Propelling Amazon To A Sustainable Future
By Jess Clarke
Boosted by a Jenkins MBA degree — with inspiration from Danish windmills during a Poole study-abroad semester — Derek DeShane ’11 propelled himself into a position that links his passions for the environment and technology.
In a new marketing role as sustainability analyst relations manager for Amazon Web Services, he educates leading cloud computing industry influencers about the company’s operations, policies and goals related to environmental conservation.
“Climate change is the principal challenge of this generation and possibly several generations after it…Now I’m doing what I would choose to do if I could pick any title,” says DeShane, who’s based in Seattle.
The most rewarding thing for me is that I can align my personal interests with my professional work in the technology space.
His work in the technology industry began at tech company Lenovo in Morrisville, North Carolina, in a position he landed after his impressive performance there in a Poole Supply Chain Resource Cooperative practicum. He first learned about analyst relations in the practicum, in which he and another NC State student ultimately helped the business streamline its delivery process. One result: Lenovo’s first inclusion in the 2013 Supply Chain Top 25 list compiled by tech consulting company Gartner.
The practicum was one of DeShane’s most valuable MBA experiences.
And the Danish windmills?
In his Poole semester abroad, based at Copenhagen Business School, he did a research project on the logistics of delivering massive windmill components. The trip, another highlight for him as a student, reinforced DeShane’s interest in work tied to renewable energy.
“I saw it as a big opportunity to improve business. And personally, I just love windmills,” he says. “I learned things about renewable energy that totally apply to what I do now” at Amazon, which he notes buys more such energy than any company in the world.
DeShane credits his dual MBA concentrations in marketing and supply chain with providing him a crucial foundation for his current Amazon role and throughout his career since graduate school.
His consumer behavior course with Poole professor Stacy Wood has been one of the most applicable classes. Working with industry analysts, “I have to understand where they are and what biases they may hold, so I can craft a narrative that resonates with them,” he says.
The narratives DeShane crafts at Amazon reflect the company’s success in reducing the environmental impacts, including carbon emission, water usage, power efficiency and other metrics. He focuses on communicating the company’s initiatives “so our customers, partners, industry analysts and investors…can understand it’s a sustainable business and a responsible brand,” he says.
Where’s the proof?
Amazon’s company-wide goal is to run on 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 — but it’s on a path to accomplish that five years early, by 2025. That’s partly from optimizing data centers with advanced efficiency measures enabled by cloud computing, DeShane notes.
He’s a longtime environmental advocate, with a bachelor’s degree in environmental policy and law from Binghamton University. After college, he did a year of AmeriCorps service for the San Francisco Conservation Corps and then worked as a consultant for the conservation corps for a year.
Initially, DeShane wasn’t interested in business, which he considered incompatible with sustainability. After 10 years working in marketing and social services, he changed his mind.
I realized that there is a massive potential for good through business and that I wanted to work on the inside and create progress that way.
The Jenkins MBA program’s technology focus allowed him to combine his business and tech interests. “I wanted to work in technology because it provides us the path to a more sustainable economy,” he says.
Now, DeShane is in a position with Amazon to influence the influencers, the industry analysts he works with. “I really want people in the future to automatically think about cloud computing as a more sustainable way to run IT workloads,” he says.
For DeShane, his work is a way to promote an important cause, just as he donates blood and spreads awareness of the Ukrainian war’s impacts. “At Amazon, I’m doing what’s important to me,” he says. “Service and doing good are integral to my identity.”
This post was originally published in Jenkins MBA News.