After spending just a few minutes with Chano Fernandez, you learn that he is someone who believes a strong work ethic, a positive attitude, and leading from a foundation of empathy and compassion are the keys to success.
Chano’s career journey began with McKinsey & Company, where he served as a senior consultant. Shortly after, he became a founding partner of Blue C, an internet and IT services company. Next, he served in executive sales roles in Europe at Infor and SAP before joining Workday in 2014.
Today, he oversees the entire customer relationship at Workday, which spans acquisition, services, customer success, and customer support. Chano tackles his responsibilities with a palpable optimism and energy that inspires great work from his team and delivers results for Workday’s over 9,000 customers worldwide.
While Chano’s career has followed a linear path, a couple of unexpected twists and turns along the way influenced his approach to leadership—and this past year was no exception. He took on the role of co-CEO at Workday in August 2020 amid a global pandemic, widespread recognition of social injustice, and a polarizing political climate in the U.S. One could argue that 2020 was the ultimate test for business leaders, and Chano was committed to rising to the challenge alongside Workday’s co-founder, co-CEO, and chairman, Aneel Bhusri.
We caught up with Chano to learn more about the key areas he’s focused on, his observations as he marks his first year as Workday’s co-CEO, and what excites him most about the future of Workday.
You came into the co-CEO role during a challenging time in the world. How did you balance adjusting to your new role during a time of crisis?
As I look back on 2020, it truly was a masterclass for everyone in a leadership position. Soft skills, which are essential in business, became even more critical. Empathy and compassion were at the core of every swift decision, action, and communication Aneel and I drove.
Our purpose at Workday is to inspire a brighter work day for all—and that means helping our broader community adapt and thrive in this changing world. To do this, we rely on a set of core values—with employees No. 1 on the list. So, as I stepped into the role of co-CEO, I focused primarily on our employees’ safety and well-being around the world, so they could, in turn, help our customers and communities.
As I reflect on the steps we took at Workday, I’m incredibly proud of how we have supported employees and of the initiatives we launched to meet the moment, including providing employees with flexibility, financial, and well-being support and investing in several initiatives to support diversity, equity, and inclusion.
I’m also proud of how we continue to have our customers' backs to help them face the many challenges we’re experiencing throughout these rapidly changing times.
What is the secret to a successful co-CEO partnership, and can you share more about how you and Aneel distribute the responsibilities of the CEO role?
My wife, Esther, and I enjoy Latin ballroom dancing as a hobby. Now, what does this have to do with being a co-CEO? In ballroom dancing, a strong partnership is built upon a foundation of trust and commitment. When you and your dance partner have this foundation, it leads to a strong performance.
The same is true for a successful business partnership, and I’m proud to share that this is what Aneel and I have here at Workday. Beyond trust and commitment, we share a genuine friendship, which has been invaluable as we worked to take the proper steps for the business, employees, and customers—with support from our partners—during these uncertain times. Our friendship of trust is especially vital when we have to freestyle a bit.