Splunk

Splunk CEO on the rise of the machines

October 30, 2013: 2:21 PM ET

"We are on the cusp of a smarter planet," says Godfrey Sullivan.

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FORTUNE -- Fortune's annual Brainstorm Tech conference brings together the best and brightest minds in tech innovation. Fortune periodically turns the spotlight on a different conference attendee to offer their personal insight into business, tech, and entrepreneurship.

Godfrey Sullivan is CEO and chairman of Splunk, a software company that helps users analyze machine data (the information generated when IT systems and devices communicate with each other). Prior to Splunk, Sullivan worked for Citrix, Apple, and Autodesk among others. We asked him 10 questions including his opinion on business school, his greatest achievement, and his home life. Read on for Sullivan's thoughts on his Animal House-themed education, his biggest failure, and whether he has a balanced life:

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

In the post-Jobs era, the most inspirational innovator is Elon Musk. He continues to push the boundaries of cars, rockets, energy, and much more.

2. What other companies do you admire? Why?

Apple (AAPL) is still the company that I appreciate most. It has changed the way we think about computing, mobile, music, reading, and learning. Apple is the benchmark even in the post-Jobs era, and I appreciate everything I learned from working there for 11 years.

3. What technology sector excites you most?

Machine data and Splunk excite me more than any other technology sector. The machines of the world went digital and learned how to communicate. We are on the cusp of a smarter planet because of the information that we are getting from cars, trains, tractors, buildings, mobile devices, and much more. The world of machine data -- or big data -- will transform our lives for the better.

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4. Is business school necessary for entrepreneurs?

No. Most of the true innovators in the last century were the inventors, not the B-school graduates. Business school is a foundation for success, but it's also possible to learn most of those lessons on the job. Most of the true innovation in tech is coming from students with computer science or engineering degrees.

5. What is the best advice you ever received?

"All meetings go better when the numbers are good."

6. What is your greatest achievement?

Taking Splunk from an early-stage product to a global brand. It's what most of Silicon Valley aspires to achieve, and I feel really fortunate to have had that experience.

7. What has been your biggest failure?

Not spending more time with our daughters as they were growing up. There is a price for serving as a CEO, and work/life balance is not easy. I missed some times with them that I regret, and I hope that they can now be somewhat proud of me in spite of being MIA during their youth. We have a strong family, and we enjoy hanging together, so I'm hopeful that things worked out.

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

I don't live a balanced life! I think about work every waking moment -- just ask my wife Suzanne.

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

Persuasion. I belonged to a crazy fraternity that was known as the "Animal House" of Baylor. I spent a lot of time with the school officials trying to keep us from being thrown off campus. I learned a lot about the art of communication, negotiation, and persuasion from that experience!

10. What was your first job?

A morning paper route. I was on my bicycle at 4:30 and finished at 6:30 every morning. I liked the solitude and throwing the papers. Paperboys and -girls learn every possible way to throw a paper, and it gave us joy to make that perfect throw.

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