Erick Salvatierra, Director of Revenue Operations at Total Brain, on how he’s applying his Presidio Graduate School’s Dual MBA/MPA Degree in Sustainable Solutions to make an impact within and on the future of the health care industry.
Erick, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today. Tell us more about the work you’re currently doing.
I’m currently managing revenue operations for Total Brain, an applied, integrative neuroscience company with a SaaS-based mental health platform that combines assessments, screenings, biometrics, and genetics capabilities with personalized self-care support tools.
At Total Brain, we believe that mental health, like physical health, exists on a continuum and can be monitored, improved, and managed like physical health. Our mission is to remove the mental health stigma by improving self-awareness and enabling individuals, providers, and organizations to manage mental health as they do physical health.
My role at Total Brain is to be a strategic partner to our sales, customer success, and marketing leaders, providing analytical, strategic, and operational support.
What’s your career journey been like so far?
I’ve been in health care as a vendor in some capacity for most of my career. In 2014, I landed a role as a Product Marketing Manager with a minimally invasive surgical medical device company. During my time there, a big event that changed how business was conducted between hospitals and medical devices companies was a superbug, infecting patients after exposure to the deadly bacteria from medical endoscopes. 50 U.S. hospitals were affected, as many as 404 people were infected, and 35 recorded deaths concluded the infection outbreak that ended in 2015. The event changed one detail of the decision-making process for hospitals and independent practices – a preference to buy single-use devices over the standard reusable instrument that went through cleaning and sterility after each use. To provide data, waste from single-use devices contributes to over five million tons of surgical waste hospitals produce yearly. That event changed how I started thinking about my work in medical devices. I began to focus my day-to-day efforts on product differentiation and how product life cycles affect hospitals’ bottom line.
In 2017, I moved to San Francisco with my partner and started working with the women’s health medical devices leader. I quickly noticed that some hospitals and doctors’ offices were a little more conscious of the waste created, but it wasn’t yet at a point of critical mass. At the same time, I took a strong interest in corporate social responsibility efforts and felt deeply that I needed to bring both worlds together.
And that’s what brought you to Presidio! Can you tell us how you decided on the Dual MBA/MPA Degree?
I originally applied and enrolled for just the MBA program, but on day one, I was convinced to join the Dual MBA/MPA Degree program by our very own Ema Phelps and Donna LaSala. I have always advocated for dual degree programs, having gone through a joint degree program during undergrad.
During my two years at Presidio Graduate School, I worked full-time and was actively in classes full-time, and I think it was a great experience. The experience I gained from Presidio Graduate School was just what I needed to push my career where I wanted it to go. After graduating, I went into nonprofits for a short period and started my path with digital health startups in 2020 after moving to Seattle.
How did you discover Presidio Graduate School?
I started looking at different programs in the Bay Area in 2017 – Haas School of Business at Berkeley, Hult International Business School, USF, and Gold Gate University. I came across this New York Times article on “MBA Programs That Get You Where You Want to Go ” and found Presidio, this small school focused on sustainability, social equity, and impact. At the time, I couldn’t find another school in the Bay Area that layered sustainability in every class; most programs offered one course on sustainable business.
“Presidio Graduate School clearly differed and prioritized a curriculum I had been searching for, for nearly three years.”
So, for you, it was about the fact that Presidio wove sustainability into every course.
Exactly. In my experience, it was never a topic that was prioritized by the teams or leaders I had worked with. Not many companies were talking about it.
Let’s talk a bit about your experience while in the Dual MBA/MPA Degree program. Can you describe your relationship with the curriculum?
Semester one was all about the foundation that I felt was unique at Presidio Graduate School – classes taking an intersectoral approach to understand sustainability and social justice problems facing the world today. Semester three provided a demanding course load as I had the opportunity to work on four consulting projects – I worked with a nonprofit science museum looking to increase membership enrollment and ticket purchases; developed an excel-based valuation cap table for a cryptocurrency mining startup; built an excel-based operations dashboard for a Napa Valley vineyard looking to begin tracking sustainability efforts across their estate; and researched and wrote a report on policy initiatives on sea level rise affecting the Bay Area.
All my Presidio courses gave me a foundation to better understand how I want to approach my work and career. In my opinion, the Dual MBA/MPA Degree program at Presidio tackles the idea that there are two facets to some of the most significant challenges we’re facing, and you learn how to navigate both. Because without one of them, you’d experience the challenge of being able to bring new sustainable solutions to life.
Is there a specific experience or moment from your time at Presidio that has stuck with you and you’ve referred back to in your current work?
I still reference many of my textbooks when thinking about ideas and writing content. But I think a pivotal moment for me as a student was when I realized I needed to put myself out there and work to help move the needle on specific topics. Presidio’s community understood and reinforced the notion that to implement real change is to create systems that offer transparency of information, support teams to change how they work and be part of a partnership that would allow access to essential services. I started applying what I was learning to my full-time role by bringing not only a sustainable lens to my day-to-day work but also a social equity lens that led to a connection to the work I had been conducting until that point.
How did you balance working full-time while going to school full-time?
So, one thing each professor emphasized, which I can’t stress enough across anything in life, is that the amount of reward you get from a situation depends on how much effort you put into the task at hand. There is a rigor to the program – a lot of multitasking, shifting on projects and digesting challenging and stressful topics, but I was genuinely inspired and encouraged by my professors. I was immersed in a network with professionals doing the same – being professors, practitioners, students, and leaders in their everyday life, balancing both a professional life and a personal life.
What advice do you have for people considering Presidio and looking to make sustainability a part of their career?
Don’t consider sustainability as just one entity. I think too often we define sustainability singularly, like waste management, water use, or your traditional sustainability efforts.
“I believe sustainability is longevity, resilience, and adaptability, leading to inclusivity, urgency, and impact.”
For anyone considering Presidio, just because you may not have sustainability experience in your background or work in a field where you assume sustainability doesn’t fit, that doesn’t mean you can’t apply sustainability to your role or industry.
Erick, learning about you and your experience as a Presidian has been incredibly informative. Please tell us what comes next for you. Do you have specific career goals or a vision of how you want to impact the future?
It’s still being formulated, and there are a few different elements.
Sometime in the near future, my goal is to explore an opportunity to build something new and bring a team together around a common goal.
Secondly, I would like to go into politics. My goal is to run for local office before I turn 45, contributing to a city that has always been a part of me my entire life – Chicago.
The last aspect concerns early ideas I see within the health care space that will soon be a reality – tracking how climate and environmental risks impact our health. It is the one major risk that is not currently being tracked wide-spread, and I believe that needs to change. We all know that rising temperatures and extreme weather lead to illnesses affecting cardiovascular function. It is a major risk that we have no control over, except for adapting your living conditions, which impacts billions of lives. Now, I am no trained physician, but you cannot deny the fact that year over year, more patients are suffering from infections and conditions that are exacerbated by climate-related risks. Something that the sustainability world always focuses on is the impact of climate change at an ecosystem, biodiversity, and community level, but I believe the true impacts of climate change will be experienced as threats to human health.
What about Presidio makes you feel hopeful you’ll be able to create change for our planet and future generations?
I am hopeful when I see the topics we discussed as students at Presidio out in real practice – water scarcity, climate change, inequality, shifting demographics, and global health. Of course, events like these are devastating and traumatic, but I believe there are optimistic people who also choose to confront issues, changing how things are done and talked about.
Thank you so much to Erick Salvatierra for sharing his journey as a Presidian change-maker! If you’re interested in learning more about Presidio Graduate School and our MBA, MPA, Dual Degree, and Certificate programs, contact our admissions team today at firstname.lastname@example.org.