Satya Nadella - The New Face Of Microsoft

by Sohini Bagchi    Feb 07, 2014

Satya Nadella

He gets excited about new things… he buys more books than he can read… he signs up for more online courses than he can actually finish… but what drives him the most is to be able to watch people do great things and learn new concepts. That’s Satya Nadella for you, Microsoft’s new CEO who succeeds Steve Ballmer - and is currently the most talked about tech executive in the whole world.

Much has been said and written about Nadella ever since his name was announced as the third CEO of Microsoft in its four-decade history. The 46-year old India born techie, who has been with Microsoft for over 22 years and was leading the Cloud and Enterprise division.

Bill Gates who now takes on the role of technology advisor believes that there is no better person to lead Microsoft than Satya Nadella at present. “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,” says Gates in a statement.

Experts believe with his potential, what he could bring to Microsoft’s table and the tech world at large can be huge. We bring to you a compilation of some unique facts on Satya Nadella – the new face of Microsoft.

Read: The Man And His Mission@Microsoft - Satya Nadella Demystified

The Journey for knowledge

Nadella was born in Hyderabad (AP) India, in a Telugu family to an IAS officer, B. N. Yugandhar, who was a top bureaucrat in the rural development ministry when Narasimha Rao was the prime minister. Satya attended the Hyderabad Public School in Begumpet. In a recent media interview with ET, Yugandhar said delightedly, “I am proud of my son and I wish him all the best!”

After completing school, he started his journey to seek greater knowledge. Nadella went to Manipal in Karnataka to pursue a bachelor of engineering in Electronics and Communication degree from Manipal Institute of Technology (MIT) Mangalore University, Manipal, Karnataka. After moving to the US, Nadella earned an MS in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Unlike most people who get carried away by career and success, Satya still keeps in touch with his school friends. His friends often see him as very passionate, friendly and driven person.

In an interview with TOI, his classmate, M Chandrasekhar, former CEO of an IT firm in the city recalls, “He was very friendly and jovial. He was also a bright student. We studied together for about five years and there was not one single person who had issues with him in class.”

Nadella always have the knack of building things. “Computer science was what I wanted to pursue. But the subject was not available in the University. And so electronic engineering was a great way for me to go discover what turned out to become a passion,” he says.

The other passion he is Cricket. Nadella played cricket when younger, which he now cites as one of his hobbies. “I think playing cricket taught me more about working in teams and leadership that has stayed with me throughout my career,” he says in an interview.

Following his extensive education, Nadella went to Sun Microsystems where he was a member of the technology staff. He quit Sun in 1992 to join Microsoft and quickly rose through the ranks, growing Microsoft’s internet ventures along the way.

From Bing Master to Cloud Guru

Nadella worked as the senior vice-president of research and development (R&D) for the Online Services Division and vice-president of the Microsoft Business Division. Later, he was made the president of Microsoft’s $19 billion Server and Tools Business and led a transformation of the company’s business and technology culture from client services to cloud infrastructure and services.

Though Nadella’s career focused the business side of Microsoft, he’s also worked on some offerings used in the consumer space, like the Bing search engine.

He has been credited for helping bring Microsoft’s database, Windows Server and developer tools to its Azure cloud - some of the most thriving areas. . The revenue from Cloud Services grew to $20.3 billion in June 2013 from $16.6 billion when he took over in 2011. According to Bloomberg, Nadella’s 2013 base salary is nearly $700,000, for a total compensation, with stock bonuses, of $7.6 million.

Nadella played a huge role in Microsoft’s transition to cloud computing. In an interview with Gigaom, he points out, “Cloud is perhaps the most secular growth engine out there because it scales with a number of devices, and it scales with a number of apps, so it scales with the users and their devices and their apps.”

With devices and apps needing more compute and more storage, cloud is the one thing you can bet on… and that there is going to be more cloud, explains Nadella.

The down-to-earth CEO

The age of larger-than-life tech founders is over, say many. Low-key and humble, Nadella is every bit different from Ballmer. With over two decades of experience with Microsoft, serving under both Bill Gates and Ballmer, Nadella has built and managed growing sectors at Microsoft. Naturally comparisons will be drawn with the former CEO Steve Ballmer, who according to Bloomberg  is ‘loud’ when compared to the new CEO who is thought as personable and more diplomatic.

David Yoffie, a professor at Harvard Business School elucidates, Ballmer’s aggressive salesmanship during the boom days of the personal-computer industry exemplified how Microsoft became the world’s most valuable company. Now the software maker needs a new approach to catch-up in areas including tablets, smartphones and cloud services. Yoffie believes Nadella’s obviously a deep technologist, and he’s going to bring that back to a Microsoft that hasn’t had it in the CEO office for years.

When asked why he wanted to become CEO of Microsoft, Nadella said the company was central to applying human potential to a world becoming more rapidly software-driven. He says he felt “honoured, humbled and excited” to be CEO. “We have tremendous opportunity, and that’s inspiring. 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.

“Microsoft is one of those rare companies to have truly revolutionised the world through technology, and I couldn’t be more honoured to have been chosen to lead the company.”

Even though he maintains a low profile, Quartz’s Leo Mirani believes Nadella is not exactly a hermit. “When Nadella was already known to be a leading CEO candidate — but his focus on unglamorous-but-important products for business use means he shows up at public events less often than colleagues like Joe Belfiore of the Windows Phone team.” He also doesn’t have a penchant for Tweeting.

The Master plan

According to some, Nadella being a Cloud computing expert and Cloud is an area Microsoft has gained popularity with enterprise customers for its Azure platform remains a positive point. But the challenge lies beyond the cloud as mobile remains an area of concern.

Microsoft has faced a gradually decline in its PC-centric Windows and Office business and needs to challenge Apple and Google in the new realm of mobile computing, believe experts, something which is a huge challenge for the new CEO. Therefore, how Nadella will help in the mobile revival is something that needs to be watched out.

“I would advise him (Nadella) to take a fresh look at mobile, or bring in some talent who really understands the space,” said David Smith, an analyst at tech research firm Gartner in his blog.

Read: Microsoft’s Dream Team For A Mobile Cloud-First World

Straight out of a Fairytale

Just like a dream career which anyone would aspire for, Nadella also had a fairytale wedding. He married his childhood sweetheart and daughter of his father’s IAS batchmate, K.R. Venugopal Anupama Nadella, whom he had met in his high school in Hyderabad. In 1992, the couple tied the knot, as TOI reports how a simple family affair in New Delhi eventually ended up becoming a talking point, thanks to an illustrious guest who decided to turn up at the venue uninvited - It was the then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao. “They (the families) had planned a simple event without fanfare. But Rao found out about it and gatecrashed. He even scolded them (his two prized secretaries) for not inviting him,” recalls Anupama’s cousin Dinesh S Sastry in the report.

The couple have been married for 22 years and has three children — two daughters and one son. The Nadella family lives in Bellevue, Washington at present.

On his new appointment, Sastry tweets: “Satya Nadella and Anupama are very compassionate people and their families have done so much for the poor thru the UN and Indian PMO…” 

Nadella’s love for American and Indian poetry is also something that has become a talk of the industry, apart from his love for sports and reading.

Nadella sure has a big task in hand bringing Microsoft back at the right growth track. Experts believe, he has the Nokia handset unit to grow and make Windows Phone a serious contender, continue growing the Xbox unit’s place in the living room, keep refining Windows 8 and Windows 9 to make attractive to customers, and grow the cloud services and enterprise business.

As a proud father Yugandhar recalls,”Satya worked very hard for the last 22 years at Microsoft to reach where he is today. I think Satya deserved what he has achieved so far and I can only wish him success in all his endeavors.”

Satya Nadella is surely an inspiration to all budding tech professionals and the industry. while we continue to track his growth record and that of Microsoft’s, we too wish the India-born technology leader all the best in his forthcoming endeavors!