How are you unique? What unique value do you bring to NetApp, and what value does NetApp bring to you?
These are a few of the questions that nearly 40 women from the Bangalore office were recently asked as part of the #IAmUnique campaign, a video series that highlights the day to day contributions and accomplishments of women in various roles across NetApp’s Bangalore office.
If you’re a regular on NetApp’s social media channels, no doubt you’ve seen at least a few of these inspiring videos by now. According to Aanandita Bhatnagar, Director, Communications, NetApp Bangalore and Madhu BM, Director of Interoperability and WIT Bangalore Lead, the idea for the #IAmUnique video series grew out of initiatives that the Bangalore Women in Technology (WIT) chapter is focusing on, including initiatives around diversity, inclusion and belonging, as well as efforts to build the WIT brand internally and externally, particularly in India.
According to Aanandita, professional and technical women in India must still fight the perception that they cannot balance the needs of both home and the workplace. The reality is, in fact, that most women are putting in double duty at home and at work—which ultimately makes them even more productive. And, as Aanandita says, the research about diverse workplaces shows that diversity actually makes for a broader set of viewpoints that lead to better business and productivity.
“A lot of this research has thrown open some questions about how we look at women in technology…which is why this thought came to me that women are unique, and people should look beyond the perception that having women in the workplace is a noble thing to do and realize that they are on the ground providing real value to business,” she says.
That idea that women bring unique value to any business environment—and to NetApp, in particular—became the impetus for the series. To recruit participants, managers were asked to nominate women on their teams who they thought have done exemplary work or who are an integral part of their teams such that the team would not be what they are without them.
Managers “happily nominated” women on their teams and after the call for nominations went out, the Bangalore marketing team (comprised of Aanandita and Communications Specialists Manisha Yadav and Monalisa Das), quickly received more than 30 nominations. The nominations represented women from across different departments and at various stages of their careers, from University Grad Hires and former interns to mid-career, director-level employees, says Monalisa Das.
“We had representatives from almost all functions including CSR and internal auditing—so there were women from across teams,” she says.
Everyone has something unique to offer
The team has been releasing two or three #IAmUnique videos per month for about six months now. For consistency, each woman in the series was asked the same questions.
Seeba Mohan, program manager, CSR Readiness, GSL Readiness and Global Support Logistics, says receiving the email that she’d been chosen to be part of the series came as a bit of a shock. “I thought, ‘Is that the right email address? Is that a valid email?’”
In her video, Seeba highlights how she enjoys coming to work at NetApp every day because she is valued by her team and they put their trust in her to carry out various projects, including cost-savings initiatives that have helped save the company money. Seeba says she is unique because she was a recipient of NetApp’s highest employee recognition, the LOV Award, in February 2018. She also feels unique because she works with both internal and vendor teams to make sure they are equally successful.
Technical Marketing Engineer Cheryl George says in her video that everyone at NetApp has the opportunity to be a thought leader. Cheryl says it is both her confidence and her technical role that make her contributions to NetApp unique. As someone who works to bring customer needs back to the technical teams, she is the technical point of contact for her customers and engineering teams.
“I’m the voice of the company for these products,” she says. “It gives me the opportunity to work at Insight and interact with customers and partners together to showcase our products. I love being able to interact with a lot of people, executives and customers.”
Cheryl believes it’s both her technical acumen and her leadership skills that she uniquely brings to NetApp. “This role of technical leadership provides me the platform to do what we do. My technical acumen and being very vocal in discussions and contributing in sessions to drive the direction of NetApp—that’s why I was nominated.”
Madhu BM is Director of SAN and NFS Interoperability for ONTAP. In her video, Madhu says that working at NetApp challenges her every day to think out of the box and do her best. In her role, Madhu drives the ecosystem readiness of ONTAP, our flagship storage operating system, with the leading host operating systems, switches, blades and HBAs. Madhu is unique because the timely and high-quality Interoperability Matrix Updates that her team delivers go a long way in inspiring confidence and influencing the buying decisions for our ONTAP customers. Being flexible, adaptable and able to deal with chaos are some of the other unique strengths she says she brings to the table in her work.
Bringing the personal to work, too
In addition to the unique contributions that each of the women bring to their jobs, series participants were also given a chance to talk about how their lives and hobbies outside of work help them in their jobs. For instance, Cheryl George says doing yoga on a regular basis helps her to remain calm in any type of situation and to make calm decisions in her work. Madhu BM says her practice as a professional singer outside of work helps her to remain creative. Because she enjoys bringing variation and variety to her singing practice to break the monotony and to maintain novelty of her music, this helps her to identify newer and different ways to adapt to the ever-changing demands of the tech industry, where nothing ever stays the same.
“What is fundamentally needed is for you to have the mindset to adapt and adapt to all the changing circumstances,” she says. “I feel like I’m pretty flexible and adaptable to any new changing circumstance, and that has to do with my knowledge of music. I like to create variations in my music and music helps me adapt to the changing circumstances, which means that whenever there’s change you need to think differently when you want to drive results.”
Seeba Mohan is an avid follower of Formula 1 car racing outside of work, a hobby she shares with her niece. Seeba says watching current champion Lewis Hamilton has encouraged her to take on his motto of “Still I Rise,” which she says, “really helps me at work.”
For the participants, the #IAmUnique series has been a special experience. Both Cheryl George and Madhu BM say being a part of the series has brought them added self-awareness about the roles they play here at NetApp. “It was a good opportunity to bring awareness to the fact that I am indeed really unique. It’s one of those things that made me realize that fact,” says Cheryl.
Madhu says participating in the series gave her a better understanding of herself. “I got to listen to my own voice and inner self. Initially I thought, ‘Oh, I’m just like anyone else. I’m just doing my job, delivering my duties and responsibilities.’ But the questions that were asked were really great because they were able to make us think and respond to those questions,” she says.
Seeba Mohan says both she and the other participants she’s spoken with are “very happy” to have had the opportunity to be a part of the series. “Personally, it was great motivation,” she says. “I feel that we are important to the company, as well as the whole idea that I mean something and am bringing something to the company, and I add value to the whole. That gives me motivation. It drives me to work on myself or improve. I feel that I am part of this whole big organization and at the same time I mean something to my group, so I felt really charged up and it felt great.”
The #IAmUnique series is also being featured on YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media channels in order to raise awareness of NetApp’s support for women employees and, hopefully, to encourage other women to seek employment here. The communications team says the videos have gotten a great reception on social media. “In terms of our social media impressions, it’s been going great,” says Monalisa Das.
But even greater than the numbers, Aanandita says, is the impact that #IAmUnique has had on participants and on others inside and outside the company. “I think the bigger part of it is the sense of pride and belonging for the women who have been featured,” she says. “They have shared these with their social networks, their families and friends.”
“It’s quite inspiring,” Monalisa adds. “In a way it establishes WIT as doubly a source of inspiration and motivation when women see this. And not just the women, but other employees see these videos and know the kind of work these women are doing. These are personal and professional stories, but they also reflect the NetApp culture.”
To view the #IAmUnique videos, check out the NetApp India channel on YouTube here.