Pat Gelsinger: Faster Chips, More Opportunity?

Pat Gelsinger

Pat Gelsinger is general manager of the Digital Enterprise Group and senior vice president of the Intel Corporation. The Digital Enterprise Group is the largest business group for Intel with more than $20billion of revenue responsibility. His group is responsible for all client, server, storage, and communications products that Intel sells to business customers. This group is also responsible for much of the Intel semiconductor design and development including its Pentium™, Core™, vPro™, Xeon™, and Itanium2™ product lines.

In his career at Intel, he has managed the development of the 80486 and Pentium Pro and many other microprocessors. In 1990, PC Magazine voted him “Person of the Year.” His promotion to group vice president at age 32 made him the youngest vice president in the history of the company. He was Intel’s first-ever chief technology officer. At age 40, he became a senior vice president and is now responsible for over half of Intel’s revenue.

Ron Smith, the man who interviewed him for his first job at Intel wrote this description of Pat: “Smart, arrogant, aggressive — he’ll fit right in.” This determination has allowed him to excel in his career but it often caused him to neglect his family. After several “wake-up calls,” Pat realized he needed to bring some balance to his life. To think through the issues, he wrote a book titled Balancing Family, Faith, and Work.

Pat has also authored more than 20 technical publications. He holds six technical patents. He has three degrees in electrical engineering; an A.A. degree from Lincoln Technical Institute; a B.S. from Santa Clara University; and an M.S. from Stanford University.

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Technology Progress

Ethix: Some people say they are not yet using the capability they already have in their computers and mobile devices, and yet Intel continues to roll out faster chips every year. How do you respond to people who say, “We really don’t need any more?”

Patrick Gelsinger: I have been answering that question for just about 30 years. It started when I was working on the 386, our first 32 bit chip. At that time, 32 bits was for mainframes and minicomputers, and some people’s response was, “Who needs a chip that goes 16 mega hertz and 32 bits for minis and mainframes? We will never need that much memory.”

To some degree the answer is “build it and they will come,” because software follows hardware. Imagine if you were a programmer and I asked you to create a piece of software for hardware that has not been invented yet. You would say, “I can’t do that. I have to run it, I have to test it, I have to experiment with it, and so on.” So when we produce a new, more powerful chip, we create this vacuum, where hardware capability allows for new software applications. People innovate around this new hardware, and then all sudden we see these leaps of capability. We went from black-and-white PCs to color PCs. We went to media PCs and now we go to 3D PCs and every time we create a big enough gap, we spawn a new generation of innovation.

Moore’s Law

In a 1965 paper, Gordon Moore stated that the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on a chip will double every 18 months. This means, among other things, that the performance of a chip, and hence the computer that contains it, will double every 18 months while holding the same price. This is why that computer you buy today will be available at lower price and with more capability next year, and why computer chips of the same capability as those in large expensive computers a decade ago now find their way into inexpensive mobile devices.

So all of this is based on Moore’s Law, right?

It is at the heart of what we do.

Now, I remember back in the early ‘80s when I was told by really good researchers that Moore’s Law had about five years to go and then we would run into physical limits. Here we are 25 years later and Moore’s law is still valid. How do you account for this?

Not too long after I joined Intel, we thought that one micron was the smallest size we could work with. Then we thought that probably 100 nanometers was the limit and now we see that 10 nanometers looks to be really hard. So we’ve always had about 10 years of visibility. Today we are at 65 nanometers, and just ramping 45. In research, Intel has the core development for 22 and 1517 and 10 underway. While 10 nanometers looks really hard today, we believe we will get there. Creating new technology is like driving down the road on a foggy night — where I can only see 100 yards in front of me. But when I have gone 10 more yards, I can see another 10 yards in front. As we go through technology, each generation builds on the technologies that we are inventing that give us a little bit more insight how to go a little bit further down the road.

Nanometer: a billionth of a meter. To get an idea how small that is, a typical germ is about 1,000 nanometers and a hair is about 50,000 nanometers thick.

FLOPS is a term for the speed of carrying out scientific calculations (literally, “floating point operations”). It refers to the number of these calculations that can be done in a second (FLoating point OPerations per Second).

In the late 1970s, the Cray supercomputer was capable of over 100 million calculations per second (100 megaflops) at a cost of about $10 million. Here are the terms for higher calculation speeds:

1 gigaflops (one billion flops) = 1,000 megaflops
1 terraflops (one trillion flops) = 1,000 gigaflops
1 petaflops (one quadrillion flops) = 1,000 terraflops

So, are you saying Moore’s law is not going to end at all?

I always say that there is no end in sight. In September, I had Gordon Moore with me on stage at our Intel developer forum. He said he had thought the law named for him was dead about 20 years ago.

And when we get together with him and talk about what we were doing to solve this problem and that problem, he is as amazed as anybody. He had no dream that it could go on this long and here we see at least 10, 15 years in front of us yet, where it doesn’t end.

Well, Moore’s law is not a physical law. It seems to be more of an innovation goal.

Yes, it’s not a law of physics. It’s been more a statement of technology progress projected forward, and now in many ways we have actually made it a self-fulfilling prophecy because we drive our innovations with it as a guidepost. We know as long as we stay on that path, that we are setting the pace for innovation for the industry and staying on the edge of technology capabilities.

Technology Impact for Users

In the last 10 to 15 years, we have seen an incredible transformation of business due to this technology. I think about the way you carried on business in the car on the way from the airport to our meeting. It wasn’t that long ago than none of that would have been possible. [When I picked Pat up at the airport, he said he had some business to do on the way to the interview. Pat clarified a presentation with two of his staff using his cell phone while working through and updating PowerPoint presentations for the next day. It continued all the way to the meeting place at 8:30 p.m.]

No laptop, no cell phone, nothing, right.

So, are we done with this transformation of business due to technological change?

A dime sits on a wafer of processors; each processor contains 410 million transistors.
A dime sits on a wafer of processors; each processor contains 410 million transistors.

I think we are still getting started. We are trying to make a piece of Intel technology part of every human on earth and in every modality of life: working, learning, resting, and playing. This is 24/7 [24 hours per day, seven days per week], permanently connecting every human on the planet through the global Internet. Now if you take that definition, we are probably 3 or 4 percent of the way done. Today there are entire modalities of life that we have yet to crack, like personalized health care, having global permanent high bandwidth connectivity, being able to have personalized user interfaces, where the computer adapts to you and not you to the computer, being able to make technology an integrated part of your life as you walk into your home at night, as opposed to something that you go to and do in the study. These problems are still in front of us. We have probably 20, 30, or 40 years of innovation until we finish just this part of the agenda.

Addressing Unsolved Problems

We have talked about the chip, Moore’s law, and personal impact of technology over the next 10 years. What other impact of this technology do you see?

As we deliver more computing power, we will solve problems that have never been solved before. Some have been identified and are referred to as the grand challenge problems of the planet. These include gaining better insight into climate change, weather forecasting, fluid dynamics simulations, gaining more understanding in biological systems, electrical systems, geological systems, and so forth. It also includes what has been called artificial intelligence applications such as recognizing faces, speech, etc.

We intend to build 10 petaflop machines in the next couple of years for the highest-end computers. In 1999, we finally crossed the teraflops boundary in our supercomputers, and we expect to put that in everybody’s hands through the PC in the next 10 years.

The first supercomputer that I was involved with was the Cray-1, and it had a capability on 155 megaflops! We thought that was incredible in the early 1980s.

Yes. Each step allows you to open the door to start solving problems you could never solve before. But it isn’t just the raw speed of calculations. Why can’t computers do good speech recognition? Part of it is that people don’t do very good speech recognition. But we have not given the computer many of the tools that humans have. We give a computer one ear, while humans have two ears. Humans also read lips and understand gestures and inflections, where we have not given the computer that input. As we reproduce multimode input in computers with human interfaces, we believe we can make significant progress in these unsolved problems.

People innovate around this new hardware, and then all of a sudden we see these leaps of capability.

Medical Applications

As another example, we will also be able to start solving some of the hard health care problems — the technical ones not the political ones! We are talking about personalizing the instrumentation of health care. When you go to the doctor, he or she won’t take your pulse and your blood pressure. This is a very inaccurate procedure. It might be high right when you walk in because you had a hard time finding a parking lot, you were 10 minutes late for the appointment, or you had some level of anxiety. Rather, you would give the doctor a full record of your pulse everyday of the week, every minute of the day, since you were last there. The doctor would be able to see trends and distributions. The doctor might even be able to see your caloric intake everyday and your exercise everyday. All those things will be tracked, monitored, and plotted against the world’s medical data.

So big brother is your doctor?

The global Internet becomes the medical resource for the planet and some of this will be solved in the next 10, 20 years using the technologies we are building.

Small Business

We have talked about big scientific problems, and health care problems. What difference might this make to a small business?

One of my favorite cartoons shows a picture of a dog sitting at a computer terminal and the caption reads, “They don’t know you’re dog on the net.” On the Internet you can’t tell whether a company is big or small. You might be a very small company with the manufacturing outsourced to China. Maybe design outsourced to Taiwan, with customer support in India. The company could even have supply-chain management outsourced and use as the real face to the customer. So a tiny company can look like a large company using the entire technological infrastructure that’s global. The company can have global reach as well.

India celebrates Gandhi and their day of freedom, when India became an independent nation. But maybe the biggest event in India’s history is when the first fiber optic cable connected them to the Internet.

Large Business

Let’s take one more look at the business angle of technology. When we look at a company like Wal-Mart, we see a company built on technology. Its supply chain, its outsourcing, its inventory management, and its distribution processes are all built on technology developed over the past 15 years. Are you willing to hazard a guess at what the next generation technologies might do for the further transformation of companies like Wal-Mart or a new competitor yet to appear?

Imagine a few breakthroughs that aren’t too hard to envision: electronic identity, fine grained location awareness and personalized medicine. Next time you go to the store with your personal computer/communicator (a combination of PC and cell-phone functionality) you have your shopping list in hand electronically. You walk in the store and your phone guides you to the aisles for the things on the list — rather than aimlessly walking around the store. It is also informing you of the specials for those, or similar items, and carrying your personalized coupons/specials with it.

As you collect items from the shelves Wal-Mart is updating both inventory and buyer behavior information in real-time and advising you of specials and related items Wal-Mart knows you are normally interested in. As you got the pharmacy section it is verifying your prescriptions for validity assuring no drugs would have adverse interactions. It notices an update to your personalized medicine regime and real-time verifies with your physician and adjusts your medicines as you arrive to the pharmacy. Finally, as you depart the store you don’t exchange cash, you simply verify with fingerprint and personal computer/communicator manages the adjustment to your financial institution. All of this was done while preserving your security and protection of your personal identity.

Scenarios like this are certainly possible in this time frame with the progress in computing and communications.

Technology and the Poor

I have spent the last two summers in the Central African Republic, one of the 10 poorest countries in the world. When you talk about globalization and technology impacting the world, there remains a part of the world that is untouched. Half of the people in the world have yet to receive their first phone call. So how do you think about the technology reaching this part of the world?

Well, I see that our job at Intel is to help democratize technology. There was a time when there were only six mainframe computers, then a time when there were only mainframe computers. Now there are almost 300 million personal sold computers a year and about 600 million cell phones a year being produced and sold. We will keep growing these numbers as we get more efficient in mass-production, decrease the cost, and familiarize the users.

There will be a day not far from now when that Central African country will be connected though it may not be in the next couple of years. We have some projects that will help. One of those we call the classmate PC, where we are building a notebook PC that costs about $200. It is specifically designed to reach into Third World emerging markets and be the educational vehicle for the next generation. We have signed business deals in Russia, Nigeria, Pakistan, some of the South American countries, and Mexico to start to introduce technology into some of the world’s poorest and weakest infrastructures. We have global NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] who are participating in those programs. Governments, wealthy or poor, have invested in them, making it possible to touch very poor people.

A book that I read recently, The Bottom Billion, describes about a billion people in the world from 58 countries that have gone backward economically during the past 15 years while the rest of the world has moved forward. How do you reach these people?

I am not immediately optimistic about impacting the bottom billion, but I am enthusiastic about reaching the next billion. I am very optimistic about touching others who have not yet been reached by technology, and then we will be in a better position over the next 20 to 30 years to reach the bottom billion. Currently we are focusing on reaching the next tier, the three billion that are more naturally in line to use the technology.

Dealing With Downsides

Technology creates new opportunities, but it also has a downside. For example, 20 years ago if you traveled, you wouldn’t expect to get into a hotel and spend half of the night doing your email. Now that is expected. How does Intel think about the impacts of these and other downsides of the technology?

As a company, we take two very distinct views of that. The Internet is neither inherently good nor bad. Its usages make it either good or bad. A doctor in Central Africa may use the Internet to reach a specialist in New York City and could have the world’s best information available to diagnose the local patients. This is unquestionably good. A 10-year-old boy in the privacy of his bedroom could look at pornography in another continent using the same Internet. This is unquestionably bad. So we know there is good and bad usage associated with it. This means we must participate in the policies associated with the usage of technology, and thus we participate in many, many policy boards, everything from FCC to the national medical bureaus and so on, to really be a voice in the usage of technology.

The technology also enables electronic eavesdropping, and this is a problem with privacy issues. What does Intel do in addressing issues of privacy?

Our customer is the consumer of the product and we take issues like security and privacy very seriously. We do not monitor our own employees outside of areas where we must avoid violations of the law, and we as a company are liable. We go to great lengths not to enable security back-door opportunities. We make sure that we give people a choice in who has access to which information. That should be the customer’s choice and it requires them to be informed and knowledgeable about these choices.

Inside Intel

There was a time in 1994 when a problem was discovered in the Pentium chip. Intel first downplayed the importance of the error, but under public pressure, ended up creating a fix at a very high cost. Could you tell me about the thinking that went into that decision?

Intel is an engineering data-driven company, and we were able to prove that this failure was extremely rare and that the consequences of it were extremely modest. But unquestionably it was an error. You could demonstrate it would generate the wrong answer by a very small amount in certain situations. It became a demonstration of how the Internet works and the consumerization of our technology.

All of a sudden, based on the number of people asking questions on the Internet about it around the world, we recognized we were not the company we thought we were. Our customer wasn’t IBM, Compaq, or HP. Our customer was the end-user. And now we were saying to the world, “I‘m sorry. I don’t know if I need that or not, but if you are agreeing that it is wrong, we’ll fix it.”

It led to us realizing that we had transitioned from being a technology company to becoming a consumer-technology company, and that has created profound changes inside the company. The product recall was big; there was $700 million worth of product, replacements and so on. But it was a fundamental change of the corporate understanding because we never used to publish the errata in our chips. After that, we began publishing the errata in our chips: here is what works and here is what doesn’t work. For our real customer, it wasn’t the place that you bought the computer, or the company that manufactured the computer, it was the ingredients inside. Literally, we have thousands of people who help to our validate chips.

Distributed Work at Intel

As the technology has led to mobile devices and mobility for all workers, how has this affected the way your own teams work together? Do they still come to the office?

Well, it certainly has created distributed working teams. Everybody is connected. Every once in a while I go into a meeting and I will see somebody who I have interacted with through video, email, instant messaging, and bridge calls, and I will be forced to ask the question, “Do you work at this location?” And it does enable more flexibility in telecommuting and working “off hours.”

If I go back and forth with somebody in email more than four or five times on the same topic, I stop.

It has also created the globalization of our workforce, distributing teams around the world. It allows teams across the globe to work on a problem together. When Europe is ending work in the evening, we can pick up the work here in the U.S., and when evening comes here, they pick up the work in Asia. This puts a whole level of new discipline on us because you can work 7/24. Now you have to have personal discipline and know how to pass it on and when to turn it off, probably far more than ever before in the field.

One author has argued that this will lead to not only the fragmentation of location where people are working, but it could lead to the fragmentation of the work itself, and so the limit is that everyone is working for himself, performing tasks on various projects around the world. What do you think about that as a vision?

I think it is nonsense. There are lots of industries where you see this kind of thing in the formation of teams, like in the construction industry or making movies. But generally, the leader of the project hires people he is familiar with, people he has worked with before. Essentially these people are a part of his team. So there is still something about relationships that is important.

For our big chip projects, we actually work to minimize the number of sites involved. It is not one, but it is not people everywhere. Why? Because the interaction in the team is so critical. They don’t get together one day and call and talk about the new chip design. They will talk about it maybe in 23 meetings through the day, ad hoc, informal meetings that help communicate the ongoing basis, the trade offs, the optimizations that are going on in the use of projects and I think that sense of team, which is founded on trust the relationships. It is as important today as it ever has been.

Roles for Technology in Communications

That suggests that when you look at the tools for communication, things like instant messaging, email, video teleconferencing, and face to face, we should recognize they are not the same. Have you thought about the model for how they fit together in support of a team?

We have. We were site rich for a while, meaning that we had engineers from any site contributing and helping our projects and we actually found it to be quite inefficient. Now we focus much more on managing team size. These projects do get very complicated. We work to have everything online, in databases, so that there truly can be shared workspaces. Then we focus on regular face-to-face interactions. Instant messaging to someone that you know well is a very powerful form of communication. A six-word instant message to a person that you don’t have a relationship with is a very inadequate form of communication. IM and other more technologically oriented communication are only efficient when they are built on top of good teams and good relationships.

I have also noticed that email works really well resolving some kinds of problems and not so well for others. Do you have guidelines for how you use email?

I have a personal rule. If I go back and forth with somebody in email more than four or five times on the same topic, I stop. No more. We get on the phone, or we get together face to face. I have learned that if you don’t resolve something quickly, by the time you get together one of you is mad at the other person. You think they are incompetent since they could not understand the most straightforward thing that you were describing. But it is because of the medium, and it is important to account for this.

Personal Reflections

How old were you when you were picked to run the 486 design project?

I was 25. I was in my master’s program when I began working on the 486 and then I was working on my Ph.D. when I was put in charge of 486 project.

How did you feel about being able to run that project?

I felt fabulous and terrified. Fabulous because I was just absolutely thrilled about what we were going to accomplish with the chip. But I was 25 years old, and people who were 50 years old were working for me and had decades more experience than I had. I was overwhelmed in many respects and humbled by the choice.

You got into the chip-design area through the back door as a quality engineer. You had an idea of integrating quality into the design rather than looking at quality after the design. But once you became responsible for the design, did you maintain the quality agenda?

Yes, I did. I was true to my mission. The 386 was the first chip in the industry that used formal built-in self-test techniques for a major commercial microprocessor. All of these techniques are commonplace today, but at the time in 1982 when we began working on it, it was seen as wasted area which could have been used for good functional purposes and not just for testing. So, it was really quite an uphill battle at that time, but some of my first published works were in the area of built-in self-test technology.


You have a number of patents. Which one are you most proud of and what can you say about it in lay language.

Well, the one I’m most proud of is my first patent because that made me an inventor. Through the patent, the U.S. government formally told me, “We agree, you’re an inventor.” So it was a very proud moment. When you get your second, third, and fourth patent, you are still an inventor, but the first one to me was very profound.

It was an optimized carry-look-ahead technique for a CMOS microprocessor, when at that time everybody did carry-look-ahead in a structured fashion. When you are adding two large numbers, many things can be done at the same time. But the thing you have to wait for is the carries in the addition to ripple through the calculation. This becomes the single factor to slow down the performance. What I realized was that in a CMOS design to have an optimized network you needed the irregular structure because you always had the critical path that was getting a carry out at the last bit. When you have a “fat grouping” in the middle and small grouping at the ends, you would actually save about two gate delays of your normal carry-look-ahead optimizations. You know, it is one of those common things that a chip does and this little thing makes a big difference. I was very excited about this.

What technical work at Intel are you the most pleased with?

The achievement I am most proud of is the 486. I was architect number one, and I was the guy who took it into production. There was a very detailed analysis that was done by a professor at Kyoto, University of Japan. There was a whole generation of new microprocessors that came out at that time, but he declared that the 486 was the most efficient, elegant design of them all. I have kept this article he wrote with his detailed analysis because that was “my baby.”

Become spectacular in your current role… prepare yourself for your next job.


How about the most satisfying non-technical achievement you have been involved with?

I still experience that on a regular basis. It’s when I see someone progress whom I have mentored. If I am able to help their career, being able to see them get through the next step to Intel vice president or Intel fellow, that by far is the most satisfying to me.

How do you get engaged with the people you mentor?

It’s a great question. Andy Grove reached down over 20 years ago and picked me and gave me opportunity, and I have often asked myself, “Am I reaching down and picking those people, influencing them, and helping them find an opportunity?” So I have a number of people that I mentor. I certainly make myself available to a lot of people for counseling, feedback, and career guidance and then really work hard to be seen as just another guy, somebody people feel they can approach and talk to and interact with.

Do you think that’s the perception of people in your organization?

I am constantly amazed at how frightening I can be to people without even knowing it. I hear people say, “Pat said to do this,” when it was only a suggestion. I might have a little bit more experience than the other person, but I try to remind them where they have the expertise. I try to give advice with the caveat, “Don’t take what I said as the gospel, please!”

Gordon Moore
Gordon Moore

Being Mentored

Tell us about your own mentors.

I have had many, but Gordon Moore and Andy Grove are two very special mentors.

I sort of joke that in my 25 years of working with Andy Grove, he has complemented me six times. I write them down and preserve them! He is the most exacting, demanding human being I have ever interacted with. If there is a flaw, he will find it, and if there is a flaw somewhere that probably means that there are other flaws. Many times when I meet with Andy and have a mentoring session with him, it feels like going to the dentist without Novocain and getting a root canal. It is painful, hard, demanding, but he forces you to think deeply and at a level of clarity that just makes you better. He has forced me to answer questions like “What are your career goals, what are you I trying to do, where do you want to go?” It is this depth of analysis that caused me to think about the next five decades when all I was worried about was the next five months.

Gordon Moore is simply brilliant. He is the nicest billionaire that’s ever walked the face of the earth. I often have so much stuff going on with so many balls in the air, and I get easily distracted. I can hear him say, “Stay in the game, focus, concentrate.” Gordon had this uncanny ability to stay focused and to apply his full breadth of knowledge to the situation at hand. He would draw on a piece of information up here, or an experiment he did over there, an experience that he had 20 years ago. He really helped me focus on what is important and stay on task.

I consider Andy the great strategist in the industry, and I consider Gordon the greatest technologist in the industry.

Concern for Science Education

Are you concerned about the lack of talent in science and mathematics coming out of our school systems and what this will mean for our future?

I fear for the future of the United States. When you combine that weakening in education with our visa laws, I fear for the future of the nation. Many of the Silicon Valley startups are driven by foreign students who came to the U.S. to study. They were hungry, and didn’t know you “couldn’t do that.” As we get more comfortable, we will lose the desire for getting better in this area. In China over 50 percent of the politicians have engineering backgrounds. In the U.S., we have had 50 percent legal backgrounds. We are losing our ability to innovate in this country, because this innovation must build on a solid science and mathematics foundation.

What is Intel doing about this, and what are you doing about this?

Intel has an extraordinary policy related to education and technology. Intel invests in almost no philanthropic efforts that don’t fall into the category of education and technology. We invest in science clubs, fairs, national programs, and programs for science and technology education. The list goes on and on. We are active as a company, and I am active personally in the public debate. I have written papers, testified in Congress and been involved in things like our visa laws. I admit it sometimes feels like throwing peas in the ocean as we seem to be slipping further and further behind. The seeds we are sowing today are ones that will be the demise of our nation 20 to 30 years from now. The U.S. needs to become hungrier, and to recognize the foundational value of science and mathematics.

Living With the Frantic Pace

I understand you take a sabbatical every seven years. How does this work?

Every seven years we get an eight weeks’ sabbatical. So you have eight weeks, plus your normal vacation. Now I have four weeks a year so I would have a 12-week sabbatical. Next summer I will be on sabbatical for 12 weeks and I will disconnect, though I will still have a computer and I will still be on the Internet.

You will still be doing emails at midnight?

No, no definitely not. I will really disconnect from Intel. Somebody will replace me on my job, and I will definitely be out of it. I find that a vacation of less than two weeks may be good for family, but it doesn’t do anything for me. Working up to the vacation, you are too busy trying to prepare to be gone and get things wrapped up. Then you know that you are going to have this mountain of work when you return, so you are anxious before you return. And while you are gone, since you that mountain is there, you try to make sure that nothing goes too far astray. It doesn’t do you any good unless you have more than two weeks, at least for me. Somebody has to be acting for me because the business can’t live without somebody performing that role during a sabbatical. So for 12 weeks I am totally disconnected.

Do people who take these sabbaticals ever worry that they will find out they are replaceable and that they might not have a spot?

Well, the policy is they will have a job upon return. No guarantee it will be the same job, but you will have a job at your grade level or somewhat when you get back. The program really works out well. People love the program, they love the policy.

What value does Intel perceive from this program?

It is one of the companies most popular benefits programs. People at Intel work hard, sometimes too hard. It is one of those ways the company conveys in a unique and powerful way – you need to be refreshed as well, now get out of here and recharge.

Connection With the Family

You have struggled to balance your incredible workload, your family schedule, and your faith commitment. Tell us your secrets?

In other words you want me to condense my book into a few sentences! Well, in my book I talk about a handful of things. One of those is a mission statement. How do you know what to balance if you don’t know what you are trying to get done? So be deliberate, thoughtful, and purposeful about what you want in your life. Then write it down and use it as a guide and live against that in a disciplined life. I am not just talking about work life, but my whole life that encompasses my family and my faith.

Then you start asking some questions. How do you make sure that you are spending time with wife and kids? How do you contain your work life that can grow to consume all time available? I have a number of tools. I keep my travel charts, for example, to make sure I am home a planned amount of time. I have my weekly family times and all of those things that are just part of my schedule on a regular basis.

Then I talked about things like mentors, where people will help you be better and have those relationships in your life with people who aren’t too impressed by you, people who want to make you better in all areas of your life. So I talked about some of my work mentors, but I have some for family and faith as well. This becomes another accountability mechanism, because once I have told someone else that this is what I will do, then they have the right to question me. “Are you working till midnight every night, or going home and spending time with the family.

I find that a vacation of less than two weeks may be good for family, but it doesn’t do anything for me.

With my wife, I have developed a “scorecard” that helps keep track of these commitments. I discuss this in the book as well. I get 2 points for getting home before 5 p.m., 1 point for getting home before 6:15 p.m., and no points for getting home after 6:15 p.m. Weekend days away get minus 1 point. Vacation days don’t count unless I travel for business on one of the days, and then I get a minus 1 point. The net of this is, my wife and I can sit down and talk about how we are doing, not in general terms but in specifics. As with any job, there are bursts of work that need to be done, like in the 486 project where we worked into the night many times. But then I try to balance this with some time off. We call it “managing intensity.”

You can see I take this very seriously.

Career Goals

You stated that you had a goal some day of being president of Intel. Is that still your goal?


And what are you doing about it?

First, before setting a goal like that, I have to be comfortable that the goal might not come to pass. I believe I am perfectly happy, comfortable, and secure if it never happens. The minute it becomes an objective to pursue to satisfy my own ego, then all of my behaviors become wrong. That goal starts driving me to my own selfish purposes. Why would I want to be president of Intel? I think I can do it. I think I could be good at it.

Number two is to make myself good enough so that I could be in the role. I am close enough to the role that I get to play armchair quarterback almost daily. Is that how I would have handled that situation? Do I think Paul handled that one right? Or Craig or Andy before them? Would I have been able to make that comment in the meeting, and move the conversation from here to there? Would I be able to apply the skills to be able to do that in that situation? All of this is part of a drive to make myself better.

Is there also an element of doing the job that you are now doing well? I have seen some people who spend so much time working for the next job that they forget about what they are doing now.

I have said this thousands of times. I have two very simple rules for career progress: Number one is do a great job in whatever you are doing right now. If you hate your boss, you hate your job, you hate who you work with, it doesn’t matter, do a great job. Become spectacular in your current role, distinguished, outstanding, and above reproach. Number two, prepare yourself for your next job by developing skills, capabilities, training, reading, studying whatever it is in the current situation that would carry you for the next situation where you want to be.

You follow those two rules and in a crazy, turbulent, unpredictable industry like ours, and when you look back on it, it will truly be fabulous regardless of the title.