Chief Executive Officer, Microsoft Corporation
Born in Anatapur (Andhra Pradesh), Satya Nadella is one of the most influential technological wizards in today’s world. Nadella was born into a modest, Telugu-speaking family. His father was an employee of the Indian Administrative Service and provided a simple, middle-class upbringing. Nadella attended the Hyderabad Public School before moving to Manipal (Karnataka), to study electrical engineering at Mangalore University. Soon after, he left for the United States. After completing a master’s degree in computer science from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he earned his MBA from the prestigious Booth School of Business of the University of Chicago.
In 1992, he joined Sun Microsystems. Following a brief spell in Silicon Valley, he moved to Washington to join Microsoft. For over 22 years he served in various capacities at Microsoft. His strategic vision for the future saw him quickly moving up the corporate ladder. Since joining, he has served as Vice President of the Microsoft Business Division; Senior Vice President of research and development in the Online Services Division; and the President of Server and Tools Business.
Nadella was keen to impress and was unsurprisingly the key figure behind important ventures at Microsoft. He was the first to suggest concepts of cloud computing, envisioning wireless access to data for individual and collective use. Microsoft was definitely interested. The company dedicated most of its time and resources to its development. As the executive Vice President of the Cloud and Enterprise group, he was responsible for “building and running the company’s computing platforms, developer tools and cloud services”. Its result was the creation of one the world’s largest cloud based entities, ‘Microsoft Azure’. Nadella also recognized the need for systems integration. His design of Microsoft’s Cloud OS, the backend system for its online services, runs in parity with other Microsoft products like Bing, SkyDrive, Xbox Live, Windows Server, etc. Further, with the success of, and combining these services with Office, the turnover sky rocketed. From $16.6 billion (when he joined), in a matter of 3 years, the division was earning an estimated $20.6 billion.
His accomplishments and vision with Cloud-based services put him on the radar of the Microsoft leadership. With Apple and Google increasing their stake in mobile and consumer markets, Nadella was appointed CEO in February of 2014. As the third CEO of Microsoft, Nadella has sacrificed tradition for innovation. He acknowledges his competition and identifies the opportunities that lie ahead him. He is focused in accelerating the growth of Microsoft products by introducing innovative solutions.
Nadella’s tenure with Microsoft as an ‘insider’ has brought him to respect ideas from all facades of the organization. As a product of the corporate ladder, he knows how ideas can come from any and everybody. Sure ideas need to be perfected; some of his own accomplished ideas needed effort and hard work to reach their potential. But these motivations are necessary for organic growth. Nadella has expressed on several occasions how walking around the office he is often overwhelmed by creative solutions that ease aspects of product delivery and consumption. His encouragement may not be evident in the form of a ‘pat on the back’ but almost child-like excitement. In his words, “that’s what really gets me going”.
Nadella’s biggest asset however is his relentless appetite to learn. He calls himself a “life-long learner”. Its therefore no surprise that he signs up for online courses in his personal time. 15 minutes between meetings? Sure, let’s listen to a neuroscience class. This, coupled with his fascination with team sports, has made him a very approachable figure at Microsoft. His sense of leadership has spawned out of team-work. He dedicates this feat to his childhood love for cricket. He even enjoys Test cricket, which he describes, “is like reading a Russian novel”!
Despite being one of the most sought after tech-moguls, Nadella maintains a low profile. His overall strategy for Microsoft still remains a mystery. His “safe” approach has been focused on bolstering the defenses before going on the offensive. There was much skepticism when he was appointed. Critics claimed he didn’t offer much experience in the mobile market and maybe rightly so. But they forget that this is a team game. Nadella has the vision; and with the talent and perseverance he surrounds himself with, he looks set to take on him competitors. His strategy then, might be best indicated by his admiration for poetry. “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 of lines of poetry and you still get the essence, so it’s that compression. The best code is poetry”, he once said – you need just one moment of genius to tilt the world on its head.
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