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Saving Lives and the Butterfly Effect: Be The Match

Sometimes, in moments of introspection, I look back at my career  and wonder whether anything I have done professionally has actually added any value to society. I am sure I am not alone in that. I have had a very satisfying time of it to be honest, but it’s not like I am a doctor helping save lives, or a teacher educating the next generation or even a public servant keeping society running. I have only worked for private companies focused on adding shareholder value, and even then, principally for shareholders. Back when Documentum was a start-up I remember the co-founder telling me that his vision for the company was to “find the cure for cancer”.


What he meant by that was that some pharmaceutical researchers somewhere in the world would join together some disparate pieces of content in a collaborative fashion and come up with some new therapies. A rather lofty goal you might think, but it was something for a young start-up to rally around, and proved very powerful. We felt we had a real purpose, something to jump out of bed and race into the office for.


Many private sector companies address their responsibilities to give back through CSR programs and by encouraging their employees to get involved in charitable activities. NetApp does this by allowing its employees time-off to lend a hand to worthy causes – one of the reasons why we were ranked #3 in best places to work, globally.

But sometimes it is great to see where the technology you represent is actually truly helping society, rather than just as a necessary part of the business machinery. In our case, our storage systems are keeping the financial world running, manufacturers churning out their products and retailers capturing and storing customer and transaction data. And of course in every other vertical there is. But sometimes there is an implementation that you see that warms the heart and makes you realize just how foundational what you do can be. In this case it is about saving lives. Our latest Epic Story – Be The Match is one such instance. Marrying bone marrow donors to those desperate for a transplant is a time bound business. Finding a match is hard and until the last few years has been slow. With the advent of social media and viral marketing this has sped up considerably and Be The Match has been at the forefront in harnessing the techniques to make quicker matches and increasing the chances of saving lives.

 Jennifer Aaker in her book “The Dragonfly Effect” (co-authored) talks about how utilizing social media, marketing and psychological techniques, a single concrete goal can be achieved far more effectively than in any traditional way. Jennifer is a marketing professor at Stanford and I have had the privilege of listening to her talk on a couple of occasions. Both those times she used Be The Match as an instantiation of the principle. In fact she has been working with Be The Match for a long time, helping to speed up the matching process. She is an inspiration and I encourage everyone to watch her on Youtube. She is wonderful. If she doesn’t move you, then I would be seriously surprised.

So I was thrilled to see that NetApp is providing the infrastructure for Be The Match. For them it is critical that data is processed quickly, is not in silos and can be constantly available. As Michael Jones, the CIO says “There is no way we could have achieved our growth numbers or gained the efficiencies we have—with no increases in headcount or expenses—without building our foundation on NetApp storage.”

Be The Match are typical of Mid-Sized Enterprises all over the world that we are helping. I know we make brown, spinning stuff that sits in a data centre and for 99% of the population is totally dull and uninteresting. But, when it is used to support such a wonderful application, then I know we are doing something right and purposeful.