How NetApp Invested in University Recruiting and Hired Top Students


Wondering what you can do to improve your on-campus recruiting efforts? You don’t have to start from scratch. Just take your cues from one of the industry leaders, NetApp.

We catch up with Dawn Carter, Director of Global Relations at NetApp to learn her tips and tricks for navigating snowy campuses in the winter and successfully recruiting hundreds of college students and interns every year.

Tell us a little bit about NetApp.

Since our inception in 1992, NetApp has helped enterprises of all sizes achieve a competitive edge by enabling them to innovate faster and more affordably than their competitors.

Creating a model company is at the heart of everything we do with over 12,000 employees in over 150 offices globally. This means delivering value to each community we serve: customers, shareholders, employees, partners, and neighbors. We are committed to living our core values: Trust and Integrity; Leadership; Simplicity; Adaptability; Teamwork; Go Beyond; and Get Things Done. The strength of our culture means that we attract the industry’s best to work for our customers’ success. As a result, we consistently earn top spots on FORTUNE’s list of “100 Best Companies to Work For” in corporate America.

In the US, we have technical offices in Sunnyvale, Wichita, Boulder, Raleigh, Pittsburgh, and Waltham, as well as sales offices throughout the country. We divide our global University teams into the following regions: Americas (Canada, Latin America), India, Asia Pacific, and Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA).

NetApp offers creative and innovative storage and data management solutions. Customers rely on us to store, manage, protect, and maintain their corporate assets. We operate on a B2B model, so we work with a lot of great partners and companies. Our largest organizations within the company are engineering and sales, but we also have a significant customer service organization that helps to maintain quality and build solutions for our clients.

Who are you responsible for recruiting? Are you in charge of a geographical area or particular type of position within your company?

The University Relations team is responsible for building the talent pipeline and hiring university graduates (who may have graduated with a BA, MA, MBA, or PhD in the past 18 months), interns, and co-ops globally. We have formalized programs in the US, UK, and India and we’re starting to roll out programs in China and Japan. We’re also in the process of making our programs in EMEA more robust.

The Industry Recruiting teams handle all the other types of recruiting for each respective organization within the company (e.g. Sales or Engineering).

How many graduates do you tend to hire in a typical year? 

We hire 250 grads and 300 to 400 interns on annual basis.

What type of recruiting schedule do you work on?

Our recruiting schedule is a little complicated because it varies globally. But within the US we base our activities on the academic calendar. So in the fall we’re on campus at our core schools, building partnerships and relationships with faculty, attending career fairs, partnering with student groups. Because we are a business-to-business model we find that students don’t necessarily associate us with a product, so we recently launched our Discover NetApp Days on campus. These events allow us to interact with students through a day on campus and share why we’re such a great place to work. We also participate in a wide range of activities and partnerships with professors and student organizations.

Fall is also the time of year when the interns go back to school, so we like to get our intern conversion letters out in the fall. The goal is to have students know before they leave whether or not they’ll have a full-time offer or if they’ll be invited back next summer for another internship if they’re continuing their studies.

We really focus our recruiting efforts on engineering in the fall and on other disciplines and interns in both the fall and spring.


NetApp recruiting at the University of Washington

What types of recruiting activities do you participate in during a typical year?

  • Career fairs
  • Tech talks
  • Info sessions
  • Partnerships with industry advisor boards like women in engineering or college of computer science
  • We try to embed ourselves in organizations, like student groups, which are a great way to find talent
  • We host some students on-site. We host MBA treks in the fall where we invite current MBA students to come learn about us; we hold open houses where students at any place in their academic career can come visit; and we hold Discover NetApp days either here in Sunnyvale or on-campus
  • Our Advance Technology team also holds NetApp University days where we bring in professors and students to work on a research project.

san jose state students discover netapp day

Discover NetApp day at San Jose State University

What are some of the challenges associated with university recruiting? How do you address them?

The biggest challenge is trying to align workforce planning within company with the academic calendar. For example, we are currently planning a year and a half out for our budget allocations, and we work within our organizations to model different ways to have the allocation far enough in advance. Every organization I’ve worked at has managed it differently, but that question of how you can mirror the talent you need to the talent coming out of the university system is always there.

In the field of STEM specifically, we’d like to see and encourage more women with engineering degrees, because it’s our belief that the more diverse the field, the more innovative people and teams can be. There are many avenues to address this issue, whether it’s pre-college, when they become freshmen, or when they’re at your company by creating an employer resource group for women. NetApp has our own Women in Technology (WIT) group, which is supported by the entire engineering organization and championed by Brian Pawlowski, our Senior Vice President. It currently has 800 members and 10 chapters globally.

What are some of your favorite aspects of university recruiting?

It’s been a great opportunity to be a center of excellence for something that’s so important by helping people at the beginning stage of their careers. It’s been re-energizing, helping me to keep up with what’s current. I’ve had amazing opportunities to travel and I love being able to watch people’s progression—some of the people I’ve hired have gone on to become senior VPs or CEOs.

What do you wish you’d known about university recruiting when you’d started?

If you’re from California and traveling to snow, do not buy your winter coat in California; wait until you visit one of your schools. My first year on the road, I managed schools where it snowed, so as a California Girl having the right winter wear was essential.

I’d also say that in my first year, I concentrated on just going to the event, getting in, and getting out. But I’m lucky that I had an amazing executive sponsor who told me that the best way to learn about the schools is to spend time there learning about the culture of the university. Take time to really get to know what students and faculty are being faced with. This helps you to connect holistically and build better partnerships and relationships. There are some connections I still have with faculty and deans—and it’s been 17 years now!

The next step: Dawn talks about the importance of building relationships with professors and faculty and learning more about a university’s culture. She mentions that one way to achieve this is by spending extra time on campus whenever she has an event. Which on-campus activities do you have coming up? How could you go above and beyond the actual events and get to know the students and faculty more?

To learn more about NetApp’s University Recruiting efforts, check out these resources:

University Recruiting page:

Video testimony from interns:

Video testimony from college students:

Blog post on what makes NetApp a great employer:

Social Media:

NetApp UR on Twitter @NetAppUR | Facebook

All photos courtesy of NetApp. 


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