Ben Hasan – “Dream Big”

In life there is not just one, but many paths to success. Ben Hasan’s route to becoming Senior Vice President and Chief Culture Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Walmart was a non-traditional one.

Ben grew up with his five brothers and sisters just a few blocks north of Temple University’s campus. In high school he excelled at both academics and athletics, and received an offer to play college basketball at the University of Idaho. He found the transition to life as a collegiate student athlete difficult, however, and dropped out of school not once, but twice.

dsc_0062-1In his twenties, he began to raise a family, and worked part time jobs to support his wife and children. Eventually, at the insistence of a friend, Ben enrolled in night classes at Temple, and in 1983 he graduated with a degree in Computer Science. Then, he and his family moved to Texas, where Ben worked at an oil and gas company for a little more than a decade.

In the mid 90s, Ben accepted a position at Dell, which at the time was still a relatively small company. At Dell, Ben truly began to thrive as a leader. He lead teams in establishing IT development centers in locations all over the world, including Singapore, Brazil, and India. In accomplishing this task he always worked on-site, and so was exposed to a multitude of cultures.

A pillar of Ben’s leadership style is to work to elevate those around him: “I think one of the things great leaders do, is that, at some point they make this shift… Some leaders, you can tell, they’re all about themselves. And then there are some leaders who are all about the people who work for them and who are around them. I wish that I had personally made that shift earlier in my career, where I really understood the value of lifting the people who work for you up, because you’re going to be better when you lift the people around you at the end of the day, rather than when you spend all your time focusing on yourself”.

He joined Walmart in 2008, and served as the Senior Vice President of Strategic Services in Technology. In this role he oversaw many technology-related initiatives. Last year, at the request of the Walmart CEO, Ben accepted a new position, Chief Culture, Diversity, and Inclusion Officer.

His new role brings many new challenges, ones which he is happy to take on. Ben believes that as a fortune one company, Walmart must have a role in facing issues of race that are affecting the nation. To address these issues, Ben and his team organized a non-traditional town hall meeting, where they fielded questions from members of the public on the topic of race and diversity. Additionally, he and his team have introduced a new system of metrics that holds departments accountable in striving to meet company-wide diversity goals. On the value and importance of diversity in the workplace, he said “You have to innovate today to grow your business. In order to innovate, you need diverse thoughts, ideas, opinions, and approaches. You can’t innovate with a group of people who all think the same and have all done things the same way all the time”.

In closing, Ben urged AIS members to dream big: “I’ve had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, some incredibly successful people. And guess what they all had in common? They all had a dream. That people laughed at. They all wrote it down. They all kept score. They all practiced what they wanted to be great at. Do you aspire to be great or do you just aspire to be regular? I say aspire to be great. Everyone one of you in this room has your own personal genius. How will you find it? The only way for you to find it is to write it down, describe it for yourself, and practice it. You want to be a great leader? You’ve got to practice your craft. You want be a great MIS professional? You’ve got to practice your craft. So dream big. Even if you get halfway to a big dream, you’ll turn around and go ‘Man, this isn’t bad. That was a big dream but I got halfway there, and its better than folks who don’t have dreams’”.

We thank Ben for coming in to speak to us, and for offering impactful words of advice and inspiration.