CRN Exclusive: NetApp CMO Julie Parrish Departs

CRN has learned that storage vendor NetApp's chief marketing officer has left the company just weeks before NetApp opens its annual NetApp Insight conference.

Julie Parrish, a longtime channel veteran, took on the CMO role late in 2012. She joined NetApp in late 2008 as senior vice president of worldwide sales after a six-year-plus stint as a top channel executive at Symantec and Veritas.

NetApp, in a statement emailed to CRN late Friday, confirmed the departure of Parrish and the appointment of Brian Bakstran, the company's vice president of Americas field marketing, as interim CMO.

[Related: NetApp Ousts Georgens, Names Kurian New CEO]

Sponsored post

"Based on a mutual decision between NetApp and Julie Parrish, she will step out of the CMO role effective immediately and will be leaving NetApp. The company has started a search for a new CMO. Marketing is a critical part of NetApp’s go-to-market strategy. While we conduct the search, we have asked Brian Bakstran, vice president of Americas Field Marketing to act as interim CMO. We have the utmost confidence in Brian’s ability to lead Global Marketing, given his deep knowledge of NetApp and support from a strong executive team. We want to thank Julie who has held significant leadership roles during her tenure at the company, both in Channel Sales and also in Global Marketing," NetApp said in the statement.

Parrish is only the latest in a recent string of departures from NetApp, which has seen its share of the storage market slide over the past year.

Regina Kunkle in July resigned as NetApp's vice president of North American channel sales to join SAP as that company's new vice president of state and local/higher education (SLED).

The highest-profile NetApp departure was that of CEO Tom Georgens, who in June was let go by the NetApp board. Georgens was replaced by George Kurian, the company's former executive vice president of product operations.

NetApp Chief Technology Officer Jay Kidd, a 10-year company veteran, retired this summer, citing plans to finish his career at NetApp and pursue personal interests.

NetApp in March lost its flash storage guru as Brian Pawlowski, the senior vice president and technical staff member at NetApp -- known there as "beepee" -- left in March to join rival all-flash storage vendor Pure Storage, Mountain View, Calif..

Several of NetApp's solution partners said they felt that Parrish had played an important role at the company, but that her departure should not disrupt the company's operations.

It's no surprise to see top executives leave a company that undergoes a change in leadership like NetApp did this summer when it replaced its CEO, said John Woodall, vice president of engineering at Integrated Archive Systems, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based solution provider and longtime NetApp partner.

"I don't know if there will be any negative impact," Woodall told CRN. "But with a new CEO, you see people leaving for any number of reasons, just like we saw at Cisco."

Woodall said he has known Parrish for years, and has tremendous respect for her and what she did for NetApp. "She's sharp, she's poised and she communicates very well," he said. "And, just like when Jay Kidd left as CTO, her departure may raise a lot of questions. But my thoughts remain the same: NetApp is a mature company, and the departure of any single person is not a big deal."

Chris Pyle, president of Champion Solutions Group, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based solution provider and NetApp channel partner, said that while NetApp has been a good partner, it could step up its marketing.

"NetApp makes really, really great products," Pyle told CRN. "But it's been out-marketed. The company needs to step up the messaging. Maybe it needs a fresh set of eyes."

Another solution provider told CRN off the record that the departure of Parrish or any executive has a minor impact on the channel.

However, that solution provider said, NetApp's business in its four geographies actually acts sometimes as if they were four separate companies, and so may not have needed a centralized worldwide marketing team.

"Julie is very, very talented," that solution provider said. "But I don't see NetApp leading on a worldwide basis. She's a brand builder, a worldwide channel builder kind of person, and NetApp doesn't need that kind of person."

Kevin McLaughlin contributed to this story.