Since October 2021, Pete Schlampp has served as chief strategy officer at Workday.
You could consider Pete Schlampp a serial “builder”—he’s built handfuls of products, three companies, dozens of teams, and, in his spare time, he’s pretty handy in the workshop with a metal lathe and a MIG welder. He has experience spanning startups and large enterprises, in the U.S. and abroad—which gives him the ability to spot disruption and get everyone on the same page about how to capitalize on it.
Joining through Workday’s acquisition of Platfora in 2016, Pete quickly made his mark through the development of Workday Prism Analytics, which became the fastest-growing product in Workday history. He stepped into his role as executive vice president of product development in December 2019, leading the team and supporting Workday customers through a critical year marked by the pandemic, widespread recognition of social injustice, and political change.
Despite his 20-plus-year career, he wasn’t always on the high-tech path. His desire to help people took him on a brief detour to medical school early on. But, as the internet age dawned, he saw an amazing opportunity to make a different sort of impact on people’s lives. He packed up his car, left medical school, and came to Silicon Valley to build products. After having a few doors slammed in his face in his early interviews, he persisted in following his dream of building products that can change people’s lives.
Now he’s humbled by the opportunity to help people on the scale of Workday—used by 50 million workers around the world. We caught up with Pete to learn what he’s building now, and what’s next.
What’s one particularly memorable product you’ve helped to create?
At one of my first startups, we created the first email security appliance—a spam blocker—that leveraged a reputation score to flag if IP addresses could be trusted. It came to market as the industry was at a breaking point with email—99 out of 100 emails were spam. CEOs were saying, “I can’t use email anymore!” This technology changed everything.
That’s what I love about technology—you can look back at inflection points and see massive impact. Technology can make the world change overnight. This was one of those examples.
Your first year leading product development for Workday coincided with a worldwide pandemic and widespread recognition of social injustice issues. How did the environment shape product strategy?
Yes, it’s a year that brought a lot of lessons and insights. We sent our entire workforce to work from home just days before our first major product release of 2020. We did everything remotely for the first time with zero warning or prep time. That experience encapsulated what we faced the rest of the year: We had to move fast, make quick pivots, and do things we’ve never done before.
First, we pivoted our strategy to accelerate innovations needed to meet customers’ critical needs. We began offering packaged solutions that brought together facets of Workday’s enterprise management cloud to solve timely challenges. Our Vaccine Management offering, which helps organizations plan, track, and report vaccine status, was just one great example of a solution that went from concept to customers’ hands in a matter of weeks. And, we’ve empowered our customers and partners to build their own unique applications—such as return to work apps—by opening up our platform with Workday Extend.
In addition, we’re investing in getting more real-time sentiment data into Workday with the acquisition of Peakon, so our customers can better understand how their employees are feeling and support them in both a hybrid work environment and a world where diversity and inclusion are more important than ever. Separately, but still related, we’re working on completely redefining the employee experience with our technology—not just the experience within Workday, but also thinking about how to bring our functionality into wherever people get work done, such as apps like Microsoft Teams and Slack.
Lastly, we sought to provide our finance customers more flexible ways to transform their operations. We know moving a core financial management system—the bedrock of a business—is a massive project and it can come with risk. We began offering customers new ways of using Workday that immediately provided advantages of the cloud, without having to rip and replace their whole system. And, being cloud-based, our customers found that they were able to close their books remotely—even if that wasn’t the original plan.