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Tom Mendoza, NetApp Vice Chairman And Original Sales Lead, Retires

Mendoza was one of the four original top executives who set the tone and culture of NetApp in its early days, and spent most of his 25 years at the company spearheading its sales activities.

Tom Mendoza, who since 1994 has led the sales team of NetApp as president and senior vice president of sales before becoming the company's vice chairman, is retiring from the company.

Mendoza on Thursday unveiled his plan to retire via a note on Twitter in which he said that his experience at the company far exceeded the wildest expectations he had when he first joined the company in 1994.

"I am grateful that many of my best friends in life either work or have worked at NetApp, are customers of NetApp or are partners of NetApp. How cool is that? Very cool," he wrote.

[Related: NetApp Ties MAX Data To Intel Optane SD, Makes Server Memory Part Of Cloud Infrastructure]

Mendoza is remembered as one of the four key people to set the business environment and culture of NetApp, and is the last of the four to leave the company.

Dave Hitz, one of those who co-founded NetApp in 1992, retired from the company in February of this year. He is now considered founder emeritus for the company.

James Lau, another NetApp co-founder, retired in 2015, and is now a member of the board of trustees of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for its Silicon Valley and Monterey Bay chapter.

Dan Warmenhoven, who joined NetApp in 1994 as its first CEO, retired from the company in mid-2014, and is now a member of Palo Alto Networks' board of directors.

Mendoza, in his retirement announcement, wrote that Warmenhoven in 1994 at the company's first off-site meeting asked him, Lau, and Hitz, "What is the single most important thing that we want to accomplish?"

The consensus answer, which Mendoza wrote was to impact the lives of those executives and that of many other NetApp employees, was to build a company they would be proud of the rest of their lives.

"What I'll always remember is we didn't talk about revenue targets, lists we would be included on or external accolades. We talked about people. Hiring people of high integrity with a tremendous work ethic and grit (perhaps the most important attribute to long term success) and creating a high-performance culture built on trust, respect and mutual accountability. … The story of NetApp's success then and now was and is built on those principles and of that I am very proud," he wrote.

Mendoza definitely shaped so much of NetApp's culture and success, and is now making a personal decision to retire, said John Woodall, vice president of engineering at Integrated Archive Systems, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based solution provider and longtime NetApp channel partner.

"Tom is leaving a big legacy at NetApp," Woodall told CRN. "He has a business school at Notre Dame named after him."

Mendoza and his wife in 2000 gave his alma mater, Notre Dame, a gift of $35 million, and the university renamed its business school the Mendoza College of Business.

Woodall said that in the years he has been around NetApp he has seen the value the company places on people, and no one has been more active in that than Mendoza.

NetApp has some of the most approachable executives in the industry, and Mendoza one of them, he said. Mendoza would do a routine similar to that of a policemen who stops people just to tell them they are driving safe.

"He did that cop 'being good' thing every day," Woodall said. "He's a busy man, but he did that. I once got a call from him one day after he was told by an employee that I'm doing a good job as a partner. I turned it around and got him to call an employee that was especially helpful to me."

Mendoza was key to making NetApp the company it is today, Woodall said.

"He is one of those people who co-created this magical company called NetApp which has transformed itself many times, and may be doing so again right now," he said. "It will be interesting to see who steps up after he leaves. Whoever it is, he or she won't really be filling his shoes. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill."

NetApp did not respond to a CRN request for more information by press time. Mendoza, when contacted by CRN, replied that he is with his family on vacation and would rather not comment.

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