“Deepak, so, your first commitment to the organization is now a miss.” This was a message I received from Chief Operating Officer Jeff Clarke shortly after I joined Dell Technologies. The email shook me – all of my expectations about a conventional ramp-up into a new company withered away in an instant. While the email was accurate, I had expected to be coddled a bit as the “newbie”!
Eighteen months later, I received a very different message from Jeff that said, “Deepak, your strategic leadership is deeply valued and you have made outstanding contributions to our cloud and as-a-Service journey so far.”
While my journey to-date at Dell Technologies is bookended by these two very different conversations, they both perfectly sum up who we are and how we operate. Dell is a place that values open, sincere, and radically honest communication. It also prioritizes excellent execution and delivery above all.
Over the last 25 years in the computing industry, I have been part of some massive transformations at some of the biggest companies. I embrace change and love a good challenge. So, I joined Dell Technologies at a pivotal moment – a moment when Dell is reinventing itself from the inside out to deliver its entire technology portfolio as-a-Service. This initiative and line of offers is called APEX. Change is hard. I’ve studied it. Lived it. Led through it. And after comparing my past transformation experiences with my experience at Dell, I can unequivocally say that Dell Technologies is a very special place!
I started with Dell in October 2019. As we all know, the world has gone through a lot of change since then. Not only is Dell going through a massive shift to evolve itself, we’ve been navigating a pandemic. Shifts in the industry that impact the business plan. Geopolitical issues like racial equity. Through all of this, I have seen a few challenging quarters and a few highly successful ones. With each passing quarter and with each of these examples, my belief that this place is special has only grown.
But why is it so special? There are five characteristics that stick out in my mind:
- Open, sincere and radically honest communication on everything
- Execution eats strategy for lunch every day
- Servant leadership is the expectation
- We know that change is the only constant
- People here love being here
Come join us – be part of this amazing journey we’re on while building the next phase of your career!”
1. Open, sincere and radically honest communication on everything
Whether it’s a discussion on small product features or major social movements like Black Lives Matter, I have seen the same level of passion, sincerity and radical honesty from my colleagues. It starts at the top. Dell does not have a culture where the hard questions are avoided or shied away from. And once those hard questions are addressed, decisions are made quickly and socialized without rhetoric. This model is possible because there’s a solid foundation of interpersonal respect and humility, across all levels and all diverse perspectives. Joint success is the clear and simple outcome all are striving for. This culture helps gets teams through the storm, norm and perform phases fast, which is critical in times of uncertainty and change.
2. Execution eats strategy for lunch every day
I was told before joining, and experienced first-hand early on, Dell’s bias for action – get to the point, make fast decisions and take action…without drama. People who succeed and grow here have the strongest track record of execution and delivery. This mindset is ingrained into the place and is part of what has made it a powerhouse. Since I joined the Dell family, I have heard Jeff hammer in the importance of dates, commitments and delivery often. At a place that loves data, when commitments are missed, conversations about the “percentage error in judgement” are normal, but collaborative. Internal business management systems, operations lifecycle planning processes, focus during planning and engineering reviews – all of these are exponentially more mature than anything I have seen prior.
3. Servant leadership is the expectation
Leaders at Dell are not praised for their larger than life personas. Leaders here exist to serve our customers and our teams. Our jobs are to help our teams realize their full potential and to help our customers achieve their objectives. Humility, approachability and being grounded in hands-on reality is a defining characteristic of every single successful leader here. At Dell, if you are not hands-on, if you are not on top of your stuff, if you cannot roll up your sleeves, you will not succeed. Hubris and arrogance will sideline you fast. And like everything else, this too, starts at the top. Inspiring standards are celebrated more than inspiring personality. Ambitions for the organizations and causes are respected more than personal ambitions. Leaders hold themselves to a high bar for personal humility and indomitable will.
4. We know that change is the only constant
At the start of the pandemic, Dell sprang into action. Most of our 158,000 employees shifted to work from home over a weekend. Being geo-distributed certainly helped, but the change required to succeed in this new COVID world required more than remote work set-ups. Early on, we made a series of highly consequential decisions. They impacted short term career advancement, travel, recruitment and rewards. These were tough decisions, but they were made swiftly and communicated matter-of-factly. The “Tell Dell” employee survey was conducted soon after these decisions were made. The results of the survey showed one of the company’s highest employee satisfaction scores of all time. The feedback our team conveyed was that they appreciated the steps taken to protect all of us. Another example of how Dell embraces change is with the recent announcement of APEX. Since the work started, APEX has been described internally as the future of our company. In this new future, everything from how we build products, how we go-to-market and how we support our customers needs to transform. Our teams have leaned into the change, across the board, without exception. “I am all in, how can I help?” is a common conversation throughout the company. Both of these examples show Dell’s commitment to never flinch, doubt or defend the necessity of change. In my experience, this level of commitment and camaraderie in the face of the unknown is not the norm.
5. People here love being here
Dell Technologies has one of the lowest attrition rates in the industry. We regularly celebrate “Delliversaries,” and it’s not rare to see people who have been with the company for 15-20 years. We do not view our people as assets that we get the most out of in a year or two and let loose. Every single person I have talked to, without exception, truly and genuinely loves being a part of Dell. Yes, we have our challenges and our growth areas, but I have never heard anyone talk about those areas of improvement in a bitter or condescending way. How the people in this company feel is a combination of the work we do, along with HOW we do it. I have always believed that innovation happens when invention meets adoption. And in Dell, we have both! A lot of customer driven inventions and an amazing extent of adoption of those inventions across the company.
Because innovation requires the best talent, benefits and awards for work well done are prioritized. Work-life balance is valued. Team members are supported and treated with respect. We work to make the world better through our technology innovation, advocacy and social impact efforts. We value diversity in our workforce and improve on it daily in partnership with industry peers. Relationships are personal and transcend business objectives. I have been part of incredible companies and teams in the past that have done some of these things better than Dell, but I’ve never seen them all done well at-scale, with a balanced focus on each, and with such proficiency.
Over the last 18 months, I’ve had challenges and I’ve had triumphs. In my mind, it’s not an “in spite of” those challenges, but rather a “because of those challenges,” I’ve come to see that this place is special. It is an honor and a privilege to serve as a leader at Dell Technologies and I look forward to the challenge, change, transformation and fun ahead. Come join us – be part of this amazing journey we’re on while building the next phase of your career!