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Breaking Down Problems to Find the Solution: APAC LOV Winner Tim Kleingeld

Lisa Melsted

NetApp’s Living Our Values (LOV) Awards, a peer-nominated and peer-judged recognition program, is the highest honor NetApp employees can receive. These semiannual awards recognize three winners and up to six honorable mentions worldwide who embody the company values. Ingrained into day-to-day work, NetApp’s seven values are: Leadership, Trust & Integrity, Simplicity, Adaptability, Teamwork & Synergy, Go Beyond and Get Things Done. Each winner is brought to Sunnyvale for a Company All Hands, where they are thanked by the CEO. NetApp also gives a gift of $5,000 in each winner’s name to the charity of their choice. Click here to read about Winter 2018 Americas LOV Winner Aaron Gaudet and here to read about EMEA Winner Susi Martinez Bouza. 

When he was a child, Tim Kleingeld says he liked to “pull things apart and try to understand them.” Later, when he went to college and began studying computer science, he did the same thing.

“I would try to pull things apart without destroying them in the computer system,” he says.

As an approach that Tim says he’s “always done,” breaking down problems to find a solution has served Tim well throughout his life. And now that approach is one of the reasons Tim is the February 2019 APAC LOV Winner.

As his nominators put it, “Listing all of Tim's qualities would take too long. The one that really distinguishes him is his ability to look at a problem or challenge (e.g. a NetApp code issue or complex customer workflow/infrastructure integration problem) that has not arisen before, methodically break it down into a set of constituent elements, and then develop a solution or path forward that works with almost 100% guaranteed success.”

Tim works as a Performance Architect in NetApp’s Melbourne, Australia office and has been at NetApp since 2006. As a Performance Architect, Tim says his role is a unique one. Although it’s technically a pre-sales role, Tim says the intent is to “help out with performance issues impacting sales—whether that’s sizing of systems or helping with proof of concepts or resolving or helping to resolve performance issues that are impacting sales.” And although Tim says the role is not part of technical support, he says he does sometimes end up playing a support role, depending on the particular needs of the customer and the teams working with them.

In the nearly 13 years Tim has been at NetApp, he’s held numerous roles, from solutions architect to customer advocate. Tim says he was “somewhat shocked” when he received the email telling him he’d won the LOV Award. He happened to be working onsite at a secure customer site at the time, so he had no phone with him, only his laptop. “I opened this email up and was like ‘Oh, OK – that’s unexpected. It was a bit disconcerting.”

Like EMEA Winner Susi Martinez-Bouza, Tim says he’s “not one who likes too much attention.” And also similar to Susi, Tim says he approaches everything he does by first seeking to understand what the customer needs.

“My approach is that I listen first and try to understand what the requirements are without jumping in and coming up with a solution,” he says. “Whether an architecture or performance issue, it’s a matter of listening, understanding and then digging in and getting some more technical understanding of what’s going on and coming up with a solution that works.”

Tim’s admittedly “fairly systematic” approach to his work today is not unlike how he would break things down and rebuild them as a child. He says he looks at the entire technical ecosystem, from storage up to the application level, to break down where issues might be. Typically, he says, there’s never just one problem, so it’s a matter of breaking down and measuring as many points as possible to narrow down what the problem is. Then you test your solution and if it doesn’t work, you quickly move on to the next solution.

“I don’t get fixated on the solution. You have to be ready to change tacks as required and go back to where you started in order to point elsewhere,” he says.

Tim’s nominators say this approach has been beneficial not just to customers in Australia but globally.

“In the past 18 months Tim has gone beyond to solve product and issues or shortcomings to help win business and make our products better. Tim's code changes and enhancements have been passed back to our engineering teams and have now been incorporated in products essential to our ongoing success.”

For example, a code change Tim instituted with one Australian customer has since resulted in 100% uptime and a throughput boost of more than 150% with one product. The customer has since served as reference a half a dozen times in the past year to help with other global accounts, according to Tim’s nomination.

Tim says being half a world away from the head office is beneficial for coming up with new solutions to problems because it forces his team to be resourceful since they can’t afford to wait overnight for answers. “You need to be more autonomous. You can’t fire off a requirement and wait until the next day and hope something will happen. You need to be able to discover things yourself rather than wait for a response.”

Tim’s nominators would agree: “Great leaders find a way and get things done when others reach an impasse. Great leaders mentor others and help develop their knowledge and expertise. Tim exhibits all those qualities and that is why Tim would be a worthy NetApp LOV winner.”

Despite being part of a team that is spread across six or seven countries throughout APAC, Tim says he particularly enjoys being part of a team, culture and company that is very supportive of one another. “The culture within the office is having that support with other parts of the organization. This is a very collaborative workplace,” he says.

Outside of work, Tim says he enjoys spending time with his two teenage daughters, playing tennis or computer games and doing projects around the house. He’s also a regular donator of blood plasma, something he says he does every couple of weeks or so. Because Tim has a universal recipient blood type, which translates to a universal donor plasma type, he says the people at the donation center “really like me” and will call him within a week if he doesn’t come in. Part of the reason, Tim says, is that Australia has often had to import plasma from other countries, and they are trying to become self-sufficient in meeting supply and demand within the country. “It’s something that’s really appreciated,” he says. As part of his LOV recognition, Tim will be giving his $5,000 donation to the Fred Hollows Foundation, an international development organization whose aim is to eliminate avoidable blindness and improve Indigenous Australian health.

Despite his reticence about being thrust into the limelight, Tim says being recognized by his peers with the LOV Award is quite an honor.

“I really love my job and enjoy what I’m doing and really love the challenge of it. To get this from my peers for just showing up and to be recognized and have that treated as something special is quite flattering,” he says.

Lisa Melsted

Lisa Melsted develops culture strategies and content for NetApp’s Employee Engagement team. A tech industry veteran with more than 15 years’ experience in various communications and marketing roles, she holds Master’s degrees in Creative Non-Fiction from Emerson College and English from the University of Iowa. She has also written articles about technology for publications such as Forbes BrandVoice and TechPageOne.

View all Posts by Lisa Melsted

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