Data Storage Careers Q&A with Alessandra Yockelson at Pure Storage: Building a Talented Team in the Storage Industry

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The challenge of finding employees to develop and manage storage systems is multifaceted: the vital need for data protection, the shortage of talent, and the expectation that companies will cultivate a vibrant corporate culture to attract talent. 

Enterprise storage teams are pressed to find highly specialized tech workers to run their storage platforms as data volumes keep growing. Storage employees are also looking for benefits like remote work and opportunities to share their ideas and have a voice in the team and company. 

Alessandra Yockelson, the chief human resources officer at Pure Storage, a leading data storage provider, provided her thoughts on the importance of the data storage market and how Pure is attracting and developing employees: 

Alessandra Yockelson

Alessandra Yockelson leads Pure’s human capital function globally. She is responsible forAlessandra Yockelson of Pure Storage. crafting talent and organizational strategies that advance the company’s goals and make Pure an inclusive employer of choice for top talent. Alessandra holds a PH.D. in organization studies, an M.B.A. from Fundação Getúlio Vargas in São Paulo, Brazil, and an M.S. in HR.

Data Storage Careers Q&A

The Storage Field

Enterprise Storage Forum: Why should a technology pro work in the data storage field?

Yockelson: Data is more critical than ever to the success of every organization. Digital transformation efforts, supported by data speed and intelligence, continue to accelerate as enterprises are hungry for greater agility, innovation, and efficiency. These trends became even more evident during the uncertain times of the past two years. The world of modern data services is evolving rapidly, bringing about new (exciting) challenges and opportunities for businesses and data professionals alike. 

Enterprise Storage Forum: What range of roles are available at Pure for data storage pros? What’s a likely career path, from entry-level to senior roles? 

Yockelson: There are endless possibilities for careers at Pure in the data storage field, as we fuel innovation and creativity across our various business units and product portfolio. We always encourage professionals across all disciplines of engineering, product, sales, customer success, marketing,  support, and G&A to check out our Careers page to see the latest job postings!

There is no single path required to reach a senior-level role. Instead, there are many paths, supported by a diverse skill set. It’s important to recognize that skills are extremely transferable, and they open up growth and development opportunities for new (and existing) talent. Our product portfolio provides a wide variety of solutions to our customers and thus, offers a variety of opportunities for our engineers and product team members. In fact, mobility across projects and releases has been a hallmark ever since Pure was founded and contributes to our ability to attract and retain talent. Our engineers learn from one experience, and they become additive to the next one. Both individual contributors and managers move across exciting projects and product lines, helping to build knowledge across teams. Whether they work on expanding Pure’s all-flash market or delivering hybrid cloud architecture and data services for modern apps, it all contributes to Pure’s ability to deliver a modern data experience to our customers.

Enterprise Storage Forum: For roles in data storage, what education, skills, experience, and certifications does your team most want to see?

Yockelson: At Pure, we are focused on hiring people with the right skills and appetite to learn. We believe in being an idea meritocracy, and we believe that having diverse perspectives and opinions makes us stronger. When we hire new staff, our goal is to tease out applicants’ potential for problem solving, creativity, and collaboration — not just where they went to school or where they work today. Across the company, we’ve made it a point to employ skills-based screenings that eliminate work-gap bias. For example, in engineering, we use the technical assessment tool HackerRank to determine applicants’ aptitude for the job. These tools are resume-blind, experience-blind, and industry-blind. This helps ensure we’re measuring what really matters: how someone will perform on the job.

Enterprise Storage Forum: What skills around flash in particular are you looking for in candidates?

Yockelson: While we focus on hiring software engineers with the ability to collaborate, think critically, and problem solve, technical expertise in storage and flash engineering, in addition to product management, is extremely valuable across the industry.

Enterprise Storage Forum: What is one technology your team wants data storage pros to know?

Yockelson: While there is and will always be competition for talent in the technology industry, the most critical roles that are difficult to fill are those requiring platform skills and a broader technical knowledge of integrated platforms. There are countless, very accomplished and brilliant individuals in the talent pool right now that have very specific skill sets. However, platform skills tend to be the most difficult to find and thus, are seen as extremely valuable across the industry. This is certainly a high-growth avenue for talent that wants to stay and grow in data storage.

Hiring and Staffing

Enterprise Storage Forum: What is one non-technical skill or characteristic that you look for in new employees?

Yockelson: Pure is founded on integrity and mutual respect, and we are dedicated in our commitment to live out these principles through our core values: persistence, creativity, teamwork, ownership, and customer-first. The one non-technical skill that we really look for in employees, however, is their ability to work collaboratively as a team. This is something that’s even more important than ever, particularly in a fully remote environment that has posed unprecedented challenges. Great culture stems from talented and diverse individuals, something of immeasurable importance to us here at Pure. We value teamwork and the support of each and every individual within a team. Doing what’s right for our teams, what’s right for Pure, and what’s right for our partners and customers will ultimately lead to success. 

Enterprise Storage Forum: What are your plans for hiring in 2022?

Yockelson: As a tech innovator enabling the modern data experience, we’re committed to helping our customers build and manage the infrastructure they need to support the workforce of the future — both on-premises and in the cloud — and turn data bottlenecks into breakthroughs. To ensure Pure continues to provide the best solutions across multiple languages and business cultures, in 2022, we plan to open a new development center in Bangalore, India. This widening of our footprint means we’ll make our core product development opportunities available to those ready to spark creativity and innovation — whether it be in Mountain View, Prague, or Bangalore. 

Enterprise Storage Forum: How is your team trying to overcome the shortage of talent in the tech industry?

Yockelson: The key to attracting and retaining talent lies with cultivating a workplace that employees are proud and excited to be a part of. In an environment where talent is in the lead, we are continuously advancing our approaches to people management, redefining the way the hybrid workplace feels and functions. In fact, we continually measure employee engagement through our biannual Employee Voice Survey programs. In our most recent survey in November 2021, our engagement scores ranked higher than the top quartile of companies in the high-tech industry, signaling a strong culture of pride, satisfaction, and belonging that drives our employees to stay and recommend Pure as a best place to work.

We’re proud to be releasing programs for FY23 within our own company that prioritize retention, DE&I representation, employee engagement, and well-being and more. As a tech innovator enabling the modern data experience, we’re committed to helping our customers build and manage the infrastructure they need to support the workforce of the future on-premises and in the cloud and turn data bottlenecks into breakthroughs.

Enterprise Storage Forum: How is Pure considering diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in staffing the organization?

Yockelson: The imperative of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) has never been so critical to creativity and business success. We strongly leverage our nimble, fast-paced, and highly innovative culture as well as the consistent growth that our business is undergoing to promote an inclusive workplace where our employees are stretched to have an impact through collaboration around the globe. Over the past years, we have made strides in attracting diverse top talent at all levels and locations we operate in. 

Enterprise Storage Forum: How do you expect your hiring plans to affect Pure’s impact on the data storage market?

Yockelson: It’s no secret that Pure is leading the delivery of storage solutions globally. Offering meaningful individualized development plans that advance our talent’s skills and meet their career aspirations are initiatives we are strengthening to win in today’s hybrid work environment. Additionally, ensuring that leaders and employees understand our vision and strategy and how they impact our future is a highly leveraged retention lever at Pure. In fact, we have one of the highest employee engagement indices in the industry, which enables our employee referral program to be extremely effective. 

Company Life and Culture

Enterprise Storage Forum: Where do your employees work? What options do your employees have to work remotely or on a hybrid work schedule?

Yockelson: Pure is currently operating in a hybrid (yet largely remote) work environment, with the opportunity for employees to come into the office on an as-needed basis. Of course, the most important element of today’s work environment for us is to ensure the well-being and health of our global employees, customers, and partners. As a result, we’re strictly adhering to CDC, state, and local guidelines to ensure we’re doing our part to decrease the number of COVID-19 cases worldwide. 

A lot is said about hybrid work in terms of in office and from home, but the untapped opportunity lies in enabling talent to collaborate across the globe. In a labor market that is structured around time zones, state, and even country, boundaries become blurry. What matters are the principles that leaders put in place to be inclusive of different cultures, to hybrid teams participating in person and remotely at the same time, and an organization’s ability to coordinate work asynchronously. 

Enterprise Storage Forum: What is work like for employees at Pure? What does the workspace, in-person or remote, offer? How often do teams meet?

Yockelson: Our employees have shown incredible resilience working remotely amid today’s pandemic and have truly embraced this new world of collaboration and communication. Since a fully in-office experience is not something we see in the near future, we’re dedicated to offering our employees the best work-from-home experience possible. We offer a variety of tools and programs to support our employees in what has been a challenging two years, including access to applications like Zoom and Slack, as well as a generous work-from-home stipend for all employees (new and existing) to build out their home offices to ensure their spaces are ergonomically safe and comfortable. We also allow all employees to take home office equipment, like monitors and chairs, and accomodate special requests for an employee needing additional help. Where safe and permitted by local authorities, we invest in bringing small groups of employees together in informal settings.

Enterprise Storage Forum: What is one notable benefit that employees receive at Pure? How does it help them develop their professional/personal lives?

Yockelson: To continue supporting the growth and development of our employees, Pure’s Learning team facilitates meaningful training and workshops, while also implementing new facets of Pure-wide programs to touch on relevant topics, like leading remote teams, managing stress, and creating a place of belonging while working virtually. Additionally, we’re committed to investing even more in employee leadership development and upskilling this coming year, by offering employees the opportunity to partake in a mix of new on-the-job experiences and exposure beyond their day-to-day domain as well as formal education support. 

Enterprise Storage Forum: What is one method or company practice that you use to refuel or re-engage employees?

Yockelson: Ensuring that our employees feel comfortable taking advantage of our flexible time-off policy is absolutely essential here at Pure. We introduced something we refer to as Pure Play Days this year, which are globally recognized days off throughout the year. Pure Play Days not only give our employees a well-deserved break, but also drive home the message across the organization that leaders at Pure care deeply for their well-being and see taking time off as critical to refuel and facilitate meaningful performance.

Enterprise Storage Forum: If you had to choose one word to describe company culture at Pure Storage, what would it be? What is your one recommendation to all new employees at Pure?

Yockelson: Innovative. The one recommendation I offer to all new employees is to push the status quo in terms of critical thinking and creativity. We strive to create a working environment where diversity of thought is encouraged, which ultimately leads to unrivaled innovation. 

Enterprise Storage Forum: As a human resources leader, what is your favorite part about working in the data storage market?

Yockelson: The sheer caliber of talent we have at Pure Storage excites me about working in this industry. Disruptive innovation and outstanding customer satisfaction doesn’t just happen — it requires the minds of smart, collaborative, talented individuals every day. I’m excited for what FY23 has to offer!

Enterprise Storage Forum: How has Pure most impacted your growth, professionally/personally?

Yockelson: I joined Pure six months ago, and it was a well-thought-out career transition that I took very diligently. There are so many great things I learned about Pure prior to joining. For instance, Pure’s long-standing reputation of being a true disruptor in the market and the company’s world class performance in customer satisfaction (Pure’s net promoter score is in the top 1% of B2B companies!) as well as the expertise of the leadership team, coupled with the very ambitious growth plans for the company. Having lived and worked in three continents, holding global roles in large organizations in technology, health care, consumer goods, and automotive, I am truly enjoying the opportunity to continue to grow and invest my passion and skills into making Pure an even stronger talent magnet.

Enterprise Storage Forum: Do you have a favorite way to recharge during the workday?

Yockelson: One of my favorite ways to recharge throughout the day is by connecting with my colleagues one-on-one. I’ve made it a standard practice to ensure that I have one-on-one meetings with every single person that works with me across HR, and once I finish the first round of 1:1 meetings, I go back to the beginning and start a new series of 1:1s. It is extremely gratifying to learn and appreciate my colleagues’ personal journeys and vision for their careers in an informal setting — not only does it relieve stress, but it offers myself (as well as my colleagues) the opportunity to form meaningful connections in the organization. 

Read next: Top 5 Data Storage Companies Hiring

Jenna Phipps
Jenna Phipps
Jenna Phipps is a staff writer for Enterprise Storage Forum and eSecurity Planet, where she covers data storage, cybersecurity and the top software and hardware solutions in the storage industry. She’s also written about containerization and data management. Previously, she wrote for Webopedia. Jenna has a bachelor's degree in writing and lives in middle Tennessee.

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