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Microsoft’s New CEO Satya Nadella: Who He Is, and What He Needs to Do First

Photo by Microsoft

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Ours is not an industry that respects tradition – it only respects innovation ~ Satya Nadella

Microsoft is rumored to finally be naming the CEO successor to Steve Ballmer this week, and it is none other than SVP Satya Nadella.  Personally, I’m excited about this news because Satya has always been my pick for the new CEO since Ballmer said he was stepping down.

Never heard of him?  You’re not alone.

Learn who Satya is, why he is going to make a great CEO, what he needs to do first.

Meet Satya, Mr. Goldfinger

Satya, whom is originally from Hyderabad, India, has been with Microsoft for over 20 years and has an impressive resume.  Currently he is the Executive Vice President for their Cloud and Enterprise Group, which has been the most successful division of Microsoft under him.  But he’s been other places as well such as being over research & development for the Online Services Division, Microsoft Business Division, and Server and Tools Business (where he took the $19 billion dollar division from client-server software to the cloud infrastructure).

To put it simply, he has been Microsoft’s moneymaker (alongside the Office division, of course) by making the Cloud and Enterprise Group “rain money”.  Microsoft’s “Cloud OS”, such as Windows Azure and services (Office 365, SkyDrive, Xbox Live, etc.) have shown he knows how to lead a large team making the right decisions, right products, and most importantly, profit.

He’s a techie with an engineering background (master’s degree in computer science), and the business smarts as well (master’s degree in business administration).  In other words, he “get’s it” from both sides of the business and has proven he knows how to use his knowledge and experience to make successes.  He is also said to be liked widely at Microsoft, meaning he can bring together the company right away as part of the “One Microsoft” transformation that is now underway.

Photo Credit:  Microsoft

Photo Credit: Microsoft

Keeping Up Appearances

We have all seen the trendy CEO’s and leaders in the tech industry, and Microsoft is often not seen to be part of that crowd.  They are often seen as the nerdy kids at school, while the cool techie kids have tons of friends (think Apple and Google).  Everyone wants to be around the cool kids, while the nerdy kids are actually making some really cool things.

Satya, as the leader of one of the oldest and strongest tech companies, needs to not only schmooze developers, but also the minds of the everyday consumer as well.  Guaranteed most people see Google and Apple as “cool”, but see Microsoft as “stable” and “trustworthy” (which is often reflected in polls).  The world seems to be married to Microsoft (they are still the leader), but consumers are having tons of affairs with the alluring techies like Apple and Google.  When nerdy CEO’s like Gates and Ballmer got away with this for years, the world has been mesmerized by the likes of Apple’s Steve Jobs or Google’s Larry Page, or any of the trendy start-up CEO’s and dreamers that are capturing the imagination of developers and consumers alike.

There is no mistake that Satya “has the look” of a tech leader who doesn’t appear “stiff” and trying to pretend they are cool and trendy, but someone whom people can relate to.  While appearances shouldn’t matter, they often do.  Satya’s got the look, demeanor, confidence, and presentation skills that are necessary for a leader in this new world of tech.

First Things First

Here’s my list of top 5 things Satya needs to do right away:

    1. Developers, Developers, Developers!  This was the famous line Ballmer used to yell, and for good reason. Developers are the true backbone of the Microsoft ecosystem, and specifically Windows.  Satya needs to charge them up at the BUILD 2014 conference in a big way.  And this means getting them excited about two important paths for Microsoft:  Windows 8 Modern UI Apps (Windows Store Apps), and Windows Phone 8 Apps.  Satya needs to let them know they are crucial to help Microsoft lead the way to the next generation, and Microsoft needs their help.  And to sweeten the pot and show that developers are part of the family, they need to….
    2. Reinstate TechNet Subscriptions:  To non-developers, they won’t know what this is.  But it was a way that IT professionals could get free or heavily discounted versions of Microsoft products.  By allowing them access to products, they allows these IT pros (to include developers) to understand and recommend products.  IT Pros and Developers are part of the family, and being part of the family means perks.  When Microsoft got rid of this program, it got a lot of negative complaints by developers and IT Pros.
    3. Satya’s First Presentation Needs to Wow.  The first presentation will more than likely be a BUILD 2014, which will have a favorable audience.  Mainly, Satya needs to:
      1. Instill in the developers and display confidence in the path Microsoft is taking (Windows, Azure/Cloud, Office, Windows Phone, etc.).  If they feel that path is solid (and “golden” meaning they can make money), and that Microsoft won’t change their mind, they will want to walk that path also.  Essentially, Satya needs to be the leader for not just Microsoft, but for the developers and IT pros everywhere.
      2. Show strength to not give in all the time to the whims of the internet and stay the course.  Often Microsoft would completely give up on a product, idea, path, only to see competitors such as Apple success fantastically years later.  Smartphones and tablets are two things that Microsoft was early on, but gave up on.
      3. Finally display the power of the Microsoft ecosystem as a whole.  Why build for something you don’t understand, and what your customers don’t understand?  Microsoft has an amazing ecosystem that most people don’t even know about.  Ask anyone about “Google Docs” and they know what that is, but “Microsoft Office Web Apps”….huh?  Nobody knows there is a “free” Microsoft Office versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote online.  Showing the power of the ecosystem, and how it is actually less expensive as well, is key.
    4. End Scroogled:  Satya should not back down on competitors at all, but the “Scroogled” campaign needs to go away.  It smells and lingers, and even fans of Microsoft don’t like it.  First thing he should do is have lunch with Larry from Google and show that he is above the fray, and get Google services (“YouTube” anyone?) on Windows Phone and the Windows Store for Windows Modern UI.  Microsoft can still pursue that they are a better choice for everyone with campaigns and sites such as “Why Microsoft” which does an excellent job comparing Microsoft to other companies and services.  Not only is it a better method, it makes Microsoft above the pettiness younger tech companies can sometimes play.  Imagine that, the internet seeing Satya at the Googleplex trying on Google Glass, driving around in one of their autonomous cars, and more.  The “street creds” he will gain will go over big and get people talking positively about Microsoft overnight.  Update:  Satya moved Mark Penn, who is over the Scroogled campaign, but has yet to end the campaign itself.
    5. Get Social:  Tech CEO’s have a mixed record of how ‘social’ they are.  Sometimes they post, sometimes they don’t.  With Satya, he has a Twitter account that looks all but abandoned with a default “egg” image placeholder, and I can’t seem to find a Facebook account.  He needs to get back on Twitter and becomes the CEO that captures the imagination just like Steve Jobs did.  He doesn’t have to post/tweet everyday, but get on there.  And to really hit it home, he also needs to get on Google+.  Why?  It goes back to ending Scroogled, but also showing he is a need breed of CEO at Microsoft who isn’t afraid of the competition, and more importantly he is going to get out his message everywhere and anywhere he can.  Update:  Satya is tweeting.

What do you think about Satya being CEO of Microsoft?  Let me know in the comments!


As of 6am PST on February 4th, 2014, Satya has been officially named CEO. The announcement tweet:

If you want to learn about Satya’s career tips, check this out:

  • FindingAtlantis

    Good stuff. Can’t argue with a single thing.

  • Matt Miller

    Completely agree. Ballmer, even though he actually was a fantastic CEO, is the face of the old guard. The 2000s Microsoft. The stuffy guy in a business suit Microsoft. I think Satya really has a chance to change the face of the company “overnight” and really show off just how far they’ve come since 2010. Show off Microsoft 3.0!

    • Alan Peto

      Thanks Matt! Yeah, Ballmer did a great job (the company kept making money hand over fist), but the perception was the issue. He saw that, and knew he had to step down. But his love for the company is deep (just check out that video of him saying goodbye to the people of the company:


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