Though Aaron White joined the Nutanix team only 18 months ago, he has already made a lasting impact on the culture as a Regional Sales Director in UAE.
Diving Into Diversity
Within the United Arab Emirates offices, Aaron joined a team of 16 people and dove right into cultivating more diversity. “The customers we sell to all don’t look like each other, so why would we all look like each other? It kind of didn’t seem right to me. I want to hire the best people for the role.” You’re right, Aaron - that’s what matters. Aaron leveraged his 7,000 LinkedIn connections and his professional network in the Middle East to seek out candidates with different backgrounds, training, and skillsets. As a result of this effort, the team at the UAE office has doubled and the ratio of women has grown to four times its original size!
Ghosts in the System
Aaron has differentiated his team from other sales teams within the technical industry by bringing a positive, team-oriented approach to daily operations. When he first joined, he noticed “ghosts in the system,” or habits formed from previous leadership, that may not be serving the team. Sometimes these “ghosts” are less noticeable to existing team members and new leaders must decide how to shape the culture of their office. One “ghost” Aaron noticed was the habit of making destructive comments about coworkers, which creates a “toxic” culture. Aaron addressed this with one-on-one meetings and worked to stamp out destructive comments.
After helping the team break some habits that were not serving them, Aaron directed that energy towards new habits that focus on people more than product. “You can just say, ‘Nutanix is wonderful, here’s our wonderful technology.’ But in the end, it’s people who make that technology, people who deliver that technology, it’s people who sell that technology.” In Aaron’s 20 years in the technical industry, he has found, “an organization might have wonderful technology, but without the right people executing on a clear strategy and a great culture behind them,” the organization ultimately fails.
Too Much Encouragement? Nah.
“We celebrate every success. No matter how small or how big that success is, those things are welcomed,” Aaron humbly touts. An internal discussion led to the question, “If we congratulate people so often, doesn’t that encouragement lose its power?” And in the end, the decision was, “No.” Unlike old habits of sales offices across industries, Aaron’s team has learned that operating from a scarcity and high competition mindset doesn’t yield the best results or create a team that can work optimally.
This open communication and encouragement across the office also allows the team to support each other in the face of failure and move forward from it. Aaron gratefully explains that this approach makes Nutanix a great place to work: “It’s a place where we can have those discussions very frankly, very openly, and agree on what good looks like and equally agree on what good doesn’t look like.”
Our shared language is built on the foundational values “Hungry. Humble. Honest, and with Heart.” Aaron’s focus has been to live these values each day. What makes his team so special is that they hold each other to these agreed-upon values. “The cultural principals are alive for everyone on the team.” Candid conversations are no longer seen as threatening, but rather as a way to help everyone come back to the “true north” of Hungry, Humble, Honest.
Leadership. Accountability. Growth.
As a leader, Aaron promotes the idea of learning from mistakes and failing forward that he learned from senior leaders at the company. “When they get something wrong, they put their hand up and admit it and use that as a lesson for the rest of us. Seeing senior leaders in the organization admit they got something wrong, man, I’ve not seen that before in my career.”
Aaron takes on his role as a leader with openness and heart. “Leadership is a conversation.” Aaron addresses his entire team in an All Hands meeting every single week. In an effort to promote work-life balance for the entire Nutanix team, Aaron has helped the team fight the “always on” mentality that leads to burnout. Aaron encourages his employees to turn off email notifications on their phones and makes sure projects are well covered so team members taking vacation can actually take that time for themselves to unplug, unwind, and recharge.
Stepping In. Stepping Up.
Last August, Aaron became the father to twin girls who arrived prematurely. “I had--I needed to spend every single day I could with them while they were in the hospital at the NICU,” Aaron shared. The girls were in the hospital for 44 nights. “During that rollercoaster of a time, I asked the team to show personal leadership. I appointed one of my senior managers to step in for me.” He reached out to the team and asked for their personal leadership and support over the next seven weeks. The team rose to the occasion and finished at 120% that quarter. We are happy to report both young ladies and their mother are now happy and healthy!
What does leadership look like? Leadership is creating a welcoming space where people want to work. Leadership is the willingness to acknowledge failure and turn it into a growth opportunity for everyone. Leadership is celebrating other team members. Leadership is vulnerability. “Leadership is a conversation.”