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Jan 17, 2019

Splunk Exec Susan St. Ledger Says “High-Growth Mindset” Key to Her Success

The data analytics software company’s president of worldwide field operations speaks as part of the 2019 Dean’s Speaker Series.

On Tuesday, Jan. 15, the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise hosted a presentation by Susan St. Ledger, president of worldwide field operations for San Francisco-based data analytics software company Splunk.

St. Ledger’s speech focused on what she called the “high-growth mindset,” referring to taking advantage of opportunities that allow an individual to stretch beyond their perceived capabilities. St. Ledger said that adopting this mindset has been key to her personal and professional success.

St. Ledger set the stage with an analogy that captured the attention of the UNC-Chapel Hill students and faculty in the room. Describing herself as a “student of the sport,” she referenced insights she gleaned from winning basketball coaches, such as UNC-CH’s Dean Smith. Of Smith, she said, “You don’t get to win 77.6 percent of your games over 36 years without having a high-growth mindset.”

St. Ledger walked the audience through her journey of understanding the importance of the high-growth mindset to her life and career path, and outlined the lessons she’s learned on the way.

“Who you learn from is vital to your success,” she said. St. Ledger credited her parents with teaching her that life requires people to be both “a student of life and student for life,” a principle she still lives by today.

St. Ledger also discussed the importance of embracing “pivots” – those life moments, planned or unplanned, that force you to go in a new, and perhaps unfamiliar, direction. St. Ledger’s career, she said, has been full of such pivots, beginning with her switch of college majors from biology to computer science. For example, starting as a junior systems engineer at Sun Microsystems, she went on to head a $3.2 billion sales organization in less than a decade.

St. Ledger’s clear ability to embrace change and take risks has enabled her to live life with a high-growth perspective, and to land a position where she can continue growing and help others grow as well.

St. Ledger counseled that once you start embracing pivots, they “start to get easier, because you have already proven to yourself that you can do it.” She encouraged the audience to follow three leadership principles for high growth: continuous learning, continuous improvement, and comfort with being uncomfortable.

“If you go through an extended period where you’re not uncomfortable, then you’re probably not growing,” she said.

Click here to see St. Ledger’s full lecture.

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