EMC Corporation – Best workplace in the Cloud

Smart management

Being cryptic and brief was quite common when naming startup companies in the United States 30 or 40 years ago. When two American engineers created a venture for production of computer memory boards in 1979, they combined their initials and a third letter into EMC Corporation, garnished it with a visual reference to Einstein’s relativity formula and grew it into a specialist information technology (IT) company under a cloak of mild obscurity, known best among true nerds and corporate IT managers.   

Today, the company boasts $20 billion in consolidated revenue with double-digit growth in 2011 driven by demand for its data storage, information management and security and cloud computing products. It has 48,500 employees worldwide and spent 11 percent of last year’s consolidated revenue on research and development, according to results announced last month.    

In 1999, EMC set up its first office in the Middle East in the United Arab Emirates with a tiny team and has grown to about 550 employees in 17 offices around the region, plus 250 to 300 engineers based in Cairo, says Wael el-Nadi, the EMC technology solutions director for Turkey, Emerging Africa and the Middle East. 

Aspects that impressed the Great Place to Work Institute in the EMC culture audit were the company’s initiatives and readiness to exceed legal requirements in developing a caring culture, granting time off for paternity and marriage as well as compassionate leave and extended holiday leaves. 

As Nadi describes it to Executive, the spirit motivating EMC’s care of its employees is one of mutuality. The firm is responsive to people’s requests for time off whenever that is needed and goes beyond the mandates of the UAE labor law in providing extra vacation during the Eid periods and in special situations, because “on the other side of the coin we expect our employees to work harder than the standard.”

The reason why EMC’s Dubai-based organization participated in the 2012 GPTW list process was a sense of obligation to staff.  “We believe we owe this to the employees, because we are a great place to work and we believe it is good to share the success,” Nadi explains. 

Success is perhaps the biggest driver in making the UAE and regional teams proud of what they do and binding them to the company — according to Nadi, the operation is the highest-growth EMC office in percentage terms worldwide. “This by itself makes the office attractive because people join a successful team.”

He cites EMC’s very low employee turnover as indicative of pride and loyalty: “It is part of the ego of a normal individual to be proud of it if you work for a good company.” In corporation-wide internal employee feedback, the regional organization usually gets strong marks on vision and leadership, he adds. “Management is accessible and easy to approach and one can raise any concern and so on; thus we score very high when it comes to leadership and vision. When it comes to rewards, here in this region we know that we are not the highest but also not the lowest.”

In pursuit of its human capital growth plans, EMC has recently set up an undergraduate curriculum with universities in the UAE which the company expects will unleash much potential for local recruitment. This program ties in with an “associate program” that grooms graduates with degrees in disciplines such as computer engineering and business administration for management roles. Leadership training for high-potential employees in a joint program with EMC’s European division is another part of the formula. 

EMC engages in a variety of corporate citizenship activities and has implemented corporate social responsibility programs in Pakistan, Egypt, and the UAE. 

Nadi tells Executive of strong territorial expansion that has been managed from the regional office in Dubai and he is highly confident that the organization based here will increasingly contribute to global results. At present, the regional organization keeps some 4,000 people, including employees and their dependents, in bread and roses. He says, “We consider this our big family and this is a big responsibility. That is why we always say that we have to maintain our success.”

Thomas Schellen

Thomas Schellen is Executive's editor-at-large. He has been reporting on Middle Eastern business and economy for over 20 years.

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