Earlier this year, IBM Corp. acquired the firm XIV and made its president, Jim Sullivan ’84, vice president of worldwide sales and operations for IBM XIV Storage System – the largest information technology storage manufacturer in the world. Before serving as XIV president, Sullivan had run sales, mar-keting, and global services. The company is based in Boston and has engineering operations in Tel Aviv.
“When you plug into Yahoo or Google, you are going into a large bank of servers, and attached to the server are storage boxes,” the alum says. “They have hundreds of terabytes (one terabyte is one trillion bytes) of storage to retain all the information.” The company’s clients include banks, airlines, universities, and major corporations.
After graduating from Boston College with a BFA in English, Sullivan joined EMC Corp. At that time it had about 100 employees; today it has 30,000. It was a start-up focusing on computer memory cards before becoming a computer storage firm. With the millions of emails people fail to delete, storage has become the fastest growing aspect in information technology, Sullivan explains, noting, “We pioneered the business.”
He had been with EMC for 13 years and says he “got into the right place at the right time.” After boosting the firm’s sales growth by triple digits, Sullivan left EMC in 2000 as senior vice president of sales. He then became CEO of the software services company CentrePath, Inc. Sullivan helped the company raise more than $10 million in annual revenues. No surprise, then, that he is known in the industry for his ability to put companies into a position for growth. While at CentrePath, Sullivan was on the board of two technology start-ups that also led to acquisitions: APPIQ, which was sold in 2006 to Hewlett Packard, and Diligent, which was sold to IBM in 2008.
So how does an English major find his way to becoming a high-tech entrepreneur? It’s not such a stretch, Sullivan maintains. “I acquired my love for English and reading at Gilmour,” he says. “Communications skills are important for business sales, marketing, and management.”
As a dorm student at Gilmour, Sullivan claims, the structured study halls and access to help with studies taught him to develop the right work ethic. He believes that Gilmour prepared him well for Boston College, adding, “I actually found Boston College easier than Gilmour.”
A board member of Boston College’s Technology Council, Jim Sullivan is part of the Young Presidents’ Organization, which promotes personal and professional growth in business leaders. He and his wife Mary and their children Calley, Peter, and Sean spend time each year volunteering for Homes for Hope, working with other families to build homes in Ensenada, Mexico, for the homeless. “It is an incredible experience,” he says.
Sullivan coaches soccer and baseball for his children’s teams, and the family visits Vermont in the winter to snowboard. They also enjoy mountain biking, cross country skiing, and fishing. “We are an outdoorsy family,” he says. “It is a way to stay grounded as a family and to get away from all of the distractions of a big city.”
In his career, Jim evokes the kind of leadership that spurs his team to be successful by doing an excellent job and working hard. He advocates a balance between work and family and ascribes to the importance of having a passion for what you do while making sure “one thing does not outstrip the others.”