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Kidd’s retirement leaves NetApp CTO-less

Jay Kidd is retiring as NetApp CTO, although not necessarily ending his career.

In a blog post today, Kidd said he is leaving NetApp after 10 years. Kidd wrote that he is leaving corporate life and “will shift my time to pursue more personal interests and delve more deeply into the areas of advising and investing.” That hints he might become involved with startup companies.

NetApp will not replace Kidd as CTO, and it sounds like the vendor will take a CTO by committee approach. Kidd wrote that the job has likely become too big for one person.

“The role of the CTO in a company the size of NetApp is too broad to be done by a single individual, and a ‘CTO Community’ evolves which includes people both in the CTO office as well as in other parts of the organization,” he wrote. “It includes product architects, technology researchers, technical community leaders, market and industry researchers, technical spokespeople and a host of other disciplines.”

He added that he could not “imagine a better place to work” than NetApp and will always be an advocate for the company. Before joining NetApp in 2005 as SVP of emerging products, Kidd spent six years at Fibre Channel switch vendor Brocade as VP of product management and CTO.

Kidd’s departure comes with NetApp in a long sales slump, with a string of year-to-year revenue declines. The vendor laid off more than 1,000 workers since 2013. Financial analyst firm Piper downgraded NetApp’s stock last month, claiming flash storage and cloud storage providers are cutting into its sales.

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The statement "The role of the CTO in a company the size of NetApp is too broad to be done by a single individual..." sounds both intelligent and fishy. A role may grow beyond a single person but ultimately someone remains directly responsible and delegates responsibilities. Management by "committee" without a head does not work. Even a committee has a head. Roles evolve. They can be redefined and change names. They can grow and split or shrink and merge but they don't disappear. Something seems fishy.
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