Alumni Profile

Dan Phillips

From Humboldt to Hulu

Earlier this year, Hulu's Chief Technology Officer Dan Phillips returned to his grade school alma mater, Bridgeville Elementary, in Bridgeville, California. He shared stories about growing up in a small town (he once caught a bobcat) and his career.

To say that Chief Technology Officer of Hulu Dan Phillips (‘91, Business and Computer Information Systems) navigates a competitive landscape is an understatement. "We compete with ‘little' guys like Netflix, Amazon, Apple, and Google," he says tongue-in-cheek.

Taking on Silicon Valley goliaths is no minor feat, especially when you're in charge of keeping systems running for the streaming service that offers live and on-demand TV and movies to more than 28 million subscribers.

"We pay attention to what other companies are doing," he says. "We're also focused on our objectives, on what we want to do, and who we want to be."

Phillips is now one of the top leaders of Hulu, but he started small in the Humboldt County town of Bridgeville. With a population of a few hundred people, his hometown taught him invaluable lessons.

"Being from a small town has helped me immensely in the corporate world," he says. "I learned the values of community and hard work."

He recently returned to Humboldt to share professional and personal experiences, visiting Bridgeville Elementary, Fortuna High—his alma mater—and talking to local college students. His visit was part of a program called Get Ready Humboldt. Sponsored by HSU, Humboldt County Office of Education, and College of the Redwoods, the effort is designed to inspire young people to go to college.

Phillips' own higher education path was far from straight. He attended CR, went to Sac State briefly, returned to CR, and took time off. A year later he was back at CR, this time taking night classes, one of which was a computer course. He was instantly hooked.

Bitten by the tech bug, he attended HSU, where he graduated two years later with two degrees and at the top of his class in both majors. And perhaps just as important: He developed important relationships.

"Humboldt State played such a significant role in my journey. It's the place where I got the opportunity to meet some key professors, mentors, and other students" he says. "You can't underestimate the value of making connections. Cultivating those kinds of relationships is one of the most important skills to have as you build your career."

Among Phillips'mentors was Computer Information Systems Professor Jim Blaisdell, who gave Phillips the opportunity to work on his research for NASA Ames. They went on to start a tech business together—a move that paved the way for Phillips' career, which included overseeing operations for TiVO from 2005 until he joined Hulu in 2018.

"Don't be afraid to dream big. But without a plan, without the dedication, without taking the steps day in and day out, those lofty goals are just dreams. You have to do the work to get there."