In , he joined Microsoft, rising to become president of the Server and Tools Division in He held that post until he was appointed CEO in Despite his mild manner and unassuming profile, people close to Nadella say he has a strong, tough side. Nadella gave Caixin an exclusive interview earlier this month, the first in China since he took over leadership of Microsoft.
Nadella discussed his vision for Microsoft and the tech industry. Excerpts follow. Caixin: You are reinventing a company that was already very successful. What is the hardest thing about doing that? Satya Nadella: I think most companies are successful when their core sense of purpose and mission is something that they reinforce in changing times. Of course, technologies will change; your customers and their expectations of you will change.
But what does need to remain constant is that sense of purpose and mission that made you unique and successful in the first place. For example, at Microsoft we talk about our mission as empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. That means we create technology so that others can create more technology. The second one is culture.
Are we able to really have a culture that continues to push learning, building new capability? That's, at the end of the day, really going to define the longevity of any company. Changing culture is very hard for any company, especially for a company that has been very successful. How can you do that? You need new ideas and you need new capabilities, but the only way you're going to get those new ideas and new capabilities is if you have a culture that allows you to grow those.
I was inspired by the work that Carol Dweck did at Stanford. And she wrote this book called Mindset. The concept is very simple. If you take two kids in school, let's say one of them has a lot of innate capability but is a know-it-all. The other person has less innate capability but is a learn-it-all. You know how that story ends. Ultimately, the learn-it-all will do better than the know-it-all.
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And that, I think, is true for CEOs. It's true for companies. And so we've taken this growth mindset as a cultural meme that we at Microsoft are pushing every day. And the key here is not to say we're going to transform from the know-it-alls to the learn-it-alls. The day the learn-it-all says, "I'm done," is when you become a know-it-all. And so to understand that paradox and to be able to confront your fixed mindset each day is that continuous process of renewal. On the first day you were the CEO of Microsoft more than four years ago, did you already have a complete plan of what you were going to do, or has there been an evolution?
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It's a fascinating question because very recently when I went back and sort of reread that e-mail of the memo that I wrote when I first became CEO, and a lot of what I talk about today was all there, whether it was on the culture side or whether it was on the mission side or even at the broad-stroke strategy of what's happened. Of course, things have evolved because the idea is about making sure you evolve with changing times, changing expectations, changing technologies.
But … having grown up at the company for 26 years, I think the one thing that I did have was a clear sense of that sense of purpose. What made us great? That was at the core of how I thought about our sense of purpose and mission. And also this need for a cultural meme that allows us to be learning all the time, pushing the comfort zone, so to speak. Those are two things that were there even then. Clearly, a lot has changed even in the core products or the core strategies. But I always go back to mission and culture as the two things that have to be more enduring.
Photo: Caixin. Suppose this is the midterm review and on a scale of one to 10, where is Microsoft right now in this journey of transformation? It's at one, always. It's a tricky question. You should never answer that question and say you're at nine or 10, because then there's nothing more to do.
And anytime you say you're in the middle, that means it's neither good nor bad. It's best to say we're at the start of something new and at the beginning, always.
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What has happened in the past has happened. The way I'm going to be measured going forward and the way I should measure myself going forward is, What exactly am I going to do tomorrow and the day after? In the tech businesses, it's probably even harsher. And so the posture that I think at least we want to have is we're proud of what we have done, but leave that aside.
And now focus on what are all the new things that we will have to do and learn from the past. What kind of vision do you have of the future? What crucial things still need to be done? First of all, I think that as a tech company and especially a platform tech company, one of the most important things for us to get right, besides sort of the sense of purpose and culture, is our world view of where is computing going. Computing is not something that is separate from the world. Computing is getting embedded in the world. Every place, every thing, and every industry is being transformed by digital technology.
And the question is: How are we enabling that?
It's not only just the technology side, it's even the trust side. So, as technology becomes much more core to all industries and all walks of life in all parts of the world, I think that we as technology providers even need to deal with the core challenges around privacy or cybersecurity or ethics around AI. These are all top-of-mind issues, and so therefore, are we staying on top of not just the innovation, but even dealing with the unintended consequences of the innovation. Nadella said he "always wanted to build things"  and that electrical engineering "was a great way for [him] to go discover what turned out to become a passion," computer science.
Nadella worked at Sun Microsystems as a member of its technology staff prior to joining Microsoft in At Microsoft, Nadella has led major projects that included the company's move to cloud computing and the development of one of the largest cloud infrastructures in the world. He has been credited for helping bring Microsoft's database , Windows Server and developer tools to its Azure cloud. Previous positions held by Nadella include: . In October , Nadella courted controversy when he made a statement that women should not ask for a raise and should trust the system.
Nadella was roundly criticised for the statement and he apologised later on Twitter. His tenure has emphasized openness to working with companies and technologies with which Microsoft also competes, including Apple Inc. Under Nadella Microsoft revised its mission statement to "empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more".
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Nadella's leadership of Microsoft included a series of high-profile acquisitions of other companies, to redirect Microsoft's focus. Minecraft was notably a cross-platform game, with versions running on Apple's iOS mobile devices, and the Sony PlayStation dedicated gaming console, as well as Microsoft's Xbox. In , Nadella married Anupama, the daughter of his father's Indian Administrative Service batchmate.
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She was his junior at Manipal pursuing a B. Arch in the Faculty of Architecture. Nadella is an avid reader of American and Indian poetry. He also nurses a passion for cricket , having played on his school team. Nadella has authored a book titled Hit Refresh that explores his life, his career in Microsoft and how he believes technology will shape the future. He announced that the profits from the book would go to Microsoft Philanthropies and through that to nonprofit organizations.
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