Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s (MSFT) second-in-command, has climbed the corporate ladder all the way to the top of one of the world’s most prominent brands. It’s paid off in a position of power and prestige for Nadella, who has served as Microsoft’s chief executive officer since 2014.
It’s also paid off financially, with Nadella’s net worth estimated to be $387 million as of March, 2020. Nadella also owns approximately 280,174 shares of Microsoft stock, which is valued at over $185 million. In 2019, Nadella earned an estimated salary of $50 million as CEO at the company.
What drove Satya Nadella to the top of the global business executive echelon and how has that translated into great wealth for Microsoft’s CEO? Here’s a closer look at Nadella’s story.
Satya Nadella was born in India, in Hyderabad in the southern part of the country.
His parents, Prabhavati and Bukkapuram both worked, his father as an administrator for the Indian government and his mother working as a Sanskrit lecturer.
By all accounts, Nadella enjoyed a stable childhood, working his way through early education to Mangalore University’s Manipal Institute of Technology. There, Nadella studied electrical engineering and fared so well he was accepted at the University of Wisconsin in 1988, where he studied computer science.
He earned that degree in 1990 and then moved on to the University of Chicago, where he received an MBA from the Chicago Booth School of Business in 1997.
Stacking success after success as a young academic, Nadella also found time to pursue other life passions, like playing cricket and reading as many books as possible.
Nadella spelled that philosophy out in a February 4, 2014 letter to Microsoft employees after being named CEO at Microsoft.
“Like anyone else, a lot of what I do and how I think has been shaped by my family and my overall life experiences. Many who know me say I am also defined by my curiosity and thirst for learning. I buy more books than I can finish. I sign up for more online courses than I can complete. I fundamentally believe that if you are not learning new things, you stop doing great and useful things. So family, curiosity and hunger for knowledge all define me.”
A Blooming Career at the Company Bill Gates Built
Fresh out of college, Nadella set out to fulfill an early ambition in his life – to “build things" and link that passion to his burgeoning expertise in computer science.
He stared that climb as a software engineer at Sun Microsystems in 1990. Honing his craft as a computer engineer at Sun, Nadella caught a second professional break after being asked to interview at Microsoft in 1992. He sailed through the interview process and was immediately assigned to the Windows NT software team, where he worked on the company’s primary business operating system.
Nadella also continued his academic studies on the side and earning his MBA from the University of Chicago. That gave Nadella the management imprint needed to grow at a success-oriented company like Microsoft. Climbing through the ranks, he was tapped as vice president for the company’s small business service, and was soon promoted to corporate vice president of Microsoft Business Solutions.
Regularly impressing the company brass with a keen business acumen and a mastery of software building, testing and production, Nadella was rewarded with a senior vice president of Microsoft’s online services unit in 2007, a plumb post for the young software engineer.
He shifted over to the company’s server and tools division, one of the largest company revenue-generating units, with almost $20 billion in cash raked in every year.
The Brass Ring
Now a big hitter at Microsoft, Nadella was named executive vice president of the company’s rapidly growing cloud computing division, which encompassed the Bing search engine and Xbox Live, among other high-profile areas at the company. It was a move company insiders viewed as grooming Nadella for bigger things at Microsoft.
Under his leadership, Microsoft’s Cloud Services division generated $20.3 billion in 2013 – up from $16.6 billion when he came aboard two years earlier. He was rewarded over $17 million in stock bonuses, and had climbed to an annual salary level of $700,000 in 2013.
Thus, it was no surprise when Satya Nadella was tapped as Microsoft’s newest CEO (taking the place of company legend Steve Ballmer.) The announcement was made on February 4, 2014. He wasted no time in setting the tone as company leader in a note to new employees on the same day he was named CEO.
“I truly believe that each of us must find meaning in our work,” he wrote. “The best work happens when you know that it’s not just work, but something that will improve other people’s lives. This is the opportunity that drives each of us at this company.”
“Many companies aspire to change the world. But very few have all the elements required: talent, resources, and perseverance. Microsoft has proven that it has all three in abundance. And as the new CEO, I can’t ask for a better foundation. Let’s build on this foundation together.”
Nadella struggled to find his footing early on. Controversy arose when Nadella stated that women shouldn’t be paid the same as men – at an event entitled “Women in Computing” in October 2014. He later apologized in a letter to employees that same month.
Things improved and fast. Leaning on the business management book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” as a blueprint, Nadella steered Microsoft on a new path, one that would take a longer, more enduring “growth mindset” model.
New initiatives followed, including the purchases of Mojang, creators of the popular Minecraft video game, and later, LinkedIn, the highly-used business-oriented social media platform.
Today, business at Microsoft is booming, reporting revenues of $36.9 billion in the second quarter of 2020 along with earnings per share of $1.51. On February 10 and 11, Microsoft’s stock price closed at $194 per share (like most stocks, that figure has fallen significantly since March, 2020) and surpassed Apple (AAPL) as the most valuable company in the world. The company’s market capitalization stands at 1.165 million.
That’s a mountain company founder Bill Gates has wanted to crest for decades. With Satya Nadella at the helm, Microsoft was able to climb it, and now stands as the top technology company in the world again.
In 2019, Satya Nadella was named as “The Person of the Year” by The Financial Times.
He’s been married to Anupama Nadella since 1992. The couple has three children, and reside in the Clyde Hill section of Bellevue, Wash., the headquarters for Microsoft.
Nadella has published a book on his life and career in technology entitled “Hit Refresh,” donating all of the proceeds to charity. He still reads and follows cricket matches around the world. He’s also part owner of the Seattle Sounders FC, a leading Major League Soccer (MLS) team.