creativeLIVE

10 Questions: Mika Salmi, CEO, creativeLIVE

February 4, 2014: 11:59 AM ET

On efficiency, surfing, and the importance of continued learning.

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FORTUNE -- Finland-born Mika Salmi moved to the U.S. when he was three. The 48-year-old executive speaks English, Finnish, and French, and in addition to a penchant for travel and global business, he has had a long-time interest in media and technology. Since 2012, he has been the CEO for creativeLIVE, an interactive online educational platform that offers free instructional videos. The company brings in experts from a variety of creative fields -- including photography, video, business, music, audio, art, design, and crafts -- to teach students both in person and over the web.

Salmi is a serial entrepreneur and former president of global digital media for Viacom (VIA). He holds an MBA from INSEAD and lives with his wife and three children in San Francisco. He spoke with Fortune.

1. What business or technology person do you admire most? Why?

Richard Branson. He's an innovator, he's a maverick, he's a lot of fun, and he truly epitomizes the idea of a "creative entrepreneur."

2. Is business school necessary for entrepreneurs?

From a skills and learning standpoint, no. But from a life and networking basis, yes. By "life," I mean everything from work habits to having a perspective on the breadth of what businesses do. Grokking everything that it means to be a CEO or entrepreneur. But the skills of entrepreneurship come from doing it.

3. What is the best advice you ever received?

I think it was the importance of education and learning. Always keep learning. One of my former professors said that one of the issues men have in their forties is that they stop learning, and their personal growth fades. My professor mentioned that in general, women are better at continual learning and growing as individuals. The importance of continuing to learn has stuck with me ever since.

4. What would you do if you weren't working at your current job?

I would start another company. Ideally I would use my passion for global business to go outside of the U.S. I'm open for anything. In the three-year stint between Viacom and my current position at creativeLIVE, I moved to Barcelona but explored living in Singapore, Tokyo, Santiago, and Helsinki. I travel pretty frequently. I'm going to Helsinki next week, and I was in Paris last week.

5. What was the most important thing you learned in school?

How to be efficient. I learned that as part of my undergrad experience. I was a DJ, I was in a band, I coached the ski team, and I was very social. I used to go out a lot, but I was also a straight-A student, so I had to learn to be extremely efficient and mindful of my time.

6. What do you do to live a balanced life?

I definitely go out of balance occasionally, but I don't let it go on for more than a few weeks at a time because I am pretty miserable. Balance for me goes a little beyond the classic work-life. I need some kind of intellectual stimulation, which is usually work. I like to spend time with family and friends. I am an active surfer and play on a soccer team. And I need some kind of creative outlet like music or design. So I would say those four things are weighted very equally -- work, family, sports, and the arts.

7. Describe an ideal day.

I wake up and go surfing at dawn, then have a productive work day consisting of internal meetings about marketing, content and product, combined with external meetings where I meet new people. Then at the end of the day I have two to three hours with my family -- helping my kids with their homework and relaxing with my wife.

8. What was the last book you read?

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. It's a fiction book. I skim nonfiction books and read a ton online, but I like fiction because it transports me somewhere else. Donna's an awesome writer. She's only written three novels, one every 10 years.

9. What was your first job?

I was a baseball umpire when I was 11 years old. When you're that young, you can only be in the field, not behind the plate. I think I got paid six bucks a game.

10. If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Time travel. I would go to both the past and the future. I would love to see the time of the Greeks and visit one of their town hall-type meetings. I would also need to possess the ability to speak several languages to travel into the past. I don't think English would go very far back in the day! I would also love to go 10 years into the future, to see what is just around the corner.

More from Fortune's 10 Questions series:

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