I ran across this recent article in the SF Business Times and thought I would share it along with my thoughts. The article highlights VMware’s CEO Pat Gelsinger as one of the most admired CEO’s and how he helped right the VMware ship adrift in stormy seas during his tenure. You can read the article yourself but I thought I would share a few highlights from the article and a bit of Pat’s background I found out through my own research:
- He grew up in rural Pennsylvania and worked on the family farm raising dairy cows, pigs, soybeans and sorghum. He expected that he would follow in his father’s footsteps as a farmer. An early interest in technology changed his career forever.
- By age 18 he had an associate degree from Lincoln Tech and then headed out to Silicon Valley to work for Intel as a quality control technician. He soon discovered he wanted to be on the other side as an engineer and earned his electrical engineering degrees at Santa Clara University while working at Intel.
- He worked at Intel for 30 years (1979-2009) initially as a technician and chip architect, he worked on the 386 processor (and wrote a book on it) and rose up to be the chief architect for the 486 processor. He then worked his way up the ladder to become Intel’s 1st CTO (2005-2009), he was also Sr. VP & GM for Intel’s Digital Enterprise Group.
- He worked as President and COO at EMC until August 2012 when he was introduced as VMware’s new CEO at VMworld and took over the role from Paul Maritz. At the time VMware was struggling and threatened by cloud storage and needed to find the right path to better compete.
- He helped create a winning strategy by shifting VMware’s focus to the cloud and forming key partnerships with major cloud players. He also helped navigate the Dell deal and ensure VMware’s independence all while going through a tough period in his personal life while his son battled cancer (he beat it!).
- He’s a very spiritual person with a strong Christian faith who preaches and does a lot of charitable work. He has also written a few books which includes The Juggling Act: Bringing Balance to Your Faith, Family, and Work (2008). His favorite bible verse and life motto is Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
- He is a very charitable person and gives away almost 50% of his gross income to charity a big part of which goes to helping children in impoverished nations go to school, he also splurges a little on himself and owns a BMW i8 which is one sweet ride.
From my viewpoint I can’t think of a better person to lead VMware into the future, VMware has adapted to the ever changing IT landscape pretty well and it’s a testament to their leadership that they have made the changes necessary to stay relevant. It’s fairly unusual to have a CEO of a big company that has a deep technical background, many CEO’s are more your stereotypical executive business types. I think Pat’s management style of being a blue collar CEO who is very hands-on and deeply entrenched in the software that VMware develops is part of the reason they continue to be successful at what they do.
It’s readily apparent that he is very passionate and intense about what he does and his success over the years rising all the way to the top position at VMware is a testament to all his hard work and strong faith that made it possible. One of my favorite stories of his and how he was first introduced to VMware, he and Mendel Rosenblum (VMware co-founder) were back stage at a Intel developer conference the day after the very first vMotion and how Mendel was so excited and they sat there brainstorming use cases for it.
On a personal note I’ve met Pat several times at VMworld, mainly at vExpert events were he has appeared at. He is easily approachable, willing to talk to anyone, very laid-back and obviously a geek at heart like myself. I really like his casual, easy-going approach to things even in keynotes which is in sharp contrast to Paul Maritz who seemed very stiff and formal. His humanitarian work is truly inspiring as it shows he truly cares about those that are less fortunate. In one week he went from the main stage at VMworld 2017 speaking to thousands about technology to Kenya to help children and families in need.
I’ve always admired Pat Gelsinger, he’s a brilliant technologist, a wonderful leader, and an incredible person and VMware is very lucky to have him at the helm. Thanks Pat for all you do for the virtualization community and for the entire world, you are an inspiration to us all.