- Since 2014, the Indian American has shifted the software company’s focus to cloud, gaming, AI; reformed its corporate culture; and driven growth with innovation and partnerships.
Microsoft CEO and executive chairman Satya Nadella just completed a decade leading the computer software company, shifting the focus to tech megatrends like cloud, gaming, and AI. Under his guidance, Microsoft recently became only the second company after Apple to reach a $3 trillion stock market valuation. He also reformed its corporate culture and has driven growth with innovation and partnerships. Since Nadella took the helm in 2014, the company’s stock has “soared by more than 1,000%, compared to the more gradual 185% growth of the broader S&P 500,” Quartz said.
Axios notes that Nadella has “sidestepped most of the controversies that have dogged his Big Tech peers while leaning hard into cloud, gaming, and AI.” One hallmark of his tenure, according to the news website “has been dealmaking, including a key investment in OpenAI and multi-billion dollar acquisitions of Minecraft creator Mojang, LinkedIn, GitHub, Zenimax, and Activision Blizzard.
When Nadella replaced Steve Ballmer as CEO in February, the company was “mired in mediocrity,” according to a CNBC report. He is “widely praised across the tech industry for changing the narrative at Microsoft, whose stock fell 30% during Ballmer’s 14 years at the top,” the news channel noted. The company was “squelched by Google in web search and mobile and was completely left behind in social media.” During Nadella’s appointment as CEO, Microsoft founder Bill Gates had said that as the company “enters its next chapter of expanded product innovation and growth,” it needs his “vision for how technology will be used and experienced around the world.”
Aravind Srinivas, co-founder and CEO of AI startup Perplexity, told CMBC that Nadella “is special and someone to be considered as one of the GOATs (greatest of all time) among tech CEOs.”
Before becoming the CEO, the Hyderabad-born Nadella held leadership roles in both enterprise and consumer businesses across Microsoft. He joined the company in 1992 and quickly became known as a leader who could span a breadth of technologies and businesses to transform some of Microsoft’s biggest product offerings. Most recently, he was executive vice president of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group. In this role, he led the transformation to the cloud infrastructure and services business, which outperformed the market and took a share from the competition. Previously he led R&D for the Online Services Division and was vice president of the Microsoft Business Division. Before joining Microsoft, Nadella was a member of the technology staff at Sun Microsystems.
Nadella has been often described as warm, genuine, and empathetic. He has often said that he owes his empathetic nature to his eldest child, Zain, who died in 2020. The 26-year-old was born with cerebral palsy. According to a May 2021 blog on the Seattle Children’s Hospital website, Zain’s journey of “struggle against tremendous adversity due to his medical condition, has shaped the Nadella family’s story to one of resilience, empathy, and determination.” The family has often spoken about their oldest child’s eclectic taste in music, his warm sunny smile, and the love he has for his family. As Zain received much of his treatment at the Children’s Hospital in Seattle, the Nadellas, along with the hospital, established the Zain Nadella Endowed Chair in Pediatric Neurosciences, as part of Seattle Children’s Center for Integrative Brain Research.
As CEO, he has focused the company on designing products to better serve users with disabilities and cited lessons he learned raising and supporting Zain, news reports said. In several posts, talks, and his 2015 book, “Hit Refresh,” he has talked about how being Zain’s dad impacted him profoundly.“ While Zain loved music, he wasn’t able to control the music himself, which became a source of frustration for him and his family. Three high school students heard about the problem and volunteered to build a Windows app that allowed Zain to tap his head against a sensor on the side of his wheelchair to easily flip through the music. “What freedom and happiness the empathy of three teenagers has brought to my son,” he wrote.
When he visited Zain in the intensive care unit after he became Microsoft CEO in 2014, Nadella wrote how all of the medical devices were running Windows, connected to the cloud. “It was a stark reminder that our work at Microsoft transcended business, that it made life itself possible for a fragile young boy. It also brought a new level of gravity to the looming decisions back at the office on our cloud and Windows 10 upgrades. We’d better get this right, I recall thinking to myself.”
He lives with his wife Anu in Bellevue, Washington, with his family. He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Mangalore University, a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago. He serves on the board of trustees to his alma mater the University of Chicago, as well as the Starbucks board of directors. Apart from Zain, they have two daughters — Divya and Tara.