A few days later, he got a surprise call from Mr. Grove. The Hungarian-born executive, then Intel’s president who later wrote the management book “Only the Paranoid Survive,” had built a culture where lower-level employees were encouraged to challenge superiors if they could back up their positions. Mr. Grove began mentoring Mr. Gelsinger, a relationship that lasted three decades.
By 1986, Mr. Grove had convinced Mr. Gelsinger not to pursue a doctorate at Stanford University and instead made him, at age 24, the leader of a 100-person team designing Intel’s 80486 microprocessor. Mr. Gelsinger eventually earned eight patents, became Intel’s youngest vice president in 1992 and the first person with the title of chief technology officer in 2001.
His climb up Intel’s ladder was shaped by another priority: his faith.
Though raised in the mainstream United Church of Christ, Mr. Gelsinger said he didn’t really become a Christian until he attended the nondenominational church in Silicon Valley where he met Linda Fortune, who later became his wife. It was at that church in 1980 that he heard the minister quote Revelations.
After Mr. Gelsinger became a born-again Christian, he wrestled privately with whether to join the clergy. In a 2019 oral history conducted by the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., he said he eventually decided to become a “workplace minister,” where “you really view yourself as working for God as your C.E.O., even though you’re working for Intel.”
In the mid-2000s, Mr. Gelsinger’s footing within Intel shifted. Mr. Grove retired as board chairman in 2004. Another executive, Paul Otellini, was appointed chief executive in 2005. Mr. Gelsinger said he was a “dissonant voice” on Intel’s senior executive team.
Mr. Otellini pushed him to leave, Mr. Gelsinger said. (Mr. Otellini died in 2017.) In 2009, Mr. Gelsinger accepted an offer to become president and chief operating officer of EMC, a maker of data storage gear.
Departing Intel after 30 years as a company man hurt badly. “I was just so angry and emotional about the departure,” Mr. Gelsinger said.