Cricket Taught Him Nuances of Leadership
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella joined the company in 1992 and quickly became known as a leader who could span the breadth of technology and business to transform some of the company’s biggest product offerings.
“Nadella is Microsoft’s cloud master and has a firm handle on what it takes to run Bing, Office365, Skype and Xbox Live. He’s liked and respected throughout the industry.” — Ashlee Vance
Indian-American Satya Narayana Nadella, 49, who is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Microsoft, was born in Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh in 1967. His father, Bukkapuram Nadella Yugandher, was a senior Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, and was with the Prime Minister’s Office while P.V. Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister.
Growing up, playing cricket was his passion, and he played it competitively as a member of the Hyderabad Public School (HPS). “I think playing cricket taught me more about being a team player and leadership than anything else. What I learnt then has stayed with me ever since. There was this one particular incident in a match: my captain noticed that I was bowling some ordinary stuff. He took over the next over himself, got the much-needed breakthrough and then threw the ball back at me for the next over! I will never forget that. What had made him do that? Is this what they call leadership? These are the kind of questions I have since reflected on.”
Satya’s biology teacher G. Jayanand (now retired), recollected his skinny student days: “He used to spend a lot of time in the library, not necessarily reading textbooks.”
He wanted to do engineering at Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University in Hyderabad, but didn’t qualify, and did his B. Tech (Electronics and Communications) at Manipal Institute of Technology.
“We had a great time at Manipal. Satya was very bright,” recalled Srinivas, his classmate who now works for Achieve Technologies in New Jersey.
“I always wanted to build things,” Satya says. But he only succeeded in pursuing his real passion, computers, once he joined the University of Wisconsin (Milwaukee) from where he earned a master’s in Computer Science. He did his MBA, from the University of Chicago.
In 1992, Nadella married Anupama, daughter of his father’s IAS batchmate, K.R. Venugopal. It was an arranged marriage. The couple have three children, a son and two daughters, and live in Bellevue, Washington.
He relaxes reading poetry. “Poetry to me is the essence of something that can be described in many sentences and may be pages. A poet can say the same thing in a couple of lines,” he says.
He also enjoys watching Test cricket. “I love it. There are so many subplots in it; it’s like reading a Russian novel.”
Satya joined Microsoft in 1992, and quickly became known within the company as a leader who could span the breadth of technology and business to transform some of Microsoft’s biggest product offerings. Before being named the CEO on February 4, 2014, Nadella held leadership roles in both enterprise and consumer businesses across the company. He was the Executive Vice President of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group, one of the company’s most profitable businesses. While Satya was there, the group’s revenue increased by 22 per cent,
“Microsoft empowers people to do magical things. Many companies, aspire to change the world. But very few have all the elements required.”
and its profits by 33 per cent. Previously, Satya led R&D for Microsoft’s Online Services division, guiding the development of one of the largest cloud infrastructures in the world, to support products including Bing, Xbox and Office.
As Microsoft’s third CEO (succeeding Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates), Satya brought a relentless drive for innovation and a spirit of collaboration to the role. He says he joined Microsoft because he saw how clearly Microsoft empowers people to do magical things. Many companies, he explains, “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.”
About having worked under the legendary Bill Gates, Satya says: “Bill is an amazing person. I will never forget the first email I got from him with some pointed feedback on a set of features in a product that I was building. It was exciting that the CEO was directly sending me mail on a feature that I never thought he would notice. I had a chance to work closely with him during my years in Bing where he was very interested in how we could change the game in ‘search’.”
Ashlee Vance of BusinessWeek says that Nadella is one of the most impressive members of the new bunch of senior executives he has seen at Microsoft. “He’s more or less Microsoft’s cloud master and has a firm handle on what it takes to run Bing, Office365, Skype, and Xbox Live. Nadella is also well-liked and respected throughout the industry. And he’s enough of a different character from Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates to inject some new life into the company,” he says.
Microsoft is currently the third largest company in the world by market cap ($397.47 billion), after Apple ($672.46 billion) and Exxon Mobil ($404.86 billion). Google ($371.20 billion) is at the fourth place.