One view of EMC

A perspective that's intended to be considered strictly for what it's worth, which may or may not be much at all

Perhaps you've read about the lawsuit filed against storage giant EMC by two of its former employees, charging the company with engaging in sexual misconduct and gender bias.

The suit was filed in federal court in Illinois three years ago, and in September a federal judge began hearing arguments about whether it can be expanded into a class-action lawsuit to include all saleswomen who worked at EMC between 2001 and 2004.

A story on the alleged misconduct was published in The Wall Street Journal on SeptEMBER 12, prompting EMC CEO Joe Tucci to write a letter to all EMC employees the same day to rebut the information in the article.

Now, I have absolutely no knowledge of anything on which to base an assessment of the merit of the allegations. I have no idea whether the two women who filed the lawsuit have a legitimate gripe, just as I have no real way of knowing whether Tucci's denial was anything more than the insincere, professionally spun blather of a corporate executive in damage-control mode.

So I'll offer a perspective that's intended to be considered strictly for what it's worth, which may or may not be much at all.

I live and work not far from EMC's corporate headquarters in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and over the years I've become acquainted with a fair number of EMC employees. I can tell you that the impression I've taken away from those encounters is that EMC is a company with an admirable corporate culture, and that it has a solid reputation as an attractive place to work. That's not a scientific conclusion by any means -- just one person's feeling based on anecdotal experience.

I'll also say that that impression was strongly reinforced last month when I met an EMC employee on a flight from San Francisco to Boston. The employee, Ed Van Sickle, was seated next to me, and we struck up a conversation when I saw he had a bag he'd gotten at one of our Storage Networking World conferences.

I learned that Van Sickle is an education consultant at EMC, and it was in that capacity that he'd been on the West Coast. What I discovered from our conversation, and from subsequent e-mail correspondence with Van Sickle, blew me away.

EMC is engaged in a farsighted campaign to train future storage technologists by helping colleges and universities to develop storage technology curricula and undertake a range of research projects. Known as the EMC Academic Alliance Program, the campaign is a collaborative effort involving more than 20 educational institutions in the US, 101 in India, 21 in China and four in Russia.

Before I get too far into this, let me stress that while I have my faults, naivete isn't one of them. I'm very much aware that EMC has a vested interest in winning the hearts and minds of the next generation of storage professionals, and that getting college kids in the US and other countries to drink the EMC Kool-Aid is smart business.

But if it were nothing more than a marketing gimmick, the program would not have enjoyed the success it has had. And it appears to be surprisingly broad and vendor-agnostic.

Consider that Quinsigamond Community College, which joined the program in September, will begin offering a course on the concepts and principles of information management and storage technology in January. Although EMC designed the course, it will be taught by Quinsigamond faculty members and will cover the management of systems from multiple vendors.

Moreover, according to Van Sickle, the EMC program is designed to conform to each institution's academic environment and the structure of its curriculum. "We also respect academic freedom," he said, "and encourage faculty to supplement a class with their own materials."

What all of this tells me is that EMC is a company that recognizes responsibility and acts accordingly. While I can't speak to the merit of those sexual misconduct and gender bias charges, I can say that that sort of dysfunction appears to be inconsistent with EMC's demonstrated identity as a responsible company.

Don Tennant is editorial director of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Contact him at don_tennant@computerworld.com, and visit his blog at http://blogs.computerworld.com/tennant.

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