Home > Industry Q&A: Jake Layes, Head of Sustainability & Clean Tech, APAC, Autodesk

Industry Q&A: Jake Layes, Head of Sustainability & Clean Tech, APAC, Autodesk

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What are your primary roles and responsibilities in your job? Give us a day in your working life.

In my role I lead and nurture various sustainability initiatives, such as the Autodesk’s Clean Tech Partner Program, which supports the environmental advancements of clean technology pioneers across Asia Pacific. A typical day for me involves many phone conversations, meetings and reading. I usually start the day with early morning calls with my colleagues on the US West Coast, followed by calls or meetings with my team covering Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Japan. I also connect regularly with customers and strategic partners, which often means frequent business travels. During the rest of my day, I'm typically working to connect with sustainability thought leaders in Asia Pacific, and create opportunities for Autodesk to help and support entrepreneurs and innovators in clean technology and sustainability.

What training/education did you need for your job?

At Autodesk, we see design as the key driver towards the development of solutions to the epic sustainability challenges we're facing today. I am trained as a designer (with a BSc from the Art Centre of Design, Pasadena) and worked for years as a designer before I joined Autodesk. I'm very familiar with the core principles of design - prototyping, collaboration and systems thinking – and now, empowered by technology anybody anywhere can create solutions for sustainability. I also hold an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, which is key to understand the pressing business issues companies and entrepreneurs face and how they can be solved within the planet’s constraints.

How did you get to where you are today? Give us a bullet point career path. 

From early childhood on I always had a keen interest to understand how things work and what greater structures are in play to enable people to do what they're doing day-in day-out. Back then, my dream job was becoming an architect. After high school I did an internship in an interior design & architect office and started an interior design study in Germany before switching to studying product design at the Art Center. I found product design most attractive because it gave me the opportunity to positively influence people's lives through products that are used on a daily basis. After an internship with LG Electronics in Ireland, as well as one at Philips Electronics, I joined Philips Electronics after completing my studies - first in The Netherlands and then in Hong Kong. It was a great opportunity to work on future-looking projects, as well as to gain hands-on experience with the full product development process, from the idea-on-a-napkin to manufacturing in China, and delivery of products to stores around the world. After five years I joined Alias, a Canadian product design software firm, in Japan and Singapore as product design and business development consultant, which gave me a great opportunity to see various product development processes in many companies across Asia Pacific. In 2006, Autodesk acquired Alias, and I became part of a much bigger organization. What amazes me still today is the breadth and collective expertise that Autodesk has and uses to help millions of our customers in many very distinct industries create a better world. In 2010, I started focusing on clean technology, and launched the Autodesk Clean Tech Partner Program in Japan, Singapore, Australia & New Zealand. Since then it's been super exciting to be part of Autodesk Corporate Sustainability team, where I get to help some of the world’s brightest minds to bring their ideas to life and have a real impact on the well-being of the planet and its population.

What tools and/or software do you use on a daily basis?

For my day-to-day work, I'm using the same email, document, spreadsheet and presentation tools on laptops and mobile devices as most do. I occasionally get hands on with Autodesk tools, such as Alias Design software or our 123D family of free apps.

What is the one thing that you are most proud of in your professional life? 

The most important thing for me is having a sense that everything I've done so far is connected, and progressing, in a meaningful way as an opportunity for me to make a difference.

Biggest daily challenge? 

My biggest daily challenge is balancing my professional life and the time with my family.

Biggest career challenge? 

I have had two equally large career challenges, both involving a relocation and at the same time a new role: one was the first time I've moved to Hong Kong with Philips Electronics, the second time was when I moved to Tokyo with Alias.

What is your biggest frustration in your job? 

Knowing that too many businesses still haven't recognized the urgency of addressing sustainability challenges despite the real business opportunities that sustainability offers.

What is the biggest challenge facing your business? 

Managing resources and prioritizing where to have the next biggest opportunity for positive impact.

Is there anything else about your job you want Australia to know about? 

I spent four solid days in early October at three sustainability conferences in Melbourne and what impressed me most was the significant amount of really important work being done here to address sustainability challenges, as well as the overall agreement from the conference participants that sustainability is a key opportunity for Australians to contribute to the creation of a better world.

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