After spending months interviewing potential candidates, Microsoft has finally named veteran insider Satya Nadella as the next CEO. Satya Nadella will be replacing the outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer, who announced his retirement last August. Satya Nadella becomes only the 3rd CEO in Microsoft’s 39 year old history. The list of executives Microsoft had their eyes on, included some of the well known names in the industry like, Nokia’s Stephen Elop, former head of Skype Tony Bates and Ford CEO Alan Mulally. There were also rumors that Microsoft was in talks with Google’s Sundar Pichai; but eventually they settled for an experienced insider from the company.
Who is Satya Nadella?
Satyanarayana Nadella (now known as Satya Nadella) was born in 1967, in the Guntur District of Hyderabad in India. His father, an IAS officer, was a special secretary to the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, sometime ago. Satya Nadella completed his early education at the Hyderabad Public School. According to Satya himself, during his childhood he had a passion for playing cricket. Well, we are not surprised at all. He even played for the school team. “I think playing cricket taught me more about working in teams and leadership that has stayed with me throughout my career” says Satya.
Satya Nadella completed his Electronics and Communications Engineering degree in 1988, with a first class, from the Manipal Institute of Technology. (Note: Some sources claim that he graduated from Mangalore University). MIT director Vinod V Thomas, who taught Satya 25 years ago, spoke to Times of India and he says, “I recall him as a sober and cool-headed student, not much into extra- or co-curricular activities.” Satya, then moved to the United States, where he completed his MS in Computer Science, and MBA.
He worked briefly with Sun Microsystems before joining Microsoft in 1992 at the age of 24. He is now 46 year old and has spent 22 years at Microsoft. Why did he choose Microsoft? “I am here for the same reason I think most people join Microsoft – to change the world through technology that empowers people to do amazing things. I know it can sound hyperbolic – and yet it’s true. We have done it, we’re doing it today, and we are the team that will do it again.” says Satya Nadella. He also says that “Many companies aspire to change the world. But very few have all the elements required: talent, resources and perseverance. Microsoft has proven that it has all three in abundance.”
When asked to define himself, Satya Nadella says “Like anyone else, a lot of what I do and how I think has been shaped by my family and my overall life experience. Many who know me say I am also defined by my curiosity and thirst for learning. I buy more books than I can finish. I sign up for more online courses than I can complete. I fundamentally believe that if you are not learning new things, you stop doing great and useful things. So family, curiosity and hunger for knowledge all define me.”
He was a Senior Vice President at Microsoft and back in 2011 he got promoted as the Head of Server and Tools Business at Microsoft, that focused on cloud computing and enterprise business. Satya Nadella who played a big role in improving Bing Search, has played a key role in bringing some of Microsoft’s most popular technologies, like database, Windows server and developer tools, to the cloud service, called Azure. He also helped Microsoft bring a cloud version of Microsoft Office to the cloud, Office 365, which is a fast growing product.
In the first interview (embedded below) he gave after taking up the CEO role, he says he is both “honored and humbled” to succeed Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer as the third CEO of Microsoft.
“I came here because I believed Microsoft was the best company in the world. I saw then how clearly we empower people to do magical things with our creations and ultimately make the world a better place. I knew there was no better company to join if I wanted to make a difference. This is the very same inspiration that continues to drive me today. It is an incredible honor for me to lead and serve this great company of ours. Steve (Ballmer) and Bill (Gates) have taken it from an idea to one of the greatest and most universally admired companies in the world.”- Satya says in his first email to the employees of Microsoft, after taking up the new role.
Speaking about the current challenges of Microsoft, Satya notes- “Our industry does not respect tradition – it only respects innovation,” He also says that “The opportunity ahead for Microsoft is vast, but to seize it, we must move faster, focus and continue to transform. I see a big part of my job as accelerating our ability to bring innovative products to our customers more quickly.”
“While we have seen great success, we are hungry to do more,” he notes. “This is a critical time for the industry and for Microsoft. Make no mistake, we are headed for greater places – as technology evolves and we evolve with and ahead of it. Our job is to ensure that Microsoft thrives in a mobile and cloud-first world.
“I’m a learner,” Nadella says. “I think the thing that I realized is, what excites me is that I’m learning something. I can learn something about some area. I can learn something from people. I can learn something from doing things differently. And I admire that in other people, too. I fundamentally believe that if you are not learning new things… you stop doing great and useful things. So family, curiosity and hunger for knowledge all define me.”
Satya Nadella believes that Microsoft has a great workforce. “One of the things that perhaps excites me the most is when I come across something at work, whether it’s somebody who’s really done a great feature in software, come up with a fantastic idea in pricing or done a great customer program, or just an approach to their job that is innovative or brought teams together – and I just, wow, I marvel every day at how people can excel – and that’s what really gets me going.” he says.
According to Microsoft, their new CEO finds relaxation by reading poetry, in all forms and by poets who are both Indian and American. “It’s like code,” Satya says. “You’re trying to take something that can be described in many, many sentences and pages of prose, but you can convert it into a couple lines of poetry and you still get the essence, so it’s that compression.” Indeed, he says, the best code is poetry.
He also enjoys watching Test cricket, “which is the longest form of any sport in the world,” with games that can go for days and days. “I love it,” he says. (Another reason to like him!) “There’s so many subplots in it, it’s like reading a Russian novel.”
In his email to Microsoft employees, Satya Nadella quotes Oscar Wilde – “we need to believe in the impossible and remove the improbable.”
“This starts with clarity of purpose and sense of mission that will lead us to imagine the impossible and deliver it. We need to prioritize innovation that is centered on our core value of empowering users and organizations to “do more.” We have picked a set of high-value activities as part of our One Microsoft strategy. And with every service and device launch going forward we need to bring more innovation to bear around these scenarios.” says he.
He also says that, “every one of us needs to do our best work, lead and help drive cultural change. We sometimes underestimate what we each can do to make things happen and overestimate what others need to do to move us forward. We must change this.
I truly believe that each of us must find meaning in our work. The best work happens when you know that it’s not just work, but something that will improve other people’s lives. This is the opportunity that drives each of us at this company.”
“Many companies aspire to change the world. But very few have all the elements required: talent, resources, and perseverance. Microsoft has proven that it has all three in abundance. And as the new CEO, I can’t ask for a better foundation” says Satya Nadella on a finishing note.”
Meanwhile, Bill Gates, founder and former CEO will be stepping down from his role as a Chairman and he will be returning to a larger role as a technology advisor at Microsoft. John Thompson (former Symantec CEO and lead independent director of the board at Microsoft, who was also part of the team that selected Satya as CEO) will be taking over as chairman. In his welcome message to Satya Nadella, Bill Gates says “During this time of transformation, there is no better person to lead Microsoft than Satya Nadella”
“Satya is a proven leader with hard-core engineering skills, business vision and the ability to bring people together. His vision for how technology will be used and experienced around the world is exactly what Microsoft needs as the company enters its next chapter of expanded product innovation and growth. There’s a challenge in mobile computing. There’s an opportunity in the cloud.” Bill continues.
Declining PC sales have caused trouble to Microsoft. Windows Phone has been a moderate success. On the other hand Microsoft’s enterprise solutions and cloud based tools have started to bring in more revenue. And Satya Nadella was the one who was heading these areas. And Microsoft has huge hope in him that he will lead Microsoft back to it’s glory by adapting the global trends.