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Speaker Series: Future of Work with NetApp

Through continued conversations with large, blue-chip companies, Founder and CEO Sravan Ankaraju has heard several recurring themes expressed by many of our potential recruiting partners on the Future of Work.

Given our output and strong diversity and veteran presence, Divergence Academy is uniquely positioned to spread awareness on several of these topics. In this second installment of our new Speaker Series, we sit down with Trent Peterson, Global Program Manager of Talent Diversity at NetApp.

Founded in 1992 and headquartered in Sunnyvale, California, NetApp specializes in helping customers get the most out of their data with industry-leading cloud data services, storage systems, and software.

Their S3 Academy program seeks to aid veteran and transitioning military into the civilian sector.


On finding diverse and underrepresented groups

At NetApp, we understand how having balanced teams leads to great business outcomes. And when we talk about balanced teams, this means teams with a mix of genders, ethnicities, ways of thinking, and different personalities. At NetApp, my role focuses on increasing great candidates across a mix of different people veterans and transitioning military being one of those large groupsand hopefully converting those folks into full-time hires.

I've been passionate about enabling people to find their dream job, their dream career, as well as leading people who are passionate about doing the same thing. And I've been doing this for the last 14 years, more recently at Cisco.


On what organizations can do to help both underrepresented individuals as well as veterans

There are so many different ways to do outreach. One thing that I'm most proud of is our Employee Resource Group (ERG) called NetVets, which is our Veterans Resource Group. This group is comprised of veterans that are NetApp employees as well as allies. According to Great Place to Work,


Employee Resource Groups are voluntary, employee-led groups whose aim is to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with the organizations they serve. 

They [are] usually led and participated in by employees who share a characteristic, whether it's gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation, lifestyle, or interest. The groups exist to provide support and help in personal or career development and to create a safe space where employees can bring their whole selves to the table. Allies may also be invited to join the ERG to to support their colleagues.


We do a lot of great things in talent acquisition. We do a lot of events where we will partner with NetVets and do tons of recruitment.

Any time you go to an event, it's great to have folks that the candidates you're trying to recruit can relate to. When we bring NetVets around, it just makes the event so much better.

I feel that we do a really good job at recruitment. Talent Acquisition comes in and plays a big role; and again, along with NetVets, we make sure that our hiring managers are very excited and that they're allies. It's a good combination of a lot of different folks from the recruitment point of view.

There's also the idea of pushing for inclusion, because it doesn't matter how well you recruit if you can't keep holes from the teams in your company. You end up missing those balanced teams if people leave. So it’s important to have inclusion at every stagefrom talent acquisition to employee resource groups to your leadership teams.


On inclusion at every stage of the talent acquisition process

We're blessed in North Carolina. We have Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune. Pre-COVID, our talent acquisition teams (which include hiring managers, NetVets, and allies) would go and attend events at base. These include transitioning military events, veteran eventsanything we could take part in. That’s been great for the folks in transition. It’s great for the veterans and for the companies (based on all the intangible assets they bring).

Since COVID, we have turned to doing a lot of virtual events. We partner really tightly with MSSA, the Microsoft Software & Systems Academy. They have a lot of virtual events. There are also tons of other organizations out there that NetApp partners with, and, hopefully, other companies follow suit.

When things loosen up a bit, I foresee NetApp doing a combination of on-site and virtual events whenever we can take advantage of those.


On providing tools to help veterans and traditional military during transition

S3 Academy is a big group at NetApp. S3 stands for Sales, Support, and Services. It’s a target program that hires in cohorts, which includes veterans, transitioning military, and their spouses.


The Sales, Support and Services (S3) Academy is a 2-year global development program for Early In Career talent who aspire to become the next generation of NetApp leaders, sales professionals, and technical pioneers. The S3 Academy focuses on helping top talent reach their full potential by providing an initial 90 day training program.
The training immerses participants in the software, systems, and cloud technologies that are helping shape the world today and tomorrow.



The vendors are so successful, the program really does help with their transition. It gives consistent training and enables veterans and all new hires. Veterans really love it! A lot of times, veterans and transitioning military see technical companies, and they think “that's not for me, I'm not technical,” but there are a lot of great roles they can get into.

At Fort Bragg, there was this gentleman who said he didn’t think NetApp was for him. When I asked him what he did, he said he repairs helicopter engines. I told him he clear does "support". He has the skills to troubleshoot, and at S3, we would be able to provide the tools to make him an outstanding Technical Support Engineer. That's only one example of how S3 Academy can enable full-transitioning veterans and traditional military into a technical company.

Helping to build the S3 Academy program is one of the things that brought me back to NetApp. It's our early in career program, which we define as people’s zero to five years of applicable experience. Traditionally, it has been about 10% of our total hires each year. It's been growing. We have ambitions of doubling.

The S3 Academy program is that holistic and immersive training plan for new hires. Many [of the people enrolled] are transitioning military. It’s a big deal, because it gives these military members an immediate community which can be up to 50 people in a cohort. For NetApp, we benefit because we get these intangible skills, a solid work ethic to get the job done with little to no supervision, and the whole nine yards of loyalty.


"The 90 days of training not only tested my skills and knowledge but allowed me to create lifelong friendships with my new colleagues. The culture here at NetApp truly is outstanding, and the value and impact each individual has here is noticed and acknowledged which enables us to grow collectively as a team."

- Apurva Tolia (S3 Academy participant)


Normally, we have three cohorts a year in 90-day periods. What's even cooler is that in some aspects, these will be global cohorts. There will be folks from Asia Pacific, Europe, and the US, all in the same room, all at the same time. 


On the impact of S3 to university outreach time

S3 has made things more competitive for NetApp. We were a university relations group for all of our entry level talent before, and there's still a large population of our hires in the early career-side who are university grads: undergrad, master's, and PhD.

We now also have veteran and transitioning military talent coming in to fill these roles. We also have "return-ships", which refer to moms and dads who have taken time off to raise a child or care for a loved one. Ultimately, it's made a more robust platform and, in turn, a more robust candidate pipeline. In the end, better hiring decisions are being made.


On building up a robust program for inclusion

To drive success, it’s important to have everyone on the same page, with the same mission. We are out to build communities that help people become their fully realized selves every day at work.

We have employee business resource groups made up of communities within NetApp. These impact groups execute strategies set by a steering committee for diversity and inclusion and a global inclusion council. It's a big ecosystem made up of individuals who are very passionate about the greater good of the company, of our customers, and the community at large.

We invest in meaningful events led by and for our community members. We understand the value of visibility.


Parting words for learners

Be sure to go after roles outside your comfort zone. If there's something that sounds exciting, go after it, even if you don't think you're a total fit.

Products from technical companies might be technical, but these companies also need sales. They need people who can build the product and support the product—whether in marketing or HR. All companies need these roles. So, don't shy away from any company or role just because you think you might not be a fit.

Definitely lean in on others, whether these are communities, recruiters,  your transition officer, or someone like Divergence Academy. Don't go into it alone. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It's a sign of efficiency.

Take the opportunity to learn from those who have been there and done that, and don't be afraid to ask for help.



Discover more about the Future of Work

Gain more insights from our one-on-one discussion with NetApp’s Trent Peterson and learn more about how the future of work is taking shape today.