Luke Christiansen is no water surfer, but he knows how to ride the wave of opportunity. It’s a gift he has been leveraging for most of his life.
“I’m always looking for a new way to be challenged,” says Christiansen. “I’ve never liked to be stagnant. My father taught me that you need to push and you can’t ever accept the status quo.”
That go-getter attitude is what helped Christiansen find his way from project engineer to senior vice president of Data and Research at Buildertrend, the largest and fastest growing software development company for home builders and remodelers in North America, Australia and New Zealand.
Born and raised in Blair, Nebraska, Christiansen attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha on a scholarship. After completing a degree in computer engineering, he took a job in the Information Technology (IT) department at Union Pacific. It wasn’t long before Christiansen figured out that he wanted more.
“I knew that I didn’t want to be isolated and writing code all day,” he says. “I wanted to work with people. I wanted to be the one leading a team long-term. So, I thought a combination of tech and business would allow me to do that.”
And ultimately, it did.
Christiansen consulted with some of his mentors at UP who recommended he enroll in an MBA program. Creighton University was the place to go—hands down, they told him. Christiansen thought about going to the coast. He looked at other schools, even Harvard. But after doing more research, all roads seemed to be leading him to Creighton.
“I picked Creighton for the quality of the education,” he says. “Proximity to my family and my job were also a big deal for me. We have a top-notch grad program right here in our own backyard so it was a pretty easy decision for me.”
Over the next three years, Christiansen continued to work full time at UP and attended classes on the Creighton campus at night. “For me, it was important to do them in person, Christiansen explains. “I just felt it would be a good learning environment. They were all at night and close to work so it was really convenient.”
As someone who relishes challenge, Creighton was the perfect fit. “At Creighton, you are guaranteed to experience challenge. The professors constantly challenge you, which leads to personal development and knowledge. It’s not a walk in the park. You’re going to end up on the other side with a set of marketable skills that will help you lead and succeed.”
Christiansen describes his experience as very tailored and impactful. “It was a quality curriculum coupled with a student experience that really allowed you to dig deep where you wanted to dig deep. You get a very holistic and well-rounded education in which personal leadership and ethics is incorporated throughout the curriculum. You walk away with a tool set of skills that will help you be successful in a lot of different scenarios.”
An education that instills Jesuit values was also very important. “Whether it’s an education or a job, it’s important to find alignment,” he notes. “I’ve found that I’m most happy and successful when I find that alignment.”
After completing his MBA in 2011 with a new set of skills, the search for a new challenge began. “Buildertrend was the next wave of opportunity,” Christiansen says. As senior vice president of Data and Research, Christiansen works closely with the founding team to find new ways to increase efficiency and optimization in the business.
He thrives on the strong worth ethic at Buildertrend and constant thirst to always get better. “We’re always looking at what’s next—finding new challenges and being creative with ways to grow the business,” he says. “I had the opportunity to dig in and really have a lot of impact right out of the gates with a completely different set of challenges and opportunities.”
Laying the foundation for his success, he says, are the strategic and organizational leadership skills he learned during his MBA studies. “As a leader, you need to know how to motivate people—how to create a vision for a team and ultimately, how to get alignment and rally folks behind that collective vision and direction,” he explains. “You need to know how to organize a plan around the day to day operations of an organization, how to leverage each other’s strengths to ultimately get the best result in the end.”
It’s a skillset that has paid off well for Christiansen who regularly collaborates with other leaders at the company, which has a platform used by thousands of U.S. contractors to build more than 100,000 homes per year.
As Christiansen continually seeks out the next wave of opportunities and challenges at Buildertrend, he keeps this important principle that he learned during his MBA studies close to his heart. “You can’t lead others until you can lead yourself.”
With this in mind, he continues to ride the waves of leadership and learning.