Gelsinger_informal6How does one have a great family life and success in a career?  Pat Gelsinger, a married father of four and CEO of VMware, a $4.6 billion Silicon Valley technology company, suggests that faith is the key ingredient.  In fact, he wrote two books on the subject.

Career Background

Gelsinger has a storied business career.  In 1979, at the age of 18 he was recruited by Intel from a 2-year technical school in Pennsylvania.  He joined Intel as a technician in quality assurance and quickly advanced.  While working full-time, he used Intel’s college tuition reimbursement program to complete his BSEE at Santa Clara and went on to Stanford where he earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science.  At age 31, he was appointed the company’s youngest Vice President and a few years later as its first Chief Technology Officer.

At Intel he worked on the 8088, the 80186, and 80286 processors, became one of the critical engineers on the 80386 and was architect and design manager on the 80486 which provided the processing power needed for the personal computer revolution through the 1980s into the 1990s. He went on to leadership roles in almost every Intel processor since then (486DX2, Pentium, PentiumPro, Pentium II, III, IV, Nehalem, etc.).  Gelsinger worked at Intel for 30 years as one of its top executives.  In 2010 he was recruited to work as the Chief Operating Officer at EMC located in the Boston Area.  And in the fall of 2012 he came back to Silicon Valley to join VMware as its CEO.

Faith Background

Gelsinger grew up in a church going family, but it wasn’t until he came to Silicon Valley in 1980 that his faith became real.  He started attending a Biblically-based church and engaged in a small group Bible study.  Gelsinger says that he was particularly convicted by Revelation 3:15 and 16, which reads:

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

He did not want to be “lukewarm.”  From that point forward, Gelsinger says, “I was on fire for God and truly began my faith journey.”

A Crisis of Faith

Shortly after committing to God, however, Gelsinger had a crisis of faith.  He was torn between continuing with his business career and going into full-time, vocational ministry.  Just when he was at the point of deciding to take the path into vocational ministry, God set before him a Bible verse, Colossians 3:23, which changed his decision.

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. (Colossians 3:23)

Gelsinger realized that his work could become his ministry and decided to stay on his career path in business.  As a business leader living out his faith every day, he realized that had the opportunity both to deepen his faith as he confronts serious issues in business, and also positively influence others.  He remarks,

At every phase of my career I’ve always said, “Okay, now I’m in the next phase of my full-time ministry.”  I like to think I have a congregation of 13,300 today as CEO of VMware.  It’s not Menlo Park Presbyterian Church or Reality Christian Church.  It’s VMware, and that’s the church that God has given me to be a minister to, and be a steward.

Balancing Faith, Family and Work

So how does one balance the needs of family and work and stay true to one’s faith?  Gelsinger developed a set of guidelines which he described in his first book, Balancing your Family, Faith & Work, published in 2003 and expands in his 2008 book titled The Juggling Act:  Bringing Balance to Faith, Family, and Work.

Gelsinger emphasizes the importance of having a personal mission statement.  The mission statement comprises three elements:

  • Mission —  a succinct statement on who you want to be as a person
  • Values – the principles by which you want to live, and
  • Goals – what you want to accomplish.

To the mission statement, Gelsinger offers a way to prioritize one’s use of time.

  1. Prioritize God — “Create a unique relationship between yourself and God that is consistently reinforced by the way you use your time to remain in dialogue and relationship with Him. Choose routine areas of your life to remind and encourage you.  Have daily devotion time with God.”
  2. Prioritize Family — “Establish your family relationships in such a manner that other factors do not squeeze out that precious family time. Put clear boundaries in place and be prepared to make tradeoffs such as those between work and family that will be clear evidence of where your priorities truly reside.”
  3. Work Hard — “Be a great employee.  Realize that you are not working for your boss, your president or your company. Instead, you are working for God. Recognize that He is the singular source of our ultimate reward.  Look past anything that might distract you from being a great employee.”

Gelsinger recognizes that it is not easy to keep one’s priorities in balance.  For balance and accountability, Gelsinger emphasizes getting a mentor.  Today he has two mentors with whom he meets regularly.  And, as a way to give back, he mentors others as well.


Pat Gelsinger will be the keynote speaker at the 20th annual Silicon Valley Prayer Breakfast on March 28, 2014.  For more information, see Silicon Valley Prayer Breakfast.