How to network like a CEO

Gary Steele shares what a day in his life is like and how he manages it all.


A day in the life of Splunk CEO Gary Steele.

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

This is the latest installment in Protocol's Calendar Series, where we take you inside a day in the lives of the world’s biggest tech execs: the meetings on their agenda, how they manage their time, their best productivity hacks and what they prioritize in a busy day. Read the rest of the series.

As the new CEO of data platform company Splunk, Gary Steele has ambitious goals. And he has the experience, especially when it comes to the thorny issues of cybersecurity. Previously, Steele was founding CEO of Proofpoint, where he led the company’s rise from an early-stage startup through its IPO in 2012.

When Steele started back in April, his goal was to meet 100 customers in his first 100 days at Splunk. In order of priority, customers rise to the top when it comes to face time, followed by employees. “I did an interesting onboarding,” he told Protocol. Prior to joining, Steele met about 50 Splunk executives during his “quote-unquote vacation.”

Steele sat down with Protocol to walk through a not-so-typical day in his life: in this case, the first day of the Splunk conf22 User Conference on June 13 in Las Vegas.

This was the first big, in-person user conference Splunk has held since the pandemic began, and Steele’s first as well. At 5,000 in-person attendees and 20,000 virtual, it was big, and Steele was the star of the show.

“You get a whole different vibe, feeling and understanding when you’re with [customers] in person,” he said. “It’s all very casual, and that very casual nature allows you to get really good information.”

“I can’t go anywhere that people don’t recognize me,” he said of his time at the conference. Even between meetings, Steele was walking with or talking to someone: “I walk out to the elevator to go for my run, and there’s a Wall Street analyst on the elevator. I come back, I’m sweating, dripping wet, and there are two employees who walk with me back.”

His schedule has been edited for brevity and clarity.

5-6 a.m. | Work out

I get up at 4:45 a.m., which sounds awful. I ran, because the gym doesn’t open until 7 a.m. So I ran six miles on the streets of Vegas, on the strip.

I haven’t missed a workout day in three years, because it’s just important for my mental health. I typically run for an hour. And then it’s shower, get ready, check email and get ready for the day.

6-7 a.m. | Breakfast and focus time

This is time for reviewing my calendar, then anything I need to do to prep for specific meetings. On this day, I was looking at the various events that I was keynoting and making sure I knew what I was going to say.

7-9 a.m. | Conf keynote prep

This is the orchestration with the speakers and all the logistics on stage. One of the cool things here is we had a lot of engagement with customers and some great customer stories. And so this is just making sure that we’re synced up with the customers and it all works on a big stage with an audience of 5,000 people.

9-10 a.m. | Conf keynote

My keynote went well. I was super excited. It was great to be on stage and communicating. And we got a lot of really positive feedback. I think everybody’s craving that in-person experience. You’re in an arena, and it’s a big venue with a lot of lights and complexity, so it’s a holistic experience.

10:15-10:45 a.m. | Press conference

We immediately went from the main stage keynote out to the press conference. And we had 15 in-person media, and then we had a virtual version last week. It was a Q&A.

11:30 a.m.-12 p.m. | Lunch

The lunch was with some internal Splunk employees. The other mission that I’m on is to meet more of the employee base. I’ve only been here for two months, we had a lot of employees travel for the event and it was also a way for me to connect with more people.

12-1 p.m. | Customer meeting

This was with one of our larger customers in financial services, so really understanding their journey, exploring how they’re using the product and the customer outcomes we’re providing.

1-2 p.m. | Splunk studio interview with Daniel Newman

I went immediately from there to an interview with an analyst that was livestreamed on LinkedIn. And then it got publicized broadly across social media. He’s super interesting, a research analyst who covers tech.

2-2:30 p.m. | Gartner meeting

Then we went to meet the critical Gartner analysts that we work with that cover both security and observability. Those are people I had not had the opportunity to engage with, so it’s great to understand how they’re thinking about the market and what’s happening.

3-4 p.m. | Global partner summit keynote

I went immediately from there to our Partner Summit. We bring in our top partners globally at our user conference, and I keynoted that event as well. So literally walk out onstage, and I think we seated for 1,200 partners here for GPS. You just kind of walk out and do that.

4-5 p.m. | Customer meeting

From there I went to another customer meeting. This was a company in the consumer products world.

5-5:30 p.m. | PLTFRM Visit

We have this cool show floor where partners of Splunk bring their technologies and meet customers. In addition, we had something different this year, what we’re calling PLTFRM. This was a new cultural experience, allowing people to engage with art and storytelling around diversity and inclusion. One of my personal passions and hobbies is I’m a big art collector and a supporter of the arts community.

We had some interesting young up-and-coming artists from the Bay area, a couple from Oakland and one from LA. That’s a little crossover to my personal life.

5:30-6:30 p.m. | Investor cocktail hour

We had sell-side analysts here joining us. I think we had roughly 20, maybe 25 to 30.

They just swarm you [laughs]. I’m the new guy, so there’s a lot of these analysts that cover the company that I have not yet met. We’ve done one earnings call, and that was four weeks ago. In that process, I obviously met a lot of these analysts on our callbacks, but it’s very different from actually meeting somebody in person. The interesting thing for me there is that it gives me an opportunity to hear what they think we should be doing in terms of a better story for investors, what they’re hearing from the investment community, how we can be more engaged and help them tell the story around Splunk.

7:30-9:30 p.m. | McLaren mixer

Then we had a mixer that had our board, customers and then the McLaren team. Splunk is a sponsor of McLaren and their F1 team. They have a prominent location on our show floor, they have one of their cars here. And we hosted their team along with all these customers and the board. It’s fun.


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