Alumni Spotlight: Alum Erik Hansen Leads Sustainability at Workday

Photo of Eric Hanson

Being an entrepreneur doesn’t always mean starting your own business. To be a change agent in any organization requires the same sort of entrepreneurial spirit, a desire to build something new and see it through to creation.

Erik Hansen has become that “intrapreneur” for Workday, where he currently works as the leading (and the only) senior sustainability manager. He helps manage the carbon footprint of the growing cloud computing application company, from overseeing greenhouse gas inventory to procuring renewable energy to promoting employee engagement. Hansen is particularly concerned with the electricity required to run Workday’s large number of servers 24/7, 365 days a year, something that plagues many of Silicon Valley’s biggest players.

But unlike other, larger tech companies, Workday does not have a full-fledged sustainability team. Hansen is one-man army, and when he first joined Workday back in 2010, they didn’t have a single employee dedicated full-time to the cause.

Hansen, who graduated from Cal Poly in 2003 with a degree in business administration and a concentration in information systems, knew he was passionate about helping the environment. After earning an MBA with an emphasis in sustainable management from Presidio Graduate School, he worked in EY’s advisory services sector. When he made the move to Workday as an information security program manager, he wasn’t sure how to make the professional transition from IT auditing to sustainability without significant background in the area.

“I was working for the security department, but knew I wanted to do something in line with my passion and more altruistic in nature,” said Hansen. “So I decided to help create [Workday’s] first sustainability report on my nights and weekends as a volunteer.” Workday logo

Eventually, Hansen made the case to senior leadership that Workday needed to make a permanent commitment to sustainability. His enthusiasm and energy won over his colleagues, and they insisted that Hansen be the one to lead the change.

“The original plan was to hire someone to manage this to report to me. But our new Workday Foundation president came up to me and said ‘It sounds like you have a passion doing this. Don’t hire someone — do this as a full time career shift.’”

It’s been almost two years since Hansen fearlessly made that pitch and earned himself the title of senior sustainability manager. He says the experience of starting the sustainability team at Workday perfectly mirrored Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing culture.

“You get thrown in the deep end almost all of the time, without knowing what you’re doing. That’s how being a professional works. I wasn’t going to learn about this by reading a textbook. I was going to roll up my sleeves and make it happen.”

Today, he is paving the way for some of Workday’s biggest sustainability initiatives yet and setting an environmentally responsible standard that he hopes others in the tech world will follow. Just in time for Earth Day 2016, Hansen and Workday announced a bold set of sustainability goals, including reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2021. To achieve such a goal, the company plans to use LEED certification in its newly constructed development center in Pleasanton, Calif. and leverage virtualization and recourse optimization technologies in its data centers.

The company also pledges to continue using 100 percent renewable energy in its global operations, something it has done since 2008, that will include on-site solar and virtual power purchase agreements that offset energy from the grid.

Hansen knows Workday’s goals are bold, but he is optimistic about where his industry is headed and his role in leading it there.

“As a business community, we’re ready for this,” Hansen says. “We’re ready to move forward and address the elephant in the board room, which is global warming and climate change.”


Mustang Memories: Who was your favorite professor?

Student in classTony Narduzzi (Information Systems, ’00)
North American DevOps Team Lead at IBM
“It’s been 15 years, and so many of my professors were great. I’ll give two examples. I remember international business law with Chris Carr being very interesting and entertaining. He had real world examples and personal experiences to relate to every lesson. Even though it was an evening class during my last quarter before graduation, I looked forward to attending every class. Being an MIS concentration, who could forget Barry Floyd. He was quite possibly the most personable instructor ever, willing to discuss anything with a genuine interest in helping students find their way.”

Ralph Busch (MBA, ’13)
Operations Manager at California Royale LLC (Monte Vista Farming Co.)
“Dr. York was my favorite professor at Cal Poly and my favorite professor of my entire college career. His way of teaching was really what changed the way I think about and how I understand business. I truly believe he helped take my thinking and work ethic to the next level.”

Michelle McGoon (Information Systems & Economics Minor, ’07)
Learning Technology Advisor at Chevron Corporation
“I really enjoyed Dr. Rosemary Wild‘s Information Systems class (BUS 393: Database System and Designs). I think this was the most practical class I had in all of my information systems concentration, and one I refer back to frequently for information architecture throughout my job. She taught us some great tools: data flow diagrams, entity relationship diagrams, and third-form normalization (“So Help Me, Codd!”).”

 Kurt Raffetto (Economics, ’87)
Dr. Dominic Perello was always there for me when I had questions or needed guidance. I didn’t even know about his Air Force background when I asked for a letter of recommendation for officer training school. We kept in touch throughout my career and my oldest boy is named Dominic in part because of him.”

Robert Fernandes (Information Systems, ’99)
Director of Mobile Development at Primitive Logic Inc.
“Barry Floyd – Great professor, cared about the success of his students, as well as took extra efforts to provide all the help he could for his students to get jobs lined up after graduation. The most impressive, is he remembered, in detail, who I was when I spoke at ISA twelve years after I graduated.”

Kerry Wilson (Marketing, ’91)
“My favorite professor; Walter Rice. I’ll never forget the “Economics of Robinson Crusoe: lecture. I sat in class thinking, “I get this!” He was an excellent teacher. His final was a lottery; 3 of 10 complex problems that were given beforehand. You better believe that by the time the final came around, each of us could solve those 10 problems in our sleep; (which was exactly what he wanted).”

Preparing for the Workforce Event Targets Diversity and Inclusion

Preparing for the Workforce 2016In January, Cal Poly’s Information Systems Association hosted Preparing for the Workforce 2016 — Making a Difference, a student-centered event that brought together successful female alumni working in the technology sector with students preparing for their careers to effect change in Cal Poly’s campus climate.

In the past, the Preparing for the Workforce (PFTW) event served to inform and excite the students about the future, but this year PFTW decided to take a different approach. This year’s event aimed to empower the students to take the knowledge they gained from the presentations and challenge them to use that to build a better Cal Poly and ultimately a better world. The students—who were all members Orfalea College of Business and College of Engineering clubs—encouraged to become active participants in the event, taking what they learned and applying it to their clubs as well as their interactions at Cal Poly and in the workplace.

Preparing for the Workforce 2016This event featured discussions lead by industry leaders, including Gina Roldan from Microsoft, Avital Arora from NetApp, Christine Songco Lau from Google, and Heather Bunyard from Amgen. All of the companies represented are all passionate about improving workplace inclusion and diversity. Each professional met with small groups of students, sharing personal stories regarding inclusion and the strategies that their specific company uses. Professor Barry Floyd, the faculty advisory for the event, spoke at the event as well.

After the students heard from each of the businesses, they attended a short session that discussed inclusion initiatives and resources that were offered at Cal Poly. From there, students were then charged to take all the information they had learned today and come up with their own plan for making a difference at Cal Poly.

Each of the different clubs was asked to create their own unique plan to create change on campus that would be submitted in mid-May for evaluation based on which plan had the greatest impact on the campus.

The change of pace for PFTW was met with tremendous success as students began to engage and think critically about the issues that are present on their campus and in their lives. The proposals created by each of the clubs have the potential to create change on campus and continue encourage discussions about inclusion in the future.

The event was coordinated by a team of Orfalea College of Business students — Jillian Zdepski, Shelby Sly and Shae Lamb — and sponsored by the Information Systems Association, Women in Business, and co-ed business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi.

Cal Poly Business Students Explore Cuba over Spring Break

Students in CubaInformation systems Professor Barry Floyd, Director of Student Services Amy Carter and Advisor Katelyn O’Brien led a cohort of 22 students on the college’s first official trip to Cuba. The trip coincided with President Obama’s trip to Cuba as relations between the two countries begin to warm again.A group of students in Cuba

Throughout the week-long journey, students visited with business leaders in a variety of economic sectors, including agriculture and art. Students attended a discussion on U.S./Cuban Relations lead by Paul Rodriguez from the University of Havana as well as a round-table discussion about the changing forces of Cuba’s economic structure with Ricardo Torres, a macroeconomist at the University of Havana.

The students had the opportunity to visit El Trigal, Havana’s new wholesale market, which is the first private cooperative market to emerge since Cuba monopolized wholesale operations in the 1960s. While they were there, the students spoke to one of the owners, Claudio Sabron, who discussed how the market is uniquely run as a cooperative with the state. Students also had the chance to tour a tobacco farm and a classic car shop, where they discussed the inner workings of the business with the clients.

Students meet local business owners in CubaKayla Babu, one of the students on the trip, had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Rena Perez, a former member of the Ministry of Agriculture in Cuba, during their time there. Babu and Perez met to discuss the student’s business venture idea regarding the toxic by-products of the sugar industry and distilleries in Cuba.  Perez discussed with Kayla how the recent growth in the tourism industry, the lack of technology to produce more efficient agricultural processes, and the lack of pay for skilled Cuban workers has led to a decrease in the agricultural sector; however Perez expressed confidence that the county will soon bounce back and return to its agricultural roots.  Kayla’s talk with Dr. Perez helped to give her an understanding of a true perspective on Cuban businesses and Cuban life in general.

The group also took time for cultural immersion, from touring historical sites including Cuba’s most famous landscape, Valle de Vinales, to taking a salsa dance class taught by a local instructor. Students also took in a Rolling Stones concert as the band made a surprise trip to the island.

To read more about the Cal Poly spring break trips, click here.

To read more about Kayla’s meeting with Dr. Perez, click here.

Faculty Spotlight: Jim Burleson

20150430-IMG_5352 smallJim Burleson, assistant professor of management
Specialties: information systems and social media

What attracted you to Cal Poly?
Cal Poly offers a unique environment that promotes excellence in both teaching and research. I wanted to find a university that places a priority on education while offering the resources necessary to explore new ideas.

What industry positions have you held?
I worked as a business analyst for the global consulting firm CapGemini. My primary responsibility was to work with organizations to identify how technology could solve their business problems.

How has your subject changed in the last five years?
Information systems used to exist solely for the “nerds.” But today, we’re all nerds. Everyone uses technology. Facebook counts its users by the billions. It is no longer necessary to discuss why technology is valuable. Our goal is to show students how technology can be used to impact the world.

What are your favorite parts about teaching at Cal Poly?
My favorite part of teaching at Cal Poly is walking into a classroom full of students that sincerely want to learn. The students here are highly motivated and always up to a new challenge. The palm tree outside of my window isn’t bad, either.

How have you Learned by Doing personally?
One of my primary research interests is how organizations use social media to interact with the outside world. Through this research, I have had the opportunity to speak with managers from a variety of organizations and work with interesting software tools, which enable new forms of data analytics.

How have you challenged your students?
BUS 394: Systems Analysis & Design teaches students how to analyze and design the solution to a business problem using technology. This often involves a high degree of interpersonal interaction. To promote learning in this area, I have students work with local organizations to identify a business problem and gather the information needed to design a solution. The project forces students to step outside the comforts of the classroom and gain some real world, hands-on experience.

What’s been the biggest challenge in your career?
Because our field is constantly evolving, most of the teaching materials we create and examples we offer in class become outdated very rapidly. The challenge for the faculty is to stay current on new trends in technology and how it is being used in organizations. The “new” technologies of today will be ancient history in about five minutes.

Who is your go-to for faculty collaboration at Cal Poly?
I work closely with most of the information systems faculty. Dr. Leida Chen and I started at Cal Poly together, and we share an interest in data analytics. Though I only recently began working here at Cal Poly, I have already had the opportunity to interact with a wide assortment of outstanding faculty members.  It’s an honor to be part of this group.

How have your students changed in the last five years?
Students today seem more motivated than ever to plan for life after graduation. I have more conversations about internships and potential occupations than ever before.

What has been your favorite moment from this last year of teaching?
A local alumnus working for a software company asked for some ideas related to the re-design of one of its mobile apps. He tasked the Systems Analysis & Design class to identify opportunities to improve the user interface of the application. It was so much fun watching the students solve a real-world business problem and seek to improve a tangible product in a meaningful way.

What is your hidden talent or hobby?
I have a not-so-secret love of dancing, specifically swing dancing and contra dancing. I moved to California from South Carolina, where I learned most everything I know. It has been a blast to find opportunities to dance out here on the West Coast.

What’s your favorite thing about San Luis Obispo?
Driving anywhere in the area when the sun begins to set. It really is breathtaking here.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
One of the easiest traps to fall into is second-guessing your decisions. My father has the best advice for eliminating the temptation to second-guess yourself: “Make the best decision you can with the information at your disposal, and never look back.”