1-2 Journal: Final Project Review Instructions For this journal, first review the Final Project Guidelines and Rubric document and post any questions to the General Questions Topic. Then review the Nimble Storage: Scaling Talent Strategy Amidst Hyper-Growth case study. In your journal, answer the following questions: What are some common concerns companies have that keep them from being more effective in the global market? In a global market, what should a company consider changing to better embody social and cultural norms and to become a more geocentric organization? Consider possible changes to the company’s technology, interpersonal policies, business practices, or other variables.
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OL 668 Journal Guidelines and Rubric
Journals are private and between you and the instructor only. Approach these activities as (a) an opportunity to reflect upon and apply what you learn each
week based on the assigned readings, discussions, and activities; and (b) an opportunity to share your knowledge and expertise based on your educational and
professional experiences in the past. As a successful professional, you will need good reflective and writing skills. Journal activities offer you the opportunity to
further develop these skills. The journal assignments in this course are graded separately.
Guidelines for Submission: Submit assignment as a Word document with double spacing, 12-point Times New Roman font, and one-inch margins. Your journal
assignment should be 3–4 paragraphs in length.
Critical Elements
Critical Thinking and
Reflection
Integration and
Application
Voice
Articulation of
Response
Exemplary (100%)
Assignment supports claims
with relevant examples of
personal experience, previous
learning, or logical thought
process
Assignment shows excellent
depth of knowledge of the
module content and exhibits
careful consideration of the
topic
Assignment is written in a style
that is appealing and
appropriate for the intended
audience, and a consistent
voice is evident throughout
Submission is free of errors
related to citations, grammar,
spelling, syntax, and
organization and is presented in
a professional and easy-to-read
format
Proficient (90%)
Assignment supports claims
with mostly relevant examples
of personal experience,
previous learning, or logical
thought process
Assignment shows good depth
of knowledge of the module
content and demonstrates that
the student has read the
module content
Assignment is written in a style
that is generally appropriate for
the intended audience, and an
attempt is made to use a
consistent voice
Submission has no major errors
related to citations, grammar,
spelling, syntax, or organization
Needs Improvement (70%)
Assignment supports claims
with somewhat relevant
personal experience, previous
learning, or logical thought
process
Assignment shows limited
depth of knowledge, indicating
the student may have reviewed
the module content but needs
to explore further
Assignment is written in a style
that considers the audience,
but the author’s voice is not
consistent and is difficult to
identify
Submission has major errors
related to citations, grammar,
spelling, syntax, or organization
that negatively impact
readability and articulation of
main ideas
Not Evident (0%)
Assignment does not support
claims with reflection on
relevant personal examples
Value
25
Assignment does not address
the prompt and reflects that
the student has not read the
module content
25
Assignment does not attempt
to use a style that considers
audience, and there is no
evidence of author voice
25
Submission has critical errors
related to citations, grammar,
spelling, syntax, or organization
that prevent understanding of
ideas
25
Total
100%
For the exclusive use of L. Diaz, 2017.
B5839
Date: June 10, 2015
HOMA BAHRAMI
Nimble Storage: Scaling Talent Strategy Amidst HyperGrowth
We believe that if we give people the opportunity to
amaze us, they often will.
—PAUL WHITNEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF HR
In early 2015, Suresh Vasudevan, CEO of Nimble Storage, a rapidly growing hybrid data storage
system company, walked past bright orange Adirondack chairs at Nimble’s corporate offices in San
Jose, California. He was deep in thought as he smiled and waved to employees who were enjoying
Nimble’s 30,000-square-foot outdoor living room, designed for collaboration and social interaction. It
was not unusual to see pairs of managers and direct reports walking and talking, conducting their
quarterly coaching conversations. Vasudevan was on his way to meet Paul Whitney, Nimble’s Vice
President of Human Resources, to discuss several talent initiatives that had just been launched.
Founded by Varun Mehta and Umesh Maheshwari in 2008,1 Nimble developed a hybrid storage
system that used flash memory and hard disks that allowed the company to offer faster performance
and lower prices to its customers. The company’s mission was to give its “customers the industry’s
most efficient flash storage platform.”2
Even though Nimble had only begun shipping products in 2010, it was on a path of hyper-growth,
having gone public in December 2013.3 For the year ended January 2015, Nimble’s revenue was
$228 million, almost doubling from $126 million the year before (Exhibits 1, 2, and 3). The
company was yet to be profitable, however, losing $32 million in the year ended January 2015 and
$43 million a year earlier, largely due to high operating expenses such as R&D, sales and marketing,
and administration expenses. The company had publicly announced its goal to become profitable by
January 2016 and had big ambitions to “transform the world of storage” with the goal of becoming a
billion dollar company in three years.
1
In March 2011, Varun Mehta became the vice president of engineering and Suresh Vasudevan became the CEO.
http://www.nimblestorage.com/company/how-we-are-different.php.
3
Nimble gained more than 60 percent to $33.93 from its opening price of $21 (raised from an initial range of $16 to $18). The company sold 8
million shares, raising $168 million at a valuation near $1.5 billion. The year 2013 was a popular year for data storage where NetApp, the
enterprise storage company, went public, as did SanDisk and Pure Storage.
2
Senior Lecturer Homa Bahrami prepared this case study with Case Writer Victoria Chang as the basis for class discussion rather than to
illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation.
Copyright © 2015 by The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored,
or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express written permission of the Berkeley-Haas Case Series.
This document is authorized for use only by Lillian Diaz in OL-668 Human Resources In Global Contexts 17TW2 taught by Lindsay Conole, Southern New Hampshire University from October
2017 to February 2018.
For the exclusive use of L. Diaz, 2017.
NIMBLE STORAGE 2
In 2013, the company added 1,300 mid-to-large customers—such as cloud-based service providers, as
well as those in education, financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, state and local government,
and technology—to reach over 1,750 customers as of July 31, 2013. And in 2014, the company added
more than 2,000 to end the year with over 4,000 customers, and over 5,000 by early 2015. Nimble
reached its customers through value-added resellers (VARs) and distributors, and to end-customers
directly through its global sales force. The company had 70, 220, and 600 VARs in 2011, 2012, and
2013 respectively.
From January 2011 to July 2013, the company experienced triple digit year-over-year revenue growth
rate and headcount with one employee hired per day—employees grew from 47 to 464, and by the end
of 2014, the company had over 800 employees with a small team of 15 HR staff. The company
expected to double its employees in the next 12 to 18 months. Despite such fast growth, Nimble was
selected as one of the Bay Area News Group’s Top Workplaces in 2013 (#9 in the medium category)
and #4 in 2014, based solely on employee feedback related to work conditions, pay and benefits,
engagement by managers, execution, career advancement opportunities, and overall direction.4
As Vasudevan and Whitney sat down in a transparent glass-walled conference room overlooking the
company’s green park space, they were excited to talk about the new talent initiatives Whitney and his
team had just launched, including a new flagship leadership program called LEAD, a foundational
three-day program that had plans to become a nine-month development experience that included an
action-learning component. They shook hands and began their discussion.
Industry Growth
The data storage industry was in the midst of a hyper-growth phase. Enterprises gathered, stored, and
analyzed more data more frequently, requiring storage solutions that could scale with higher
performance and less cost.5 Nimble’s S-1 stated: “According to the IDC Digital Universe Study…the
amount of digital information created, replicated, and consumed worldwide will grow exponentially
from 0.8 trillion gigabytes in 2010 to 40 trillion gigabytes in 2020. This exponential growth in data
and the need to rapidly access, efficiently retain, and protect data is driving a significant amount of
enterprise spend on data storage systems and software….Data has become a key strategic resource for
modern enterprises and cloud-based service providers. Transactional, analytical, communications,
and other applications that are critical to day-to-day operations and competitive differentiation in
today’s business environment generate and require an ever increasing amount of data.”6
IDC estimated that enterprises will spend $42.5 billion worldwide on data storage systems in 2017,
while Gartner estimated an additional $21.3 billion in worldwide spend on storage software. “As a
result, storage systems that securely retain and supply data and applications are a core strategic
element of IT infrastructure today.”7 Vasudevan added: “Business workloads have proliferated.
Whereas once they might have had 15 software applications, today, companies might have dozens or
hundreds [driven partly by the expansive use of smartphones]. Companies are gathering an enormous
amount of information and making lots of real-time decisions,” requiring faster and more efficient
storage technology.8
Specifically, companies needed cost-effective storage capacity that could scale, high-performance
storage in an environment where data was transferred in and out of storage, comprehensive data
4
http://www.nimblestorage.com/news-events/press-releases/nimble-storage-named-top-workplace-by-the-bay-area-news-group.
Nimble Storage S-1, p. 83.
6
Ibid.
7
Ibid.
8
http://news.investors.com/technology/121313-682874-nimble-storage-rises-in-stock-ipo-debut.htm.
5
This document is authorized for use only by Lillian Diaz in OL-668 Human Resources In Global Contexts 17TW2 taught by Lindsay Conole, Southern New Hampshire University from October
2017 to February 2018.
For the exclusive use of L. Diaz, 2017.
NIMBLE STORAGE 3
protection that could prevent business disruptions from data loss or interruption in data availability to
applications, an optimized footprint and cost of operations so that storage solutions required less
space, and simplified management of ongoing system administration.9
Several technology disruptions, such as the emergence of high-performance flash storage media and
powerful data analytics capabilities, have changed the storage industry. Flash, “a solid state memory
technology designed to provide rapid random access to data, has emerged as a high-performance
alternative storage media…because it can deliver significantly higher read performance than HDDs
[hard disk drives that supported legacy storage systems].”10 HDDs “degrade in performance when
handling the random I/O [input/output] needs of today’s enterprise IT environments.” The second
technology disruption (powerful data analytics capabilities) have brought “significant improvements
in the ability to connect, analyze, and monitor large amounts of distributed data in realtime…presenting opportunities to improve the operations and management of storage systems.”11
According to Vasudevan: “For decades, HDDs have done well in helping to address data growth in
enterprises as they steadily increased in density, thus helping to store more and more data costeffectively. However, where storage systems based on HDDs have not done well is in cost-effectively
addressing application performance needs. This is because even though HDDs have improved in
density, their I/O performance has remained by and large unchanged over the last decade or so, with
the result that storage systems have had to over-provision HDDs to match an application’s
performance needs. Consequently, enterprise storage systems have traditionally been good at either
delivering capacity or performance cost-effectively, but not both simultaneously.”12
Nimble’s Solution
Nimble’s founders, Maheshwari and Mehta had never started a company before Nimble, but had
worked in many companies in the industry and were known as storage gurus (Exhibit 4). Mehta was
Vice President of engineering at Data Domain, a data backup and recovery company and Maheshwari
was a legendary coder who had architected key parts of Data Domain’s file system. Maheshwari has a
Ph.D. from MIT and won a gold medal in computer science at IIT Delhi. “We were the classic, ‘two
guys and a PowerPoint deck of 10 slides and Sequoia gave us $8.8 million to get started,” recalled
Mehta. “Until that point, no one in the prior 10 years had successfully competed against big
entrenched storage players such as NetApp or EMC. And a bunch of storage startups had tried and
were faltering or had gone out of business because customers just weren’t buying from startups due to
the mission-critical function of data storage so investors were reluctant to fund anyone who would go
directly against those companies even though that was our secret ambition.”
The pair had pitched a two-phase product—one that would work with NetApp and EMC’s products on
the front-end as an accelerator and the second phase would be a product that competed directly against
them. The first-phase product was a flash-based caching appliance or “cacher” that sat on top of
existing storage systems and dramatically improved I/O performance. “What we realized is that our
funders loved the first phase and hated the second phase,” said Mehta. “But we discovered that
NetApp and EMC were taking major steps to incorporate flash into their products and doing it much
faster than we had imagined, so this basically obviated our need for our first phase product” (Exhibits
5, 6, 7, and 8).
The founders went back to the investors and made their case to pivot and focus on the second phase
product to build a primary-storage system that incorporated flash to pursue a much bigger opportunity.
9
Nimble Storage S-1, p. 83.
Op. Cit., p. 84.
11
Ibid.
12
http://www.networkworld.com/article/2224631/cisco-subnet/a-conversation-with-suresh-vasudevan–ceo-of-nimble-storage.html.
10
This document is authorized for use only by Lillian Diaz in OL-668 Human Resources In Global Contexts 17TW2 taught by Lindsay Conole, Southern New Hampshire University from October
2017 to February 2018.
For the exclusive use of L. Diaz, 2017.
NIMBLE STORAGE 4
“They basically told us, ‘you are out of your mind,’” said Mehta. “And we nearly shut down. So we
went back and worked on the first product and all the while continued working on the second product
too. It took us a year to convince our investors to let us pivot.”
Jim Goetz from Sequoia said: “Our co-investors from Accel and Lightspeed joined us in pressure
testing the plan—we pressed him [Varun] hard. He answered us at every turn and never wavered that
the pivot was the right thing to do, which after endless hours of debate won us over.”13
During development, the founders talked to 100 customer prospects to find out what would convince
them to buy Nimble’s product and the prospects responded: “10x performance improvement for little
additional cost.” On customers, Mehta said he was influenced by Steve Blank’s The Four Steps to the
Epiphany: “His advice to determine whether customers are going to buy the product is to talk to them.
He said that if you give away a product for free and they still don’t want to use it, that is very telling.
For me, this has shaped everything we do across the company from product development to HR.”
Goetz said: “They drew on all their experience to build Nimble’s system. They took advantage of
flash in the areas it was best, but also used standard disk drives where it made sense. They combined
primary storage and backup in one architecture and developed new file-system software to manage it
all. After two and a half years of development, they’d achieved the impossible-sounding 10x
improvements at a competitive price.”14
As Goetz explained further: “From a technology standpoint Nimble’s plan had merit. Flash drives are
a lot faster than traditional disk drives and provide businesses speedier access to their data. Because
flash is more expensive, established storage companies treated it as an option for the high end of the
market. Nimble saw a chance to target mainstream businesses, but thought the window wouldn’t stay
open long.”15
Vasudevan said on flash and startups: “The unique thing about flash is also its problem, which is
that—if all I want to do is deliver performance, I don’t need to build a very optimized array.16 It is so
fast that even a mediocre design is going to be way better than disk. That’s why there are over three
or four dozen companies all in storage. There are more storage startups than ever before simply
because it’s so easy to make a flash product and say ‘look how well I do on performance.’”17
He added: “I think the first mistake is to only rely on flash as a performance medium, and go basically
build an all-flash array without data management, ease of operations, and other things. In the end, no
matter what you do, that means you’re going to be going after only the really high-performance
applications, because you can’t just ask a customer to pay four or five times more for an application
when they could absolutely get away with not spending that much. They’ll only buy if they actually
need it.”18
Nimble’s products were based on its patented Cache Accelerated Sequential Layout (CASL) hybrid
storage architecture that leveraged fast read performance of flash and the cost-effective capacity of
hard disk drives. Nimble combined this flash-optimized architecture with Nimble InfoSight, a cloud
based management service that delivered predictive support and operational simplicity through deep
data analytics.
13

https://sequoiacapital.tumblr.com/post/69884048439/the-bet-the-company-pivot-that-led-to-nimble-storages

Ibid.
Ibid.
16
A disk array is a hardware element that contains a large group of hard disk drives.
17
http://willemterharmsel.nl/nimble-storage-ceo-suresh-vasudevan-nimbles-culture-post-ipo-plans/.
18
Ibid.
14
15
This document is authorized for use only by Lillian Diaz in OL-668 Human Resources In Global Contexts 17TW2 taught by Lindsay Conole, Southern New Hampshire University from October
2017 to February 2018.
For the exclusive use of L. Diaz, 2017.
NIMBLE STORAGE 5
The company shipped its first product line, its CS200 series, in August 2010. The CS200 Series
systems were designed for midsize IT organizations or distributed sites of larger organizations,
supporting workloads such as Microsoft applications, virtual desktop infrastructure, or VDI19 or server
virtualization. Customers signed up to buy the product with strong demand.
Dan Leary, Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, and one of the earliest employees said: “In
marketing, we were thinking about a scalable way to build up demand. We are a very metrics and
analytical company and we wanted to measure the effectiveness of everything we were doing as we
were building and nurturing leads to become deals. My belief was that if we could build up an
evangelical customer base of 1,000 or 2,000 customers, that will do much more than building
awareness of Nimble’s brand and other traditional marketing.”
At that point, the founders partnered with Vasudevan who joined Nimble’s board. Vasudevan became
Nimble’s CEO in March 2011, while Mehta …
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