Tim McGue with NetApp CEO George Kurian

This blog is the second in a series profiling NetApp’s February 2018 Living Our Values (LOV) Award winners and highlights the Americas LOV winner Tim McGue. The most pervasive culture awards that any NetApp employee can receive are the Living Our Values (LOV) Awards, which are peer-nominated and peer-judged. These semiannual awards recognize three winners and up to six honorable mentions worldwide, who embody the company values. Ingrained into day-to-day work and conversation, 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 and featured on the live stream. NetApp also gives a gift of $5,000 in each winner’s name to the charity of their choice. This series began with profiles of Seeba Mohan, APAC Region LOV winner and Dani Harczi, EMEA Region LOV winner.


Field Support Engineer Tim McGue still remembers the day he rushed out of his house and drove across the state of Missouri to get to a customer site as quickly as possible—a site where the IT environment was in crisis.  Faced with a tough customer, Tim’s response to the challenge illustrates just one reason—among many—why he won the Americas LOV Award in February 2018. Not only did he quickly diffuse the situation but in typical NetApp fashion, he and the customer got to work and together fixed the problem in far less time than either thought it would take.


“The character of companies and individuals shows up when the customer is in trouble,” said George Kurian, as he presented Tim with his award at the February 15 company-wide All Hands. “Tim runs towards the fire, rather than away from it. He has represented NetApp as one of our finest.”

A healthy sprinkling of trust

As a support engineer, Tim frequently works in challenging customer environments. His seven years prior to working for NetApp when he was an IT admin have given him a sense of empathy for customers in crisis. “I’ve sat in that seat with managers breathing down my throat and asking, ‘Why isn’t this thing fixed?’” he says. “I carry some of that compassion forward.”


Partnering with the Sales, Systems Engineering and Professional Services teams, Tim’s consistent support and ability to build trust has helped turn many customers into integrated NetApp partners. Take Mercy, a health system in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, and Cerner, a supplier of health information technology.  Previously users of competitive storage systems, Mercy and Cerner won NetApp’s Innovation Award at Insight 2016 and 2017, respectively.  Innovation Award winners are selected for using NetApp technology to embrace data and create amazing results for their organization and their customers. “Both account transitions were a result of consistency and integrity from the entire NetApp team with a significant sprinkling of trust developed through Tim’s engagement,” says a peer nominator.


Tim believes his secret sauce to building trust with customers is his approach to jointly solving problems.  “A lot of times you’ll find people in the IT world that spitball an answer, not based upon any facts or whatever—just ‘try this,’ ‘try that,’ ‘try this,’” he says. “I’m just honest with them, and say, ‘Hey look, here’s what I think is going on. Here’s what I’ve seen before. Here’s what I’m basing this on.   Here’s what we should find next.’”


The other key ingredient, Tim says, is simply developing a bond with customers beyond the storage issues at hand. He likes to think ahead to what he will ask a customer the next time he sees them.  For example, when he learned a customer was planning a trip to Yosemite, Tim asked the customer about his experience the next time he spoke with him and also shared his own personal memories from visiting the park.


Tim has also helped his team and many others by writing a PowerShell script to simplify the process of transitioning customer systems to Clustered Data ONTAP 8.3 and beyond. The new script not only helps customers smoothly transition their systems but it also provides an automatic check—often catching things customers were unaware of in their systems that might look perfectly fine to the naked eye (think a typo where a capital O replaces a zero). After Tim’s careful testing among Professional Services and Field Support teams across all regions, the script is used globally today.

Gifts that keep on giving

Tim extends that sense of compassion he has for customers into his volunteer work.  He is active in Make-A-Wish Foundation activities and spent his VTO in 2016 and 2017 serving “wish kids” at Give Kids the World—a fantasy village with fully-furnished villas that hosts almost 8,000 families with seriously ill children a year from all over the world—for free. He also manages his church’s IT environment, which he enjoys because it keeps him current on different devices, like servers or workstations, and technologies, like wireless. In March 2018, he took his daughter to Uganda to volunteer for a week at a school.


In 2005, Tim gave perhaps the most precious gift he has ever given.  He donated a kidney to a friend who had a teenage daughter at the time. “My friend is doing very well,” he says. “Her daughter is now a college professor who also teaches English as a Second Language. The likelihood of my friend living to see her daughter grow into an adult was pretty low without a donation.” In addition, Tim also gives talks for the National Kidney Foundation to community groups, whose members may not have access to much healthcare.


Tim chose the National Kidney Foundation as the recipient of NetApp’s $5,000 LOV Award donation in his name. “Many people don’t realize that kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death in the United States—higher than breast cancer or prostate cancer,” he says. “There’s not a lot of publicity about kidney disease, so it’s definitely an organization that could use a lot of help financially as well as volunteers. At any given moment, there are about 100,000 people on the national kidney waiting list looking for a donor.” This and more organ donation statistics can be found on the United Network for Organ Sharing site.


Tim also enjoys giving another kind of gift—nominating peers for a LOV Award.  He likens it to giving a person a handmade present, where he thinks about what they did for the company, their values, how they participate in the culture, and then builds his thoughts and words into a complete package.


“When you’re looking at what to get somebody for their birthday, you, as the gift-giver, get to enjoy that just as much as the person receiving the gift,” he says. “You go through the exercise of thinking about the things that they like and about the things that they are. And, like all of us, you get the joy of watching somebody open up that present. If anybody’s on a fence on whether to spend that extra time to nominate, definitely do that.”

The meaning of LOV

When asked what winning a LOV Awards meant to him, Tim said he found himself thinking about the company’s culture and the fact that no one can write out a formula for our culture, even though it’s up to NetApp employees and the organizations they are in to make the culture a reality.


Tim also thought about all of his field support teammates who are in different cities and with whom he rarely speaks face-to-face. “But if someone sends the group a question at 3 a.m., they will have multiple immediate replies because that’s how much we support each other,” he says. “I couldn’t ask for a stronger team of people to work with.”


“I really feel humbled, being picked to carry the torch, as it were, and I think employees should see a winner as just an embodiment of what we’ve built as individuals with our culture—this thing that hangs over all of us,” he says. “We all carry that forward with us. We are making a really positive difference in our world and in our society, by what we carry forward as our culture.”

Betsey Flood

Betsey Flood’s specialties are strategies, programs and content that enhance company culture. An MBA with a wide-ranging background including consumer and business advertising and both executive and employee communications, she helps companies create and manage programs that boost employee understanding, engagement and sentiment. An author of hundreds of blogs and online articles about all things culture, she is currently working on recognition, philanthropy and communications projects with NetApp, Inc.