With the March announcement that all NetApp employees globally would transition to working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, NetApp’s Early in Career (EIC) team had to pivot to delivering all events virtually. The EIC team is responsible for both the NetApp Emerging Talent (NET) Program, which supports entry-level employees, and the award-winning Intern Program. The team, which typically facilitates dozens of in-person events every year, knew that shifting entirely to virtual programming would mean new obstacles as well as new opportunities.


The move to virtual programming turned out to be especially helpful for facilitating connections between employees in different NetApp locations, a challenge the team typically faces with in-person events. With all employees working from home, it became easier to cultivate national and even global interactions, especially for a new event the team was planning to launch: an innovation challenge.

Intern Innovation Day

Similar to a hackathon, the idea behind the innovation challenge began with wanting to enhance the intern experience by promoting cross-functional collaboration and skills development beyond their day-to-day responsibilities.


Twelve teams of interns participated in the inaugural Americas Intern Innovation Day on July 27, collaborating to answer the question, “How can NetApp’s Early in Career team stand apart from the competition with our talent outreach and recruiting efforts, create meaningful relationships with students, and provide an impactful candidate experience in this increasingly virtual world?”


At the end of the day, the teams presented their solutions, which judges from the EIC team evaluated. Six solutions received awards, including “Most Feasible,” “Best Presentation,” and “Overall Winner.”


Shortly after the Intern Innovation Day, NetApp CEO George Kurian spoke to the interns and NET participants as part of an Executive Speaker eries. He described one of his current priorities: Building the workplace of the future for NetApp. Kurian wanted to hear employee feedback, and after the success of the Intern Innovation Day, the EIC team decided to host an Early in Career Innovation Challenge open to NET employees and interns globally.

Early in Career Innovation Challenge

This challenge followed a model similar to the Intern Innovation Day, with a few modifications. Participants from around the world had several weeks to develop solutions and prepare their presentations to address the questions, “How would you imagine the office of the future? How often and for what would you come to the office? And what would you want from your office in terms of the types of space, services, and capabilities?”


The top four teams had the opportunity to present their solutions live to Kurian, as well as to SVP and Chief Human Resources Officer Debra McCowan and Vice President of Workplace Resources and Real Estate Kathy Tyra. The executive team will take the solutions into consideration as they work to design NetApp’s “workplace of the future.”

EIC Innovation Challenge Pic Session

Manav Shahi, a data analyst intern, reflected on the experience in a LinkedIn post, writing, “NetApp has never failed to find new and creative ways to reinvest time and attention back to their employees, a priority I am extremely thankful for.”


This year’s shift to virtual programming, including the Intern and Early in Career Innovation events, will have a lasting impact on the way the EIC team facilitates programs in 2021 and beyond. Yearly innovation challenges, increased global collaboration, and new opportunities for virtual events are just the beginning of the EIC workplace of the future.


Visit the Early in Career page for more information about the intern and NET programs and opportunities.

Laura Steckbeck

Laura Steckbeck is a Talent Brand Specialist for NetApp and enjoys creating content for social media, managing intranet sites, and helping NetApp stand out as an employer of choice. She joined NetApp in 2017 as an intern on the Early in Career Team and has a Bachelor's degree in Communication. Outside of work, Laura enjoys spending time with her dog, Norman, and exploring local walking and running trails.

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