OneHaas’ commemoration of Latinx Heritage Month continues with an interview with Adrien Lopez Lanusse, the former vice president of consumer insights at Netflix.
Adrien’s intersectionality between being Latinx and gay gave him a certain kind of insight into the culture within corporations and the impact of those companies’ products on the consumer.
He and host Sean Li delve into the art of consumer insights, how Adrien’s upbringing shaped his work ethic, and what it was like to watch Netflix grow into the behemoth company it is today.
*OneHaas Alumni Podcast is a production of Haas School of Business and is produced by University FM.*
Why he was drawn to a business career from an early age
I was very curious. And in our household, being in a multicultural household, we consumed products and services very differently than my friends. And I was always curious as to why or how does culture drive or influence us as consumers?
On how to ensure consumer insights work is inclusive
I think, finding the level of granularity is part of what leads to some of the insightful ideas. So, for example, oftentimes, a company will talk about their consumer in a monolithic way. And by not looking at some of the nuance of the different segments, the different types of consumers, you’re balancing things out and missing some of the opportunities.
How the Haas Thrive Fellows program is empowering future Latinx business leaders
Latinx representation in business, particularly in the executive ranks, is a challenge…They’ve created this program to help educate, prepare, and motivate folks from underrepresented groups to apply and succeed in business schools, hopefully Haas. And we wanna reverse the trend in declining applications from underrepresented ethnic and racial groups. So programs and efforts like these, I think are really important to increase representation in the executive ranks.
On what his promotions have meant to him in his career
The fact that someone recognized my value and decided to promote me was something I wouldn’t have imagined earlier in my career. Growing up in a Latino household where we’re taught to be humble, to be grateful for what we’re given, I think leads to a lot of us not being good at self-advocacy. And it’s something we need to work on to increase our representation in the executive ranks. So all the promotions that I’ve gotten, I never take them for granted and I’m incredibly grateful for them.
- LinkedIn Profile
- Haas Thrive Fellows
- The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick Lencioni
(Transcripts may contain a few typographical errors due to audio quality during the podcast recording.)
[00:00] Sean: Welcome to the OneHaas Alumni Podcast. I’m your host, Sean Li. And today, we’re joined by Adrien Lopez Lanusse. Adrien was a former Vice President of Consumer Insights at Netflix, and he is currently a consultant in Consumer Insights. Of course, he’s a Haas alum. So, warm welcome. Go, Bears.
[00:29] Adrien: Thank you very much, Sean. Really appreciate it. And glad to be here.
[00:33] Sean: Adrien, love to hear your origin story. This is where we like to start. Especially, I’d love to know more about your name.
[00:41] Adrien: Yeah. So, the name is reflective of both of my parents. So, both parents were immigrants to the U.S. Neither of them ever went to high school. Both were very poor, came to the U.S. to find a better life — so, classic immigrant tale.
My dad was a shepherd in the Pyrenees near the Basque country. He lived in a house there with no electricity or running water till he was a teenager, and he moved to the U.S., following his brothers, and became a gardener here. He eventually built up his own gardening business, which was actually key and inspiring me in my pursuit of a business career.
My mom came from Mexico. She started working as a kid helping her mom cleaning motel rooms, and came to… was actually sent to the U.S. by her mom to look after her brother who was here and, also, to help provide financial support for the family back home. And so, she lived in San Francisco, stocking shelves in a drugstore.
My parents, they met in the Bay Area at a picnic. And they settled down in San Mateo, where my brothers and I were raised. So, the name reflects both my dad’s last name and my mom’s, which in Latin America traditionally you do carry your mom’s last name as part of your name.
[01:44] Sean: Really? I did not know that. So, it’s really interesting. In my family, we started that tradition, actually, of carrying our mom’s maiden name, or not her last name, it’s not just her maiden name, it is her last name to this day. Because our family, I don’t know if it’s in Chinese culture in general, but at least all the people I know, the women don’t take on the husband’s name. And so, to this day, we carry that tradition. But our kids, we actually added my wife’s name as their middle name as well.
So, I didn’t know that was a Latin American cultural thing. That’s really interesting.
[02:18] Adrien: It’s great to do. Our kids have four parents. My husband and I have co-parented with another with a lesbian couple. And so, that would be really complicated if we tried to add all four names to our kids.
[02:30] Sean: That’s really cool. How old were your parents when they moved here, do you happen to know?
[02:34] Adrien: They were in their late 20s, early 30s. And that was in the mid-’60s, so it was an interesting time.
[02:40] Sean: Oh, wow. Were you born in San Francisco?
[02:43] Adrien: Born in San Mateo, where I was raised with my brothers. Grew up in a home that was very multicultural. Again, my dad having a business was interesting. Neither of my parents had a lot of education, but when we were, I think, when I was about nine, my dad got us a computer because he wanted us to make sure that we were educated and that we had all the tools that we needed.
And I actually utilized… part of what I did with a computer is I was just fascinated watching my dad do all this business stuff by hand and started to try and automate some of the processes for my dad’s business, like billing all his customers at the end of each month and stuff. So, I had a knack for that and I created a bit of an interest in pursuing business.
At the same time, also, I was very curious. And in our household, being in a multicultural household, we consumed products and services very different than my friends.
And so, we were eating pickled pig’s feet in my household and I wonder why my friends didn’t. So, all of my friends’ households, we’re all consuming very different things. So, I always just had a curiosity as to what drives consumer behavior and how’s that different via culture.
[03:52] Sean: That’s really fascinating. So, you grew up in this multicultural family. How did that play into you coming out or you realizing your identity?
[04:00] Adrien: Well, it’s interesting, because my father passed away when I was young — so an early teen. And so, both my parents raised Catholic, very traditional. And so, it is something that was very difficult when I came out as a teenager after my dad had passed away and something to this day that my mom, I think, still has a hard time with, although she would deny it.
And so, it’s interesting, the intersectionality between being Chicano, Latino, and gay. In the workplace, people have asked me, “Well, how is it being a gay man?” Because oftentimes, people don’t recognize that I am a Latino.
And I found that it was early in my career just easier being gay at work because, at home, I had the support structure for the Latino culture. And oftentimes, that culture clashed with some of my work culture. But finding community of other gay colleagues at work provided a balance. So, the intersectionality, I think, created an interesting experience for me growing up and early in my career.
[05:01] Sean: Thank you for sharing that. I think it’s a really relevant… I felt it was a really relevant question, especially, with a lot of immigrant cultures being very traditional or very religious and coming to this country where we’re supposed to be more open-minded, right?
[05:20] Adrien: Yeah.
[05:21] Sean: And hopefully, continue moving in that direction, right? But it is something that continually fascinates me. And growing up in China and coming here and having gay friends, lesbian friends in China, it was just this identity that was just glossed over. Nobody bothered about it, but nobody really cared or supported them, either. It’s almost like you just ignored it.
[05:47] Adrien: Absolutely. And other times, when I think people think that they’re accepting, I think that’s part of the challenge with some of the diversity and inclusion, is the intent, the behaviors, the attitudes. And I think, there are folks who think they get it, but the behaviors may demonstrate otherwise. So, how do we bring everybody along for the ride?
[06:08] Sean: Well, how did you come to pick business? You talked a little bit about consumer insights or just consumerism, being a consumer in a multicultural family. Why business?
[06:19] Adrien: I think, the business, for me, part of the curiosity of why we behave a certain way, there’s a psychology element to it, but I wanted it to be applicable. And so, when I was looking at different potential directions, I found marketing be the business application of psychology.
And again, growing up, helping my dad with his business, there was something about the entrepreneurial spirit that I really embraced and was interested in pursuing. So, I did get my undergrad in business at Santa Clara University. And while I was there, I was looking for a job during the summer of my junior year and was just looking through directories of companies and stumbled across a company called Hispanic and Asian Marketing Communication Research. So, that was a consultancy specialized in understanding multicultural consumers in the U.S., fascinated that even such a company existed. And this was the early ‘90s.
So, I reached out to them and got a summer job. And eventually, that turned into a full-time job after graduation. So, that was an opportunity that really merged some of my interests together. And a lot of times, people say, “follow your passions,” but in this case, I didn’t know what my passion was growing up. I was curious a lot about things. And by pursuing some of the things I’m curious, I just grew more and more passionate about the things I was curious about. So, that’s how I ended up in my career.
[07:38] Sean: And you just continued down that path, right?
[07:41] Adrien: I did. It was interesting, also, the timing in the 1990s, when there was a real growth of multicultural consumers in the U.S., but also a lot of recognition from some of the top companies in the U.S., that that could be a source for additional growth. So, there was an attention placed on this market.
So, where our consultancy really had started out around marketing communications, the work expanded and evolved and elevated based on demand for really developing strategies for better targeting ethnic consumers in the U.S.
As our work was really elevating and the company was growing, I thought it would be valuable to, at that time, go pursue an MBA, which would be valuable on two fronts. One, helping to manage the growth of the business. The business was founded by two academics. And better understanding management and leadership in a growing company was one aspect of why I wanted to pursue an MBA. The second was the types of companies that we were working with were mostly Fortune 100 companies that were really interested in developing the strategies. So, to really improve my relevance to my clients through expanded perspectives and marketing strategy, that was the other reason I wanted to pursue an MBA.
And I looked around, absolutely loved the professors at Haas. I’d read Brand Leadership by David Aaker, and just looked into more of the different professors at Berkeley and knew that that’s where I wanted to get my MBA. So, I applied. It was the only place I applied to, actually, was in the evening MBA program. So, I continued working at the consultancy while I got my MBA.
[09:15] Sean: Because you were around the time the first tech bubble. What was it like in the marketing world around that time? Because that was around the same time you did the MBA, right?
[09:27] Adrien: It was. Our work at that time, the companies reaching out, were not in the tech companies, but more the consumer packaged good companies and services companies — so insurance companies, financial services, consumer packaged goods.
So, at that point in my career, I hadn’t done much in the tech field, but it did affect my experience at Haas. Because of the bubble, a lot of my fellow classmates were coming from the tech industry — so former engineers who were rising and actually are looking to develop skills so that they could pursue other types of jobs in tech beyond just engineering.
And it was wonderful to be at Haas with a different perspective, not coming from tech, but being surrounded by a lot of tech folks. I think one interesting example of that was in our organizational behavior class, where my engineering classmates would ask a question and the professor would respond with, “it depends,” which drove the engineers crazy because they wanted a if-then logical statement to know exactly what to do given this given case.
So, it was wonderful to see that perspective. Eventually, I did end up in tech. So, I really did appreciate the diverse perspectives that we had at Haas while I was there.
[10:39] Sean: Pulling on that thread, tell us a little about consumer insights. I’m sure consumer insights is a part of marketing. But is it relatively new, or has it always been around?
[10:50] Adrien: No, actually, one of the companies that I was with was Cheskin. The founder was a psychologist back in the ‘40s was applying psychology to business decisions. And while the field initially did influence marketing, I think it’s expanded to really understand, how do we improve the experience that a consumer has with our service or product overall?
So, it’s not just about marketing to them, it’s, how do we really deliver joy in a way that is relevant to what the consumer needs are? I think when consumer insights is done well, it occasionally leads to a breakthrough new tangible idea. But more importantly, consumer insights, by understanding what motivates and what drives consumers to behave the way they do, it creates a deeper understanding of who we’re innovating for so that we can inspire great ideas across the business.
It’s infused throughout the whole company and the whole process, not just a single step. So, it enhances the overall experience for the consumer to really be far more relevant.
I really was excited that Netflix was a very consumer-centric company. So, the work that my team did really was infused throughout the organization. One of the books that I really do like is Atomic Habits by James Clear. And one of the things he focuses on is this idea of incremental improvement. And by really infusing deep insights about a consumer throughout the entire process, that really helps that incremental improvement to really succeed. And it’s really looking at insights in a broad swath of ways — so really understanding what people do, what they say, what they think — tying those together to understand people very holistically.
[12:32] Sean: As I’m listening to you describe this, it sounds like a tall mountain to climb because there’s so many types of customers and consumers out there. Imagine it’s very time-consuming. How do you make sure that you are inclusive, as much as possible, of all consumer types groups, right?
[12:53] Adrien: It’s a great question. And I think, finding the level of granularity is part of what leads to some of the insightful ideas. So, for example, oftentimes, a company will talk about their consumer in a monolithic way. And by not looking at some of the nuance of the different segments, the different types of consumers, you’re balancing things out and missing some of the opportunities.
So, as an example, Netflix recently has had a crackdown on account sharing, as you may have seen in the news. So, at the executive level, when we’re talking about, well, when we need to think about growth, there are these accounts that are sharing their account with others.
And so, when we think about account shares in a monolithic way, it makes it hard to come up with a solution. So, our team did some work to really understand, well, what are the different types of people who are sharing their account? Why do they share their account? How can we identify the different types and different segments of account shares?
And because there are more innocent, some people just didn’t know and there are some where people are aggressively trying to take advantage of their account. So, by really looking at it via different segments and trying to figure out, well, what’s the right number, what’s the right balance, you realize that, at some point, you’re able to group them together. But looking at things beyond the monolith is an amazing way to figure out how to innovate new ideas and to be relevant to different segments of your customers in different ways.
[14:17] Sean: That makes so much more sense. But, typically, I’m really curious, how much time does it take you and your team to do one cycle of consumer insights? I know it’s endless.
[14:29] Adrien: It depends on what we’re trying to accomplish, but sometimes, it’s not the amount of work, but even sometimes just the approach. And consumer insights can involve everything from surveys to interviews.
But I do remember one time at Netflix when we were launching in a particular country and bringing a couple folks from the C-suite, we were in that country and we just went into a couple people’s homes. And being able to sit there and see the context, the interactions of people in the home, for those couple hours that we were there, it really was so insightful. And there’s a big difference between me coming back and reporting to the C-suite, “This is what we saw,” versus one of them sitting in someone’s home and seeing it firsthand. The emotional impact, the lasting impact is much stronger.
So, in a day and age when everything’s about data, sometimes you need a more qualitative approach to complement it so that you can understand what’s beneath the data as well.
[15:26] Sean: As we’re talking about this, it sounds like an incredibly difficult job. And I say that because, as a person gathering the data or going out there and doing research, let’s take the example that you just mentioned, how do you observe the consumer without too much bias, without your own biases, and interpret things your way? And that’s something Dale Carnegie, just on that chapter where it’s saying, how do you see their perspective? Do you have any tips or advice that you’ve learned over the years on, how do you put yourself in the other person’s shoe?
[15:59] Adrien: A couple things come to mind. One is multidisciplinary teams. On my team at Netflix, we had folks with anthropological backgrounds, psychology backgrounds, MBA. So, when you think of diversity, thinking of diversity not just of training and background, but also the way people think. Really thinking about diversity in many different ways and pulling together a team with people who really approach and observe things differently, doing that together and then coming back and discussing, because each of us will have seen something different. And then, comparing and contrasting what our observations were, can lead to some really great insights. That’s one thing.
The second thing is really being disciplined about delineating the objective findings, like, what did we see,what did we hear, from my interpretation of it, and then what’s my recommended outcome? Or, what should we do about it?
And by teasing those apart is really critical. I see, too often, people melding those alltogether. And taking those steps to tease it apart and then asking, what is it that we’re trying to solve? Too often, we see the observations and we really get excited about coming up with ideas and we want to start solving something before we even know what we’re solving for. It’s just human nature that we want to solve things right away.
[17:16] Sean: That’s a real discipline to train, to be disciplined about it as well, in that practice.
[17:23] Adrien: Just looking at different subgroups when it comes to inclusion and diversity, I could talk a little bit about Netflix’s progression. Netflix is an amazing place with an amazing culture. I think part of its success is that it has a very well-defined culture, that is what inspired them to put the culture memo out years ago so that people who are considering applying to Netflix could look at that culture memo and decide for themselves whether or not this aligns with their own personal values.
And so, when I started at Netflix, it was an amazing time. It was U.S. only, DVDs by mail, and just thinking about expanding globally. So, I was there as we expanded to countries around the world. And as we did so, we started to realize, “We need to now hire people who understand our consumers in different cultures.” So, we started to increase the diversity of our talent force at Netflix.
As we did that, though, we realized that there was a challenge in that, with these diverse cultures, they sometimes weren’t as compatible with the defined Netflix culture that existed. So, then we needed to start working on the inclusion aspect of our journey.
So, we did bring in a diversity and inclusion team. And it’s been amazing to see some of the progress that has happened. There’s still places that need more attention. But really, one of the things that I really learned at Netflix is the ability to focus.
So, Netflix is a company that puts out annually a diversity and inclusion report. They published the past couple years, they’ve shown that they have been able to make gains in some areas. So, for example, the representation of African Americans across the company, in the executive leadership ranks and in the content itself has increased, same with women’s representation in the company, in the executive ranks and in the content.
At the same time, they recognize that, when you look at all the improvements in representation, Latinx is an area that still needs attention. So, it does raise a big question about diversity and inclusion. We’re trying to increase in a lot of areas. How much needs focus? How much can we increase representation of different groups at the same time?
One of the things that was very interesting is, again, going back to segments and looking at people by different groups, when you look at some of the attrition numbers in the company, back a while ago, we looked at attrition data and we saw that there was one group and underrepresented group in particular that had the highest level of voluntary attrition — so, they were deciding to leave more than other groups. But another one of the underrepresented groups had the highest level of involuntary attrition. So, they were the ones most likely to want to stick around but being asked to leave. When you look at the underrepresented groups together, those would’ve canceled each other out, and you wouldn’t have seen that in the data.
So, understanding that you need to look at it, but there are times when you may want to look at that and you may not have enough data to be able to look at something with that granularity. But really understanding that there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach and we really need to expand how we think of diversity beyond some of the traditional groups.
[20:31] Sean: Wow, my knowledge base, I feel, has been expanded infinitely. I came into this conversation thinking consumer insights was just this thing within marketing, but this actually feels like it has nothing to do with marketing. Not that it has nothing to do with marketing. But marketing is actually a small part of consumer insights, if anything. Because all the work that you were doing affected the programming as well — the type of shows or the production that Netflix ended up doing. And I say that because maybe that’s why Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy, because apparently, they filed for bankruptcy the month that you started at Netflix. I don’t know if you know that.
[21:06] Adrien: Oh, I did not realize.
[21:08] Sean: September of 2010.
[21:10] Adrien: It was an amazing time to be there.
[21:13] Sean: And it’s crazy, until you mention that, it didn’t even occur to me that Netflix back then, I was still getting DVDs in the mail. That’s amazing.
[21:23] Adrien: Yeah, that’s amazing just to see how it’s been able to reinvent itself. And again, the process of really understanding consumers is not just a step in the process. Sometimes, people will think, “Oh, I need to go out and do research.” It’s something that really needs to be infused throughout your whole process. Creating a sense of consumer centricity and importance on delighting your customers is what leads to a lot of the innovation.
[21:48] Sean: How do you start doing consumer insights? Where does it start?
[21:53] Adrien: I think it starts at the top in terms of setting a culture that really drives a sense of curiosity and a sense of innovation and wanting to put the consumer at the center of what you do. One thing that I appreciated about Netflix is that a lot of the key changes to the service and the product were not necessarily because they were mandated, but the ideas came from somewhere across the company. And Netflix, really, was not a top-down company or is a very level or flat company. So, the ideas can come from anywhere, but what gets implemented is not because of a mandate, but testing things. It’s like, “Let’s let the consumer decide by putting things out there. Who are we to decide or to judge what’s the best option? We can come up with ideas, but we aren’t in the shoes or we don’t wear the shoes of our customers. So, let’s test things, do experimental design, A/B testing, where we can, and really let the customer decide things, rather than just the most senior person in the room.”
One of the challenges I found early in my career was also just navigating career growth and career paths. So, again, as I mentioned earlier, my dad was a shepherd turned gardener. My mom was a housewife who actually took over the gardening business when my dad passed away. I couldn’t really turn to them for career advice when I was young. The only career advice they ever gave me was that I should become a doctor or lawyer because that’s all they knew as successful careers.
So, I was very fortunate to have some great mentors early in my career. Although, I wouldn’t have thought of them as formal mentors at the time. These were some bosses I had, particularly my first bosses at the consultancy, and colleagues that I admired. And they served as strong examples for me to emulate. One of my bosses, to this day, when I face difficult situations, I think in my head, “What would Betty Ann do in this case?”
And so, they helped to guide me, but I also would say, they helped to shape my values early on, which were important to ensure, as we look for other companies to work for, that our values align with the company’s values as well, which I think is critically important.
However, Netflix has a very clear culture, there are times when I felt challenged and I realized I had to get outside my comfort zone. Netflix is a company that prides itself on moving fast, being nimble. Part of that means having debates, discussions, not being hierarchical. So, I was in many meetings very junior person might challenge or question a senior person’s comment. And it led to some good discussion, but it was calling people out and having that debate.
I grew up in a home where the culture was about being humble, not challenging authority, not rocking the boat, being grateful for what you’ve been given. And so, for me, that was a little bit of a cultural challenge at Netflix to really get out of my comfort zone to be able to do that. And I had to decide, where are the areas where I need to stick to my values? Where are the areas where I do need to expand and grow? And I think that’s always a challenge when there is that cultural difference, particularly those of us who come from different cultures that may not meld with the traditional American company cultures.
[25:03] Sean: Yeah. I think that’s a perfect segue into my next question, which brings us back to your family. Really curious how you’re raising your kids culturally, like, what parts of your own culture from your parents are you passing on to them? And I would love to hear some of that.
[25:21] Adrien: Yes. And our kids are very fortunate in that they have four parents. So, they have variety. And out of their grandparents, six out of eight of their grandparents are immigrants. And so, representing a great swath of cultures, from Egyptian to German to Sicilian and Mexican and Iberian.
And so, we’ve instituted some exercises to really have cultural days where we will do a variety of things to really expose the kids to the culture. So, whether it’s representing the Italian side, the day of making pasta and going out and seeing something. We had an Egyptian day where we went down to the Rosicrucian down in San Jose, which is amazing, and went for an Egyptian dinner and did some other things. We’ll do days where we go to the Día de Los Muertos concert at San Francisco Symphony, which we love. And I try to introduce them to a lot of the recipes that I grew up with.
And so, really, it’s interesting because the language is hard to pass down at some level. But really trying to bring some of those elements of the culture to our children, I think, enriches their experience, broadens their perspective, and gives them a source of pride.
[26:36] Sean: I imagine you’ve taken them traveling as well to some of these places.
[26:40] Adrien: Yes. I’ve mentioned that my dad grew up in the Pyrenees. It was on the border of Spain and France. Actually took them to the house where he was born. And as I mentioned, he didn’t have running water, electricity till he was a teen. It’s a solid stone structure. It was a two-room, not two-bedroom, but two-room house where a family of seven lived.
And so, it was a very humbling experience. Although my middle son at the time thought it was really cool that they didn’t have electricity or water because he thought it’d be like camping every day, which he loves. But I had to point out, “No, that’s not what it was.”
And so, when we think about those experiences, sometimes we think, “Oh, well those are generations long ago,” and they’re not necessarily. One of the things that I did since leaving Netflix was I went on a trek through the Pyrenees with a cousin of mine. We went hiking and camping. And we intercepted shepherds who were up in the mountains. Because my dad passed away when I was young, I wanted to learn more about his life as a shepherd, all the questions I didn’t get to ask my dad. So, it was fascinating to learn about the fact that, for several months out of the year, they take the sheep up to the highlands to let the lowlands rest so they can grow hay. You think of hay, you think, “Oh, I just have to go buy hay.” No, you have to grow and make it. And so, my dad would live for three months out of the year under the stars, which sounds romantic, but at the time it was not an easy life.
And the other thing that’s fascinating to me is that the way that my dad did it was similar to how it was done in basically the Middle Ages. It hadn’t changed. Technology now has changed drastically in the past 50 years that we ran into shepherds in the middle of nowhere, where they said, on their phone, they could stream Netflix if they wanted to because they had internet access. It was mind-boggling to me to contrast what it is today to what it was like 50 years ago.
[28:24] Sean: That’s so funny. And as you’re telling me that story, it makes me wonder. We were talking about The Alchemist before we started this conversation. Paulo Coelho got his inspiration from your dad, potentially.
[28:36] Adrien: Well, that may be why that book felt so relevant to me of being the shepherd, going through Spain. And there definitely was that relevance that made it hit home or hit my heart.
[28:47] Sean: Sleeping under the stars, right?
[28:48] Adrien: Yeah, absolutely.
[28:50] Sean: Always find it so fascinating and amusing when things come full circle like that in life.
[28:56] Adrien: Very true.
[28:57] Sean: Tell us a little bit about the consultancy work that you do now.
[29:00] Adrien: Yeah. It’s interesting, because at a time when a lot of tech companies are focusing on efficiency and going lean, it also elevates the importance of ensuring that all parts of a company are understanding and empathizing with the humans they seek to serve with their products and services. Because it’s not just one step of the process. How do we, now, with a leaner company and a more efficient one, make sure that that really is part of the entire process?
So, I’ve been working with different companies, not only to help them better understand their customers, but to help them create a culture of curiosity and empathy internally, so that they can strengthen their whole company’s ability to innovate and to be relevant to their customers.
One example is a client in the med-tech space with a great technology and a model that makes the service free for doctors and patients because of government subsidies, but they still struggle to understand why people aren’t adopting the service, given its free cost. But there is a cost to people, although it’s not a financial one, in adopting a new product or service.
So, there’s a lot of great technology out there, and it’s, how do we create that great experience to make people want to use it and adopt it?
[30:06] Sean: I see. And then, two questions around that. What size of businesses do you prefer to consult for these days? That’s question one. And question two is, is there a specific industry, or are you pretty agnostic?
[30:19] Adrien: It’s interesting. I do enjoy working in the intangible services space. There’s something fascinating about, how do you create a service to be relevant to people? A lot of it is in the tech space. It’s areas where there’s a lot of innovation going on, so it does tend to be some of the smaller and medium-sized companies where I can work with the people really close to the development cycle, which is my sweet spot.
I’ve decided to take a hiatus from Netflix, partly to focus on family, doing some consulting. But the other area that I have really been passionate to be involved in, it’s especially important as we see the rising economic disparity in our country, particularly here in the Bay Area. I’m working with different organizations to see how we can continue to empower success, particularly among our Latinx community.
So, I am really proud to have had a small part in getting the Haas Thrive Fellows Program to become a reality that is launching very soon. Latinx representation in business, particularly in the executive ranks, is a challenge. At Netflix, I was one of the very few Latinx VPs. Elida Bautista, who’s the chief DEI officer at Haas, with her team, particularly Anthony Whitten, they’ve created this program to help educate, prepare, and motivate folks from underrepresented groups to apply and succeed in business schools, hopefully Haas. And we want to reverse the trend in declining applications from underrepresented ethnic and racial groups. So, programs and efforts like these, I think, are really important to increase representation in the executive ranks.
[31:54] Sean: I’ll definitely include a link in the description for anyone who’s listening. Or, just Google, “Haas Thrive Fellows program.” Is there any other way that our listeners can help support.
[32:05] Adrien: Yes, you can connect with me on LinkedIn. I’m Adrien Lopez Lanusse. I’m eager to engage with others in conversations around how to increase our Latinx representation in the corporate executive ranks. And I’m also passionate about helping companies innovate through better understanding their customers and creating a culture of consumer centricity.
[32:23] Sean: I love it. Especially for where you are right now in your career, this is a question I do have to ask. What can we expect from you next?
[32:32] Adrien: I’m looking to see how I can merge some of these passions, again, working with underrepresented audiences. For me, when I left Netflix, I did have someone come to me and say that one of the things, when they joined Netflix, that they really appreciated was seeing a gay Latino man as a VP, because you think of VPs, and for him, there was a certain cookie cutter mold that he thought of with vice presidents. And so, to see someone like myself in that role, I never really thought about the power that seeing the existing representation to inspire others has. And so, that’s really inspired me to get more involved in these efforts to see how we can increase representation.
Another interesting story. When I’ve spoken to undergrads at UC Berkeley to see if I can inspire some of them to pursue an MBA at UC Berkeley at Haas, oftentimes, I get people challenging me. It’s like, “Well, why did you go into a corporate career?” There’s this sense that corporate entities are these greedy organizations and that I’ve gone to the evil side. And I have to explain and point out that we need more representation in the corporate executive ranks so that corporations don’t become evil.
And so, we really need to think about and consider those roles. And I didn’t realize it would be so hard to convince some of these undergraduates to really consider pursuing a graduate degree in business.
[33:52] Sean: Thank you for sharing that. That is something I think, especially a lot of us, alums, we don’t think about as much or realize, how much impact we can have on the next generation, especially to not be a passive bystander, as the world goes by, whether you feel like corporations are evil or capitalism is evil. Inherently, it’s not evil or good. It just is what it is. It’s our participation that ultimately shapes what it becomes.
So, I really, really love that message that you just shared. Is there anything else we haven’t covered that you want to share before we close out?
[34:32] Adrien: There is one thing. One of the things when I think about moments that bring me pride in my career, I think there’s two parts. When I think of distinct moments that I’m proud of, I think of when I was made a partner at the consulting firm I was with. And I also think about when I was promoted to vice president at Netflix. That was a time when there were probably fewer than 20 vice presidents in the whole company. And the fact that someone recognized my value and decided to promote me was something I wouldn’t have imagined earlier in my career, growing up. Growing up in a Latino household where we’re taught to be humble, to be grateful for what we’re given, I think leads to a lot of us not being good at self-advocacy. And it’s something we need to work on to increase our representation in the executive ranks. So, all the promotions that I’ve gotten, I never take them for granted. And I’m incredibly grateful for them.
[35:20] Sean: You’ve talked about this a little bit throughout this conversation. Culturally, you talk about family cultural influences and the diversity of culture in your family influencing your interests in consumer behavior, consumer insights, the impact of culture in how we act as immigrants, too, to not stick our heads out too much. But how do you think… I’m really curious. This is another potentially tough question. If you were to think back to what led people to recognize you without sticking your head out, I guess, how’d you do it differently?
[35:57] Adrien: And those saying in the Asian cultures where it’s the nail that sticks up is the one that gets hit with the hammer.
[36:03] Sean: Right, yes.
[36:05] Adrien: So, this is something that’s common, not just in Latino culture, but across many cultures.
Well, I think part of it is really being both gay and Latino, in many ways, in different contexts, being seen as less than has forced me to have to work harder to prove myself. So, that’s one aspect of it. And I think I’ve heard that from many folks and from underrepresented groups, is always having to prove ourselves.
So, that’s one thing. But then, also, having had some amazing people that I’ve worked with who have inspired me, who I’ve been able to see model behaviors that allow me to then pursue other things, I think, has been very helpful. So, looking around and seeing, who are those people that inspire me? How do I reach out to them? What are the conversations that I can have with them, I think, is also quite helpful.
[36:57] Sean: I love that. And I think a lot of it is just sticking to your guts, embracing your culture, embracing your identity, and just hard work, appreciating other people. I think these things are just keys to success, ultimately, in life.
[37:12] Adrien: Yeah. On the topic of culture, one of the books that I have really valued, at least, again, talking about nonfiction, needing to balance our nonfiction with fiction, but one book that I really appreciated was The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni. And he talks about successful companies not just about having the most talented and the smartest people, but a healthy org. Often, we undervalue the culture and having a healthy culture and trust, which is going to lead to more effective teams and being more nimble and being able to move. Just the importance of that, and how do you create a healthy organization, is just something that’s harder to measure. I think we often focus on what’s measurable, but that doesn’t mean it’s the most important.
[37:54] Sean: I’ve never heard of that book. I’ll have to check it out now. It’s called The Advantage by Patrick…
[37:59] Adrien: The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni. That’s a good one. And the other one, the other book that, really, I think, has always been relevant and even more so now post-pandemic, is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. It was written almost a century ago, Sean. And it’s still incredibly relevant.
It’s interesting, I just went on a road trip with our middle son visiting colleges and made him listen to it in the car with me as we drove from college to college. And he found it very fascinating. And it is interesting how relevant it is. And even listening to it again, realizing that so many of the other business books that I’ve read recently really touch on the same themes, and they’re just echoing the themes. So, going back to the source, there’s so much there that’s so valuable. You really can’t force anyone to do anything. How do you make someone happy about doing something you suggest?
[38:48] Sean: It’s one of those moments of synchronicity in life, where I’m actually re-listening to it right now. I read in my teens. I read it in my 20s again. And, lately, I’ve been experiencing this internal conflict. In terms of family and life and everything, with my wife, my family, my parents, my siblings, everything’s great. But when it comes to business, I had this unknowing conflict that I felt. Maybe it’s because the pandemic. I’ve been isolated for so long. It’s like I don’t know how to work with people in that capacity anymore. I run my own businesses, but our team of 30 is remote. And so, I feel like I’ve almost lost or been out. I don’t even know how to describe this. I don’t how to get the words out. But I feel a little lost in that sense. And it just occurred to me, both of Dale Carnegie’s books, How To Stop Worrying and Start Living and How to Make Friends and Influence People, I was like, “It’s time to revisit these books.” And I literally just started re-listening to that book three days ago. So, very serendipitous.
[39:57] Adrien: It feels like the elements of curiosity, empathy, kindness are these new resurfacing elements. But that book being so foundational from over nearly 100 years ago, it’s amazing that it’s so relevant again today, to your points.
[40:13] Sean: Yeah, more so.
[40:15] Adrien: I think one last thing that I wanted to add on the topic of those promotions that bring me pride, I would be remiss not to add one more point of something that truly brings me joy in my career day-to-day is something that’s ongoing and it’s making a difference in people’s lives, whether it’s the people I work with, the customers of the companies I’ve worked with, or the people served by nonprofits I’m involved in, is really where the joy comes from.
So, with the research and insights, as I mentioned, when they’re done well, they’re infused and you can’t really pinpoint exactly what was from the research. But when I’m, for example, at the airport when I would have had a Netflix backpack and people would come up and share the joy they get from the service, that means that the work, the labor that we all do as a team has really paid off. Or, when I’ve had team members and seeing them do really well and seeing the joy of their careers rising has brought me joy. So, ultimately, that is what I get the most pride out of day to day.
[41:13] Sean: Adrien, it was such a pleasure having you on today. Thank you so much for teaching me so much about consumer insights. I hope our listeners also learned a lot. And we all work for different companies as Haas alums. So, if anybody’s listening, needs more guidance on consumer insights, please reach out to Adrien. We’ll link his LinkedIn and other information that we mentioned as well.
So, thank you so much, Adrien.
[41:41] Adrien: Thank you, Sean. Really appreciate it. I loved the engaging conversation. And I hope you have a great rest of your day.
[41:50] Sean: Thanks again for tuning in to this episode of the OneHaas Podcast. If you enjoyed our show today, please hit that Subscribe or Follow button on your favorite podcast player. We’d also really appreciate you giving us a five-star rating and review.
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OneHaas Podcast is a production of the Haas School of Business and produced by University FM. Until next time. Go, Bears.