool people,” he says.
According to Markus’ team, the feeling is mutual. As one nominator put it:
“Without Markus, we wouldn’t be able to do our job like we do.”
As part of the LOV Winner recognition each winner will receive a $5,000 gift in their name for the charity of their choice. Markus will be donating his grant to Kinderhospiz, a local hospice for terminally ill children.