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 there’s two words that sum up how Aaron Gaudet approaches his job, he says those two words would be “one team.”
“I always refer back to one key thing,” Aaron says. “I don’t think there’s any greater message or saying that really exudes what NetApp is all about but the one team model, and that’s how I try to go about my work on a daily basis.”
A seven-year veteran of NetApp, Aaron is an Area Business Manager for Commercial & Canada based in NetApp’s Mississauga, Ontario office. In the time that he’s been with the company, he’s had a few different roles in Sales Operations, including being a sales analyst for Canada, a sales operation manager, and now as an area business manager.
Aaron describes the Sales Operations team as the “grease that keeps gears moving” here at NetApp. A more behind-the-scenes role than what might immediately spring to mind when you think of people in sales roles, Aaron says Sales Ops is responsible for helping the sales team in various ways, all designed to help our sales reps drive our company initiatives forward.
Because the “one team” spirit is so ingrained in Aaron, he believes his distinction as the February LOV Award Winner for the Americas really should go to the entire Sales Operations team, not just him. “I think everyone on the team works so hard, and I think everyone deserves the praise,” he says.
The colleagues that nominated Aaron for the LOV Award might beg to differ though. Although LOV nominators are only required to show how nominees uphold three of NetApp’s values as part of the nomination process, the people who nominated Aaron submitted substantive proof of how Aaron lives not just three but all seven of NetApp’s values on a daily basis.
Among the qualities Aaron’s colleagues praised him for were his willingness to always help and train others, his ability to work cross-functionally across the company, his desire and skill for making processes simpler for everyone and his ability to collaborate.
According to Aaron, the Sale Operations team works on various initiatives that are designed to enable the field. From weekly, monthly and quarterly forecasting to putting together the annual operating plan and aligning reps to different territories to ensure they have the right accounts, his team helps to support all Commercial and Canadian accounts under VP Jon Mellon.
“We’re creating the imperatives and initiatives for the fiscal year and then helping drive that through the year,” Aaron says.
One thing Aaron also does as part of his job is to train and help others understand the various tools the sales team works with internally, he says. And Aaron’s LOV nominators praised him for was his willingness to help others in this way.
“He takes initiative and ownership for everything, even if it’s not something that he is responsible for directly. Another example is how he supports new employees to the company. Aaron takes the time to ensure that they get the support needed so that they can navigate through the organization, systems and processes effectively. This approach benefits not only the new employee but also the company.”
“Another example is Aaron’s willingness to help support colleagues by sharing his experiences and insights on how to be efficient and work smart,” the nominators added.
Aaron says he just believes that if you have a certain amount of institutional knowledge, you should share it.
“I’ll take the time because I have the knowledge to share, and I know it means a lot to them. I just think within NetApp, we should do that. If you have the knowledge and someone is new on board, you should just share it and do whatever you can to make that individual successful, because if they’re successful, NetApp as a whole is successful,” he says.
Aaron was also praised for being trustworthy and honest with others and having integrity. “ Aaron has built a solid reputation across the organization at every level by being transparent and honest,” the nomination said. Aaron says it’s the example provided by his own managers that has helped him be forthright in dealing with others, “I admire the transparency and honesty of my manager, Laura Czaczkowski, and I look to carry those traits in my day to day interactions,” he says.
Simplicity is another NetApp value that is important to Aaron. After reading a management book called Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win, Aaron says he learned to always go by the Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS) principle. “That’s just how I go about things. A lot of time, I think we overcomplicate things and a lot of times less is more. If you want to be clear, the more clear and concise you are, the better chance of success we’re going to have,” he says.
As Aaron’s nominators put it, “Aaron has an innate desire to make things simpler/easier for everyone. When creating the reports for his internal and/or external stakeholders, it was all about making them user friendly and easy to use. He went to extra trouble to streamline a version that would work for them to where they wanted to actively use and work with the reports, vs partners just putting the report aside, because of information overload. He put his customer hat on and thought about what would work best for our partners and then acted on it.”
Aaron says there are three things that stand out to him when it comes to the NetApp culture—the one team spirit, the open-door mentality that exists even with executives and the benefits that come with the job, such as the autonomy that employees have and things like the recognition awards like the LOV Award afford employees. “We all have a stake to play here,” he says.
One NetApp benefit that Aaron has been able to take advantage of during his time here is the company’s education benefit. Over the past four years, Aaron has been pursuing his MBA degree at McMaster University, taking one class at a time at night school. “NetApp really went a long way in helping me achieve my MBA,” he says. Aaron graduated from the program in June 2018 and says he’s already been able to apply what he’s learned to his work.
“It’s helped me when I’m building out the overall coverage model or when working toward strategic initiative we should be employing during the fiscal year, so I’ve been able to take a lot of the learnings from my MBA and apply them to NetApp,” he says.
In his spare time, Aaron enjoys traveling, sports and doing home renovation projects. He has an upcoming trip planned to Southeast Asia and also enjoys touch football, golf and skiing, but he says the home renovations really help him to stay grounded.
“We work so hard at the computer all day. I still like to get my hands dirty and be able to complete a home renovation project that I can look at every day. We do great work for NetApp, but sometimes it’s hard to see the fruits of your labor. If I can fix something like a car or do something around the house, I can actually appreciate it and look at it every day, so I like doing those things, too,” he says.
Aaron has also been a local hockey coach and he regularly donates blood—every two months, in fact—to the Canadian Blood Services. “It’s a good thing to do that goes such a long way. We don’t even realize how much of an impact it has on certain people and it’s such an easy thing to do,” he says.
Aaron plans to give his $5,000 charitable donation to the Sick Kids Foundation in Toronto. Aaron is the godfather of a 2-year-old boy who has spent most of those two years at the sick kids’ hospital. “It is a blessing to be able to give back to the hospital that has given so much to my godson, Arthur,” he says.
The best part of receiving the LOV Award, Aaron says, has been being recognized by his peers. “That always means the most. When you hear ‘nominated by your peers,’ that says something. But I look at it like, I’m the fortunate one to receive the award, but Americas Sales Ops as a whole, to me—this award is for all of Americas Sales Ops.”