EMC on Employment In the Storage Industry
Jamie Matlin; President Jobstor.com
January 19, 2004
The last couple of years have been hard on those individuals looking for a job in the IT industry. The poor economy and slow sales have caused many companies to institute hiring freezes. All of the layoffs of the last few years also created a glut of talented individuals seeking jobs. One company that is actually doing some hiring is EMC. We spoke with two HR executives from the company to find out what changes are taking place with the company, and how those changes are affecting its hiring decisions.
Michael M. Cullen, senior director, worldwide staffing and executive search for EMC, believes his company's head count will remain flat for at least the next several quarters. However, the company has made several acquisitions, and continues to do strategic hiring. "We have been recruiting into our software organization both on the sales and engineering side," he says. "That area has been a big focus for us, and will continue to be going forward. There is a big focus on software these days, and we have been, over about the last year and a half, concentrating on bringing in top talent to our software engineering group. We are also building a sales force that can deliver those products."
As far as the economy, Cullen sees a light at the end of the tunnel, but admits it is not too bright yet. He does not believe storage companies will significantly ramp up hiring over the next few quarters. Companies will look at areas of the company they want to grow, and then hire in those areas.
EMC has a tradition of hiring the best and brightest in the field. To hire the best talent, Cullen notes the company will focus on competitors that are the best in those specific areas. "As you can see from some of our recent press releases, at the executive level we have been able to attract some of the top players in the industry," he says. "This is due to the compelling story that EMC has to tell."
Finding The Best Talent
In hiring software resources, EMC continues to look for top engineering talent. "We are always looking for the top software engineers," says Cullen. "We also need a talented sales force to deliver those products, and a services organization to support it. The challenge is to staff those three critical areas with the top talent in the industry."
When looking for the best talent, EMC looks for a combination of many things. But, Cullen notes that experience and productivity rule the day in the engineering function. "You can come from the best school there is, but at the end of the day you need to produce product. We actually go down a couple of paths in looking for talent. We hire the best and brightest out of colleges. We have a great college recruiting effort that brings in the top tier of students from throughout the country. We also look for experienced hires. Those people typically come from the top tier companies and some of the smaller start-ups that are involved in the technology."
A couple of years ago, when many companies were letting people go, I spoke with a VAR who told me that he was actually hiring. "There is a lot of great talent out there that can be picked up right now," he said. "That caliber of talent is typically not available when the economy is doing well." Cullen agrees with those statements. "Go back and look at our press releases from the last couple of years," he says. We have hired some top talent into our executive ranks. I do all of the executive searches, and several years ago it was very difficult to attract those kinds of people. Not because the EMC story was not compelling, but because the significant number of options and incentives that were on the table."
However, over the last two years, that environment has changed. The result is a lot of people feeling that they did not have as much to leave on the table at their current employer. "A lot of them wanted to move to EMC to begin with, so now it was ok to make the change," he says. "We are definitely finding that a lot of the top talent is more open to conversation, primarily due to the handcuffs being taken off of them."
Where To Look For The Best People?
When looking for employees, EMC obviously conducts a nationwide search. They will often agree to relocate candidates, depending on the level of the position. EMC will also use several different Web sites to locate candidates, including Jobstor. Cullen notes the company does not use search firms, relying instead on its internal recruiting function.
For individuals looking for a job, Cullen believes success comes down to knowing individuals in the industry and developing a network. He recommends joining storage-related organizations such as SNIA, and attending the events to network with storage professionals. Finding out who knows who is really the best way to conduct a search.
Feeling Burned Out? You're Not Alone
For many years, the IT industry was the place to be. Prior to the recent recession, companies were on an IT buying spree that made a sales job in IT, storage particularly, a lucrative endeavor. However, the result of this seems to be that many salespeople simply got burned out. The aggressive nature of EMC's sales force, which some have criticized for years, may have made the burnout more pronounced. "Churn and burn" was often used by some in the industry to describe the sales grind at the company. EMC is now attempting to change that view.
The company is attempting to re-invent itself, and a big part of that is changing the perception of its sales people. The new culture will completely change the way the company hires and trains its sales force. "There has really been a lot of change here in the last couple of years," Gregg Hoffmann, manager of executive search for EMC tells Jobstor. "End users have a good idea of what they want these days. You can't just go out and push a specific storage product anymore."
EMC felt the best way to change the tactics of its salespeople would be to bring them back in for retraining on the big picture. The retraining involved a focus on delivery of the new message. "We wanted to make sure everyone knew who we are and what we are trying to accomplish," says Hoffmann. "We discussed the company, its recent acquisitions, and provided a good deal of solutions training as well. We can't just go out there like cowboys anymore. This is a much more sophisticated market and it requires a more sophisticated sale. When selling solutions, there has to be a much more consultative approach. Finally, we re-deployed everyone with all of these new offerings that EMC now has. The whole focus is on the strategy and direction we are going in, which is solutions and software in addition to hardware."
EMC has also done a lot of internal realigning, trying to better match competencies with required skill sets. This is to insure the company has the right people in the right jobs. To accomplish this, EMC first looks for the right skills. It also conducts interviews with employees and managers.
Of course, EMC is not the only company struggling with burn out and training issues. Any company that used to push hardware products will now have to rethink their approach and focus on solutions that customers need. The current focus on ILM (information lifecycle management) is just one example of how applications and storage are coming together as end user needs for compliance solutions are changing the way the purchase hardware.
As hiring patterns change, applicants for the available positions will have to change as well. A solutions approach, with an emphasis on consultative selling and software, will be valuable. Don't rely on a history of selling hardware. It may not be enough to get you your next job.