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Proud That India's ASource Of Global Tech Talent: Satya Nadella

Proud That India's ASource Of Global Tech Talent: Satya Nadella
HYDERABAD: It's been barely a month since he took over as only the third CEO of tech giantMicrosoft since it was set up 39 years ago, but Satya Nadella already has Microsoft's five-year plan chalked out: use software as a driving force to advance the company's devices and services.

In an exclusive interview with TOI — the first with an Indian newspaper or TV channel since his ascension to the post of CEO in February — Nadella insisted that software is "one of the most valuable, malleable resources" of the organization and that his primary objective as Microsoft chief would be to deliver software-driven advanced innovations that would help enrich customer experience. "I want to see us remain convinced that software matters in the future," the Hyderabad-born 46-year-old said, reiterating his "incredible focus" on offering Microsoft customers what they really value and enable them to do more in work, life and play.

Back home in India too, Nadella aspires to see his "mobile first, cloud first" mantra accelerate future technology advancements. He acknowledges that the country, which boasts of a more than 6,000 employee-strong base, is a vital part of Microsoft's plans. "We are working with our partners to provide a wide range of Azure cloud offerings to accelerate economic growth and breakthrough cloud services in India," he said.

Nadella hailed Indian talent, saying, "... India is a tremendous source of technology talent, both at home and around the world, and that is something we can all take pride in." He also confessed to being moved by the flurry of congratulatory messages that have flooded his inbox. That includes mails from Shantanu Narayen (CEO, Adobe), TK Kurien (CEO, Wipro) and Ajay Banga (CEO, Mastercard) — all alumni of Hyderabad Public School, like him.

"I deeply appreciate all the support and encouragement I have received from people all across India," said Nadella. Though he spent only a few years of his childhood in Hyderabad, he asserted, "I will always be a Hyderabadi."

Nadella, by his own admission a poetry fanatic, is currently hooked to the works of American poets Walt Whitman and WH Auden. "I went through a phase of reading lots of Urdu poetry, thanks to the great transliterated versions that have become available," he said. But what can't stop haunting him are the final lines from romantic poet John Keats' Ode On A Grecian Urn: "Beauty is truth, truth beauty — that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know'.

The full interview

Congratulations on your taking over as Microsoft CEO. How has the ride been so far?

I've been in the role for little over a month, and it has been incredible. I've been impressed by the passion and energy of Microsoft employees, and their willingness to commit to driving the company forward. I've worked in many areas of the company over 22 years, but there are some pieces of the business I'm getting to learn more about and it's been exciting to dig in deeper with those teams. Together with the leadership team, I'm focused on driving clarity and alignment on the strategy for our path forward with a laser focus on listening to customers and delivering our next waves of innovation. As a side note, I've to admit I was humbled by, and grateful for, the response in India to my appointment. I received congratulations and best wishes from so many people — not just friends and former colleagues, but many I had never met before. I deeply appreciate the encouragement from people across India.

What's your priority number one as CEO?

Microsoft is an amazing company that has changed the world. I firmly believe our best days are ahead of us. I want us to move faster and advance our innovations to deliver new value to customers. I've spent a lot of time with our leadership team talking about these opportunities and focusing on driving clarity and alignment on strategy, providing our teams with the resources and environment to do their best work, and removing internal barriers so our teams can deliver break through innovation faster.

On Day 1 as CEO, you said your aim would be to take Microsoft towards a "mobile first, cloud first" world. How will you do that?

Microsoft was built on productivity, now we're reimagining productivity for a mobile first, cloud first world. I'm focused on zeroing in on what we can uniquely deliver for customers that they really value - this will manifest itself in our cloud services and in the rich experiences we create on devices that enable customers do more in work, life and play.

Microsoft seems to have lost its mojo. How do you get the momentum back?

Our industry doesn't value tradition, it only values innovation. Our 39-year history gives us a strong foundation and capabilities to build on, as an organization. Our quest is to continually renew ourselves, be persistent and push the limits on what is possible. I've been inspired as I've met with our product and R&D teams and got feedback from customers. We are on the brink of boundary-less innovation in this industry and, I'm focused on investing in areas where we can drive unique value for customers, and move faster.

Where do you wish to see Microsoft five years down the line?

I want to see us remain convinced that software matters in future. Software is one of the most valuable resources we have, which will be the driving force in advancing our devices and services and driving the next wave of innovations. Culturally, I'd like to see us be known as a learning organization. The ability in this industry to take new learnings, accrue it to what you've done in the past and make it relevant for the future is valuable — I'm energized when I think of the potential here in harnessing the collective brainpower and talent of our soon to be 130,000 employees.

With you at the helm, the software industry here is hopeful of Microsoft's R&D units in India (especially Microsoft's India Development Center, Hyderabad) getting a boost. Anything specific in mind for India?

India has always been a vital part of Microsoft's plans. I think that only increases going forward. India is one of the few countries where Microsoft has the entire range of our operations — including basic R&D and customer services. We have more than 6,000 employees, and over 10,000 partners in India, creating thousands of jobs and a vibrant technology ecosystem. Twenty of the top 20 companies in India use our technology. Five of the top five IT companies, five of the top five manufacturing companies, five of the top five banking organizations — across virtually every sector, Microsoft technology is helping support the economic infrastructure of India. I'm excited about the future technology advancements possible in India in this mobile first, cloud first world.

The cloud is going to be a huge enabler of consumer services and entrepreneurial growth. We are working with our partners to provide a wide range of Azure cloud offerings to accelerate economic growth and breakthrough cloud services in India. I'm passionate about the work we do to support education and other societal goals across India. Microsoft has been running one of the largest not-for-profit education and skills programmes in India. Over the last two decades, our programmes have helped over 40 million students, teachers and budding Indian entrepreneurs.

Your story is an inspiration to many. Some critics argue that your success highlights the unfortunate reality of Indian students who shine only when they give up on their country to work in the US. Your comments ...

There are many examples of Indian students who have remained in India and built great companies and done great things. Truth is that India is a tremendous source of technology talent, both at home and around the world. That's something we can all take pride in.

What or who has been your inspiration?

My parents have been among my biggest inspirations — they gave me the freedom and confidence to pursue what I wanted to. Beyond that, my teachers, friends and colleagues played a critical role in both introducing me to new things and pushing me to raise my game each step of the way. Bill Gates has also been an inspiration — from his vision of how technology could unleash the potential of every human being, to the curiosity and intellectual rigour that he brings to every interaction. I've learned so much from Bill, and I am delighted to have the opportunity to work closely with him again as a technology advisor to me and the company.

When you are not at work or, like you've confessed, signing up for online courses, what do you do? We know you like poetry. Any favourites?

I do buy more books than I can read and sign up for more online courses than I can finish. My love of poetry has grown. Maybe it's my attention span that needs more work, but I do love the compression in poetry. I went through a phase of reading Urdu poetry, thanks to the great transliterated versions now available. Now I am into Whitman and WH Auden. My all-time favourite is Keats — Ode on a Grecian Urn. Who is not haunted by those final lines — Beauty is truth, truth beauty — that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

How about cricket? Do you now get any time to play? Or even watch Tests?

I love the game. I was an ordinary player, but was lucky to play under some great captains and other solid players at school who went on to play a decent amount of First Class cricket.

You were born and brought up in Hyderabad. What memories do you have of the city?

Cumulatively I spent five years in Hyderabad. But I will always be a Hyderabadi. It was a laid back place in the late 70s and early 80s when I was growing up there. One got to do what they wanted versus being in a rush to do what others were doing. I enjoyed that freedom. I have lots of friends from Hyderabad Public School with whom I am pretty close, both in Hyderabad and elsewhere. It was great to get emails from all the CEOs who happen to be HPS alumnus — Shantanu Narayen at Adobe, Prem Watsa at Fairfax Holdings, TK Kurian at Wipro and Ajay Banga at Mastercard. It's surreal.

What's that one message you would want to give young professionals?

Find something you are truly passionate about, and throw yourself into it fully. Life is too short to just go through the motions on something you are not truly passionate about. Stay curious, never stop learning.

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