Executive Feature, Interviews

VMware CEO: Join an Epic Team, Create Epic Products to Achieve Epic Things

pat gelsinger ceo vmware vmworld 16

The word “epic” is often used to describe something historically important, lasting and complex. However, when VMware CEO, Pat Gelsinger uses the adjective, he is also describing his over 24,000 employees and the collective mission they’re working for. Ironically, this is the word that his employees use to describe his leadership as well.

It’s no surprise, then, that Gelsinger has received a 99-percent approval rating and has been named the #1 Top CEO in 2019 among U.S. large companies. As a first-time #1 winner, jumping 77 spots from last year, Gelsinger has admittedly overcome a trying year — swooning stock prices, aggressive talent poaching and changing company structure — thanks, in part, to investing in company culture and keeping innovation front of mind.

We caught up with the software leader to dig into his big win, how he approaches hiring and recruiting, plus what keeps him 100-percent present with his family.

Glassdoor: Congratulations on the Top CEOs win. What does it mean to you to know that your employees have rated you so highly?

Pat Gelsinger: Of course I’m honored! Fostering an innovative company culture is paramount to us at VMware, especially now as we enter our next phase of growth. Ours is one of those rare work environments where our people understand they have an opportunity to transform the impossible into the essential. That translates directly to high employee satisfaction. The way our people believe in our mission and how they feel about the company – those are reflections of our culture. That’s incredibly inspiring to me personally, and it validates our spirit of innovation. Our culture is one of possibilities, where everyone is empowered, because together we are shaping the future of business in the digital world. If you think about it: we spend more of our discretionary time with our work families than we do our personal ones; it is important to me that our team enjoys that time we have together.

Glassdoor: One of a CEO’s primary responsibilities is to hire amazing leaders. What attributes do you look for in your leaders?

Pat Gelsinger: Naturally, we want the best and the brightest, but beyond that, I look for those who are insatiably curious and always eager to expand their horizons. We seek out people who are passionate and aligned with our company culture & values.

We put a big focus on attracting talented people who are willing to take on the hardest problems — the ones with a spirit to innovate like crazy and popularize our technologies. You also want leaders who can inspire and motivate, especially during times of transformation and change. This is important because the technology industry is advancing and transforming at an unprecedented pace.

It’s critical to have leaders who attract others, people who other great people want to work with. It’s also important to emphasize we expect leaders who share in our passion for building an inclusive culture, as that resonates with our values and it’s also smart business. We know our industry needs to do better, and systemic change starts at the top with our leadership driving accountability. I personally review progress against diversity and inclusion goals with my staff.

I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am today without hard work and perseverance to continuously learn and grow. — Pat Gelsinger

Glassdoor: When you interview candidates, what do you look for? 

Pat Gelsinger: At VMware, we strive to innovate in everything we do, and we seek candidates who share our passion and excitement for solving the most difficult problems for our customers, and want to drive the future of technology. We look for talent who want to reach their goals in a collaborative, thriving environment with shared values. We have an acronym for these shared values: EPIC2

  • Execution (do it together),
  • Passion (challenge the status quo),
  • Integrity (build trust),
  • Customers (make it possible),
  • and Community (give more).

At VMware, EPIC2 defines and guides our culture, and serves as an authentic reflection of what we stand for as individuals and as a community. We hire epic people, to join an epic team, to create epic products and achieve epic things. It’s a fun acronym that defines us well.

Glassdoor: When you look back over your past year as CEO, can you share how you have navigated a leadership mistake or challenge? 

Pat Gelsinger: In the last few years, VMware executed a number of strategic partnerships and acquisitions to accelerate our evolution: from virtualization vendor to strategic provider of the digital foundation that powers the apps, services and experiences that are transforming the world. We drove this evolution against a backdrop of changes to our parent company’s structure, which created some uncertainty around VMware’s ownership and future. This period was accentuated by a swoon in our stock price and aggressive pursuit of our talent by others. Candidly, it was a very challenging period. We successfully navigated that uncertainty by helping our employees stay focused and by continuing to execute on our unique vision – which they did superbly. We also reinforced to partners and customers that it was “business as usual,” which enabled us to remain focused on delivering on VMware’s differentiated innovation. Today, our software portfolio spans compute, cloud, networking & security, and digital workspace. We’re now well positioned to help our customers streamline their journey to become digital businesses, so they can deliver better experiences to their end customers and empower their employees to do their best work.

Glassdoor: Now for a few fun ones: What is your go-to productivity hack?

Pat Gelsinger: I’ve learned over the years that you have to take very disciplined and explicit steps to keep your life in balance. And you have to recognize that there are certain times when things get busy and you wind up out of balance — so you have to take steps to get back into balance next month. Say you have a big project coming up: you better take time to go out on a nice date with your partner, or meet for breakfast with your kids. Knowing that work demands ebb and flow over time, you have to put guardrails up in your life to build in those elements of balance.

Something I established with my wife years ago is a points system. I earn points if I leave the office at 5 pm, but points get subtracted if I work until 6:30pm. The net effect is that I’m more productive in my time at the office. It ensures that when I’m home, I’m 100% focused on being at home. Conversely, when I’m at work, I’m 100% focused on my work life.

I’m often asked, “What’s the best way to not get behind?” My answer is simple: Don’t let yourself be behind! I’m typically in the office by 6am and I clean out my inbox every morning to get to a single page of emails. I use those precious early-morning hours to review priorities and prepare for my day. Every time I do that, I start out on top of the day, with a handle on what’s coming. And it makes me far more productive throughout the day.

Glassdoor: What is your #1 job search tip? 

Pat Gelsinger: Don’t go it alone. For balance and accountability, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of having a mentor. It’s not easy to keep your own priorities in perspective. Also, look to your mentors to help identify the gaps in your knowledge, and then make an effort to fill them. You need to be prepared for the next role that you want to be in. Understanding where your weaknesses and strengths lie will enable you to do that.

Glassdoor: What is your personal motto?

Pat Gelsinger: My long-standing personal goal is to work on a piece of technology that touches every human on the planet in every modality of life. I recognize that’s audacious. But as technology touches more and more aspects of our daily lives, as a technologist you can see this personal goal becoming true. It’s happening right before our eyes!


Want to work with Pat Gelsinger at VMware? They’re hiring like crazy! Join the #1 CEO in the U.S. today!

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