Michelle Rudnicki, Pinnacle Award Finalist: “Our people are the heart and engine of our organizations”

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Michelle Rudnicki, NetApp

WashingtonExec’s Pinnacle Awards finalists were announced on October 11, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place live, in person, on November 30.

Next is Michelle Rudnicki, a finalist for Business Development Executive of the Year (Public Company), who is vice president of the US public sector at NetApp. Here, she talks about success in her current role, key areas of interest for the future, career advice and more.

What made you successful in your current role?

My crew. One of the best leaders I’ve worked for always answered the question, “How are you?” with the response, “I’m only as good as you.” As leaders, we can set a vision, establish a culture, provide direction and guidance, and sometimes lead by example, but we can’t do it all ourselves. Our employees are the heart and the engine of our organizations.

I am fortunate to be surrounded by a team that can take the vision and guidance I provide and translate it into direction and action for their teams. By working together, we were able to change the results for ourselves and our clients.

Another key to success is our culture. Again, I feel fortunate to work for a company that promotes a strong set of values ​​that keep us grounded around our customers, our communities and our business. I know there are many companies that have similar sets of values, but they are only truly effective when they are living values.

For me, this manifests itself in different ways. First, in the respect our team has for each other, both professionally and personally, and in the appreciation they have for the mission of our public sector clients.

The other is that we can impact our communities through opportunities to volunteer with our colleagues at organizations such as the Capital Region Food Bank or through internal organizations such as NetVets, which is an affinity group for those who have served our country.

What are you most proud of having been part of in your current organization?

One of the things I’m most proud of with our team is the transformation we’re going through. As the world undergoes this digital transformation fueled by new technologies such as cloud, AI, cyber, 5G, etc., the role of CIO and IT has evolved to be more aligned with business priorities. the mission.

Likewise, we have adjusted our focus to help customers adapt to these changes. For a company like NetApp that started out as a hardware appliance, evolving into a data-centric, cloud-focused software company doesn’t happen overnight. Changes permeate every aspect of the business, from product portfolio to go-to-market.

For NetApp US Public Sector, I was able to draw on the experiences I gained in my previous companies about what worked and what didn’t to help us move from being a product provider to that of business value creation/mission as a trusted partner. to our customers. And, at the same time, integrating our cloud capabilities.

It’s a journey, but I feel like we’ve made progress in terms of shifting our messaging around how we can support our customers on their journey to the cloud or to implementing the AI, for example, instead of just technical capabilities. This is also beneficial for the partners we work with who complement our solutions to make them truly mission-driven.

What are your main areas of interest going forward, and why are they so important to the future of the nation?

Our primary focus is and always has been data. It is the resource that guides decisions and delivers better outcomes for citizens. As we follow the path of this data, three major technology initiatives are important in making this data accessible to those who need it: cloud, cybersecurity, and modern AI/data analytics.

Government agencies have moved their applications to the cloud to take advantage of the flexibility, cost advantages, and inherent security of FedRAMP and Department of Defense certified cloud solutions. As part of these migrations, understanding where your data resides, where it is needed, and how to appropriately protect the security and privacy of that data is paramount to successful implementations.

Beyond the cloud, we need to help our customers align with Cybersecurity Executive Order and requirements for building Zero Trust architectures by providing them with the right set of capabilities to detect, protect, remediate and recover from an intrusion. Building this solid data infrastructure provides the opportunity to use data to gain better insights through AI and modern data analytics.

These projects require large amounts of data to be available across the enterprise and in a timely manner to provide real-time decision-making capabilities to mission owners. Specifically, we see the need for these capabilities to help build public health infrastructure, climate resilience, and suicide prevention, especially as it relates to our military veterans.

What is your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?

From a professional point of view, I think there is only one way. Each individual must find the path where they have the opportunity to learn and grow while contributing to the advancement of the organization. For me, I assess opportunities both for what I bring to the table and how can I grow from that experience.

In the past, I assessed opportunities like a three-legged stool ⏤ if a job required three different skills, and if I had two of the three, I could learn the third and that was an adjustment. While the employment landscape has changed ⏤ according to a recent report by the World Economic Forum, 65% of students entering primary school today will end up working in jobs that don’t exist today ⏤ I believe that ‘there are more opportunities than ever to look at your set of experiences and see how they can help evolve into different job opportunities and into new areas like AI and cybersecurity. I’ve come a long way from my undergraduate studies as a chemical engineer and I’m enjoying all the experiences that got me to where I am now by not just following a straight line, but going in different directions.

Meet the other Pinnacle Awards finalists here.

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