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November 18, 2013

Tête-à-tête with Satya Nadella and Dean Sunil Kumar

By Divyanka Pillai '14  |  november, 2013, Issue 2

Satya Nadella '97 is the Executive Vice President of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise group and a potential successor to Steve Ballmer as the next CEO of Microsoft. Dean Kumar engaged him in a conversation about the future of technology as well as his road to success. Following is a summary of the key learnings.

Dean Sunil Kumar opened the conversation with a question about the big changes that the technology industry has seen in the past two decades. In Satya's opinion, innovators who jumped early on to the user interface bandwagon have seen immense success. In fact, touch and low power in devices have created a tremendous amount of market capitalization growth.

On the backend side, innovation and efficient utilization of resources in terms of storage, networking and computing has been the name of the game. The technology industry has seen major leaps from the client server era when the question of the hour was whether Intel processors should be a part of servers to the current era of cloud computing. These milestones have changed the face of computing.

The third space within the realm of technology that has grown immensely is applications – betting right on canonical applications that are enabled by the new client and the new backend.

Dean Kumar then went on to get Satya's take on key issues that face the technology world today. Satya responded by delineating the four major trends that dominate the tech industry – mobile, social, cloud and big data. It is the connective tissue among them all that is unique and what remains to be seen is the manner in which these four trends can be best stitched together.

The conversation then took a turn towards Satya's journey to success. Satya recounted his early days as a developer at Sun Microsystems. It was around this time that he received an admission offer from the then University of Chicago GSB. But as luck would have it, he was convinced by Microsoft to join the company as a full-time employee and pursue his MBA part-time. He joined what eventually became the Windows NT team. His early days at the company gave him the opportunity to work alongside some of the smartest minds in the technology sector. Satya believes that one needs to account for leading as well as lagging metrics to measure one's success. Technology is not designed for longevity and it's as important to think of the future as it is to think about today.

The fireside chat was thrown open to the audience who had questions of their own. In response to one question on career planning, Satya said that it's very hard to plan one's career but it's easy to measure the worth of one's work. We must ask ourselves – do I feel stretched, a little overwhelmed? If the answers are no, then we are doing something wrong. It's important to keep going back to first principles, keeping current and feeling uncomfortable.

Last Updated 11/19/13
Last Updated 11/19/13