Former Microsoft exec explains why Satya Nadella would've been his 'only' internal choice for CEO

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella


Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

Blake Irving runs GoDaddy today, but he cut his teeth as an executive at Microsoft, where he worked from 1992 through 2007.

Irving spent his last few years at the company running operations for Microsoft's massive online business as the company was building data centers like crazy and stepping up its search fight against Google and Yahoo.

He says that when Microsoft was trying to pick a replacement for Steve Ballmer in late 2013, a couple of high-ranking people at Microsoft reached out to him to get his opinions on internal replacements.
His only choice? Satya Nadella.

"The only guy that I'd pick inside the company is Satya," he said. "The only guy."


Irving explains that he's got the perfect combination of business smarts, technical chops, and the right kind of personality.

"Engineers love him, he's a business guy, he's super technical, and he's not a type A plus. He's a type A because he works his ass off, but he's a sensitive guy and he listens."Irving continued, "There's two types of listeners at that company. The guy who listens for the break in the sentence so he can interrupt you and get his point of view in, or the guy who listens to you to really understand and learn. And Satya was always the guy who listened to really understand and learn."

Irving recounts one particular conversation he had with Nadella back when Irving was helping to oversee Microsoft's data center expansions, where Microsoft was spending billions of dollars on capital expenditures. Nadella had been running another business inside the company, but was coming over to run Microsoft's search initiative, then called Windows Live Search.

"He didn't understand the SaaS [software-as-a-service] space as a business, and I remember spending a ton of time with him doing that, and he was like, 'so the margin profile is gonna be different for that business' and I go 'yeah - we can bear the cost of a data center.'"

Irving left Microsoft for Yahoo, where he spent a couple years before joining GoDaddy in 2012.

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