India-born innovator Satya Nadella takes the helm at Microsoft

Since 1992, Satya Nadella has brought Microsoft engineering expertise, business savvy, innovation and the ability to bring colleagues together, says Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Yesterday was a historic day for Microsoft with Satya Nadella’s appointment as the company’s new CEO.

After a six-month long search following former CEO Steve Ballmer’s retirement announcement, the corporate board appointed frontrunner Nadella CEO over other candidates that included Microsoft executive vice president Tony Bates and Ford CEO Alan Mullaly.

A Microsoft leader for 22 years, Nadella has inspired tech and news analysts to predict that he will usher in a new era for mobile at Microsoft, which has long been stalled during Ballmer’s tenure. This has the potential to push the Gates-founded enterprise to its former legacy of groundbreaking innovation.

“During this time of transformation, there is no better person to lead Microsoft than Satya Nadella,” said founder Bill Gates in a statement. “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.”

Nadella joined Microsoft in 1992 as executive vice president of the Cloud and Enterprise Group and quickly progressed within the company, taking on leadership roles within Microsoft’s business and advertising divisions. By March 2007, he was the senior vice president of Research and Development for the Online Services Division, and in February of 2011, Nadella became president of the Server & Tools division, a position he held until he was appointed CEO Tuesday. He has been credited with leading the transformation of Windows Live Search into Bing and the launch of Microsoft Office Small Business products.

In his first email to all Microsoft employees yesterday morning, Nadella acknowledged that the company will operate in a “software-powered world” moving towards a “cloud-first world,” and that he will work closely with Ballmer and Gates as he steps into his new role. Gates has also mentioned he will devote a third of his time working to develop new products.

“While we have seen great success, we are hungry to do more,” Nadella wrote. “Our industry does not respect tradition — it only respects innovation. This is a critical time for the industry and for Microsoft. Make no mistake, we are headed for greater places — as 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.”

Nadella’s approach of enacting a companywide practice of innovation, his history de-silo-ing corporate departments and his experience operating in an increasingly cloud and mobile-based paradigm has been widely noted in the press. Described as a humble and convivial team-builder who leads by example, Nadella is a Bellevue resident and native of Hyderabad, India with a penchant for competitive cricket matches – something to which he has attributed with teaching him the exceptional team-building skills he is well recognized for within the company.

Former White House Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra also noted in a Rediff.com interview that Nadella’s appointment “marks yet another milestone in this generation’s realization of the American Dream. … Satya’s role as immigrant executive validates what business leaders have long known — America’s greatest strength is its people — our ability to educate the best, and attract more from around the world.

And its message about U.S. immigration?

“I believe the debate on high skilled immigration is settled – both (Democrat and Republican) parties are for it, and with the recent compromise for H1-B fees to directly aid STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education, it will be part of any immigration package this year,” Chopra told Rediff.com.

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