After a months-long search following the announcement from Microsoft’s current CEO, Steve Ballmer, that he would bid adieu to the top spot at the Seattle-based tech company, the tech world is buzzing about who could be his successor.
Recent reports have surfaced that point at a likely candidate: Satya Nadella. The 22-year Microsoft veteran is said to be a charismatic though quiet leader, who has headed up some of Microsoft’s most profitable ventures. Though the news is still early – first reported by Re/code and Bloomberg, citing unnamed sources – a look at Mr. Nadella sheds light on what Microsoft wants to see in its next leader.
Nadella is currently the head of the Cloud and Enterprise group at Microsoft, which has been a bastion of success in Microsoft’s otherwise rocky past few years. The Seattle Times reports his division brought in $20.3 billion in revenue last year. His accomplishments include making Windows Azure a viable competitor to Amazon cloud services.
Prior to his current position, he worked with research and development in online services (working with services such as Bing, MSN, and ad platforms), as well as Windows developer relations and business solutions groups.
Some say this combination of technical know-how, relationship with developers, and insider’s view of the complexities at Microsoft is key for orienting the tech company’s future.
“He’s heading up a division that has massive revenue increases,” says Michael Yoshikami, fund manager with Destination Wealth Management to the Seattle Times. “He’s a longtime employee so he understands the culture of Microsoft. And I think it would give a fresh perspective — he’s going to look at everything from a cloud perspective.... That’s the direction that Microsoft needs to move to stay relevant — more of a subscription business.”
Nadella certainly has the credentials to back up his work: He holds 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 Booth School of Business. Nadella worked at Sun Microsystems before joining Microsoft in 1992.
He is originally from Hyderabad, India, where former professors describe him as inquisitive.
"When all other students will quietly listen to what I would teach, he will ask a lot of questions - 'why does it have to be like this, why can't we do it like this?' " says Harishchandra Hebbar, one of Nadella’s college instructors, to Reuters.
But some say his inexperience in the “devices” section of Microsoft’s “services and devices” direction doesn’t bode well for those who wanted an revolutionary future for the tech company.
“It’s a safe choice,” says Kevin Walkush, a business analyst at Jensen Investment Management in Lake Oswego, Ore., to Bloomberg. “There’s a large faction that wants a disruptive tech visionary to take over Microsoft and that group will probably be disappointed. Another group of people think we need a person like Satya who knows the business because it’s so complex and needs someone that has the inside knowledge.”