Lessons from Aneel Bhusri

While at Workday this summer, I had the pleasure of attending a fireside chat featuring the company’s co-founder and CEO, Aneel Bhusri. Below are my annotated notes.


  • An MBA is not that valuable unless it is from a big name school where the network makes it worthwhile.
  • Mentors are everything.
  • No one has any idea how the markets will play out.
  • For choosing a place to work, culture is more important than the product.
  • Social media has had both good and bad impact, Workday makes businesses better and people more productive.
  • [Aneel] would work at Amazon, Jeff Bezos is “brilliant”.
  • Always ask: how can you make society better?
  • Workday has 30% of Fortune 500, Oracle/SAP 7%, rest undecided
  • Questions matter: best to ask great questions and then shut up and listen.
  • Questions to ask when choosing a first job:
    • Where are the best mentors?
    • What size company do I work best in? What is my risk tolerance?
    • What do they do that is defensible?
    • Do I like their tech stack?
  • Startups/SV are in a bubble now, super overfunded.
  • Workday moving from SaaS -> PaaS -> DaaS a la Amazon and Salesforce
    • Want startups to be able to form in the Workday ecosystem
    • $1B revenue from platform predicted (timeframe?)
  • Take care of your customers and employees: “Best place to work” correlates with stock price.
  • Your best salespeople are your existing clients.
  • Great employees are the lead domino.
    • Leads to taking care of customers and building a great product
  • Employees join companies and leave managers.
  • Workday’s moat: tying together the plan, execute, analyze cycle into one solution.
  • AI and ML are just tools, you need to focus on the problem first.
  • Best use of ML right now still has humans in the loop for decision making.
  • Better writer equals better communicator equals better leader/manager
    • Workday adopted Amazon’s practice of writing reports for meetings.
  • Founder led companies are generally more innovative than professional-CEO led companies.
  • Recruiting is always the hardest part.
  • Need to stay ahead of technology disruptions (how?)
  • On being a great leader:
    • Optimism
    • Work within your own personal leadership style
    • Learn to manage different types of people (salespeople vs engineers)
  • Learn as much as you can from great mentors.
  • Need to define and incentivize your core values if you want people to follow them
  • The hardest thing is letting people go who are talented, but don’t fit the core values.