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Data as the Root Cause with Susan St. Ledger of Splunk

Episode 312
How do you solve the world’s biggest problems? Susan St. Ledger believes it all starts and ends with data.

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“The big focus is driving transformation.”  — Susan St. Ledger

Susan St. Ledger, President of Worldwide Field Operations for Splunk, started her career as a major in computer science at the University of Scranton. From there,  she was recruited to become a computer scientist at the National Security Agency, where she spent more than 6 years of her career. While at the NSA, Susan learned about Sun System’s hardware and software, and became familiar with the key players in the company. They recruited her away from the NSA and persuaded her to join their team full time as a pre-sales systems engineer. On her way to a promising career in many different fields, Susan realized her ambition to work in an industry with a large market opportunity. 

So where did she go? Susan joined Marc Benioff at Salesforce as Chief Revenue Officer, taking market opportunity to an entirely new level. Now, in her current role at Splunk, Susan is focused on the world’s biggest problems, which she believes can all be solved with data. 

“We believe that every problem is a data problem. We’re thinking about solving some of the worlds greatest problems because data is at the fundamental solution and is the root cause.” 

Splunk is helping to tackle some of the biggest issues in the world, such as human trafficking and the opioid crisis while simultaneously helping small businesses become more efficient and reach their business goals. 

“When I think about all the innovation that we’re driving here at Splunk, it’s maniacally focused on removing the barriers between data and action.” 

Much of the world’s data is hidden and out of sight or not structured to achieve a specific goal. Splunk is uniquely positioned for success as they are the only data company that can digest unstructured data and make sense of it, driving action with data and achieving large scale goals not previously possible.

“We want to be a part of every data-driven decision in the world.” 

In this episode, Chad and Susan sit down to discuss the importance of having a high-growth mindset when working for a high-growth company, how data will solve the world’s biggest problems, and where she sees Splunk heading into the future.

Quotes from Susan:

[On a hiring for a high-growth mindset] “You have to create a culture of continuous learning and you have to make sure you are hiring for people who want to be continuous learners and want to take risks and pivot.”

“You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. You’re not growing if you’re not uncomfortable.”

[On building a culture of feedback] “You have to believe that as a leader, your job is to make people better. Even the best people can get better with your coaching and leadership. I fundamentally know that I wouldn’t be where I am today as a President of Splunk, if I didn’t have some really tough leaders. As a leader, you have to recognize that you are doing your people a disservice if you don’t give them tough feedback, which means you are not helping them see beyond what they can see for themselves.” 

[On creating a culture of growth] “Allow people to fail. Make mistakes and then learn from those mistakes. Because you can’t tell people to be comfortable being uncomfortable and then be punitive with mistakes.” 

[On pivoting in her career] “Pivots are a sign of intellectual curiosity and if you succeed multiple times, then it’s intellectual capacity as well. I look for pivots on people’s resume.” 

“When I think about all the innovation that we’re driving here at Splunk, it’s maniacally focused on removing the barriers between data and action.”


Liz Wiseman 

Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well 



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