Science & Technology

Mike Splinter ’72, MS’74

Courtesy of Mike Splinter

Taking Stock of Success

When Mike Splinter ’72, MS’74 (above at Rheinfall, Switzerland) joined the board of Nasdaq, Inc., known for its U.S. stock exchange, he predicted the company’s high-tech edge could be a game-changer for financial-market services. That was in 2008. Nine years later, he’s been elected chair of the board. Nasdaq technologies are now behind the business of more than 70 of the world’s stock exchanges. And the advent of innovations such as blockchain technology, which enhances the security of transactions, is proving Splinter’s prescience.

“Artificial intelligence and deep learning [a technology that provides advanced AI processing power] are going to be everywhere, but they’re going to be especially pronounced in the financial-services field,” he says. Splinter’s futurism follows a 40-year career at the nexus of business, engineering, and innovation.

After graduation, he took his UW degrees in electrical and computer engineering straight to a research center at Rockwell International. He then headed to Silicon Valley, where he was an executive at Intel, which became the epicenter of microchip technology during his tenure. Next up was high-tech equipment maker Applied Materials. After being named CEO in 2003, Splinter identified solar energy — particularly photovoltaic cells — as an area rich with opportunity. The Semiconductor Industry Association credits him with transforming the production of these cells from a “boutique industry to a meaningful source of renewable energy power to the world.” Splinter retired from Applied Materials in 2015 as chair and CEO, receiving an honorary doctorate from UW–Madison that same year.

This past February, Splinter’s peers honored him again, this time as a fellow of the National Academy of Engineering. Engineers who want to succeed in today’s team-based business world, Splinter says, need to understand how to relate to people, and “there’s no place better to learn those social skills than in college or out on the Union Terrace.”

Splinter serves on several boards, including the UW Foundation’s. He’s also a general partner in WISC Partners, an investment collective that supports Wisconsin-based startups with both funding and expertise.

Splinter shares his Silicon Valley experience to help these Midwestern businesses think big and stay competitive through constant reinvention. But the Horicon, Wisconsin, native also knows that Badger State entrepreneurs bring a unique edge to business: “There’s a kind of a naturalness about leadership style and people from Wisconsin,” he says.

Published in the Winter 2017 issue


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