By Albert Lin
On Tuesday, Microsoft named Satya Nadella as its new CEO, effective immediately. Nadella, who previously was Executive Vice President, Cloud and Enterprise, becomes the tech giant’s third chief executive after Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, who announced his retirement last August.
A native of Hyderabad, India, Nadella, 46, is the ninth Asian CEO among Fortune 500 companies (1.8 percent) and the fourth among DiversityInc Top 50 companies (8 percent). Microsoft is No. 44 in the DiversityInc Top 50.
“During this time of transformation, there is no better person to lead Microsoft than Satya Nadella,” said Gates. “Satya is a proven leader with hard-core engineering skills, business vision and the ability to bring people together. His vision for how technology will be used and experienced around the world is exactly what Microsoft needs as the company enters its next chapter of expanded product innovation and growth.”
As part of the management changes, Gates resigned his position as Chairman to become Founder and Technology AdvisorNadella asked him to become more involved with the companywhile retaining a seat on the board. Replacing Gates as Chairman is John Thompson, CEO of Virtual Instruments and former Chairman and CEO of Symantec. Thompson, who is Black, becomes one of the few non-white-male chairmen of a Fortune 500 company; a study by the Alliance for Board Diversity found that, as of 2012, 92.7 percent of Fortune 500 board chairs were white men.
Nadella moved to the United States after earning his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Mangalore University. Upon graduating from the University of WisconsinMilwaukee (master’s in computer science), he joined Sun Microsystems as a member of the technology staff. He moved to Microsoft in 1992, commuting between the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Wash., and the University of Chicago (where he attended classes during the weekend) to complete his MBA.
In his 22 years with the company, Nadella has also served as President, Server and Tools Business; Senior Vice President, R&D for the Online Services division; and Vice President of the Business division.
“Having worked with him for more than 20 years, I know that Satya is the right leader at the right time for Microsoft,” said Ballmer. “I’ve had the distinct privilege of working with the most talented employees and senior leadership team in the industry, and I know their passion and hunger for greatness will only grow stronger under Satya’s leadership.”
Nadella’s technical background is seen by some observers as an attempt by Microsoft to regain an edge it lost under Ballmer, whose background was in sales. Most called it a “safe” decision, with the board opting against the more radical approach of bringing in an outsider.
In an email to Microsoft employees, Nadella wrote: “Our industry does not respect traditionit only respects innovation. This is a critical time for the industry and for Microsoft. Make no mistake, we are headed for greater placesas technology evolves and we evolve with and ahead of it. Our job is to ensure that Microsoft thrives in a mobile and cloud-first world.”
Here is a Microsoft-produced Q&A with Nadella: