How Satya Nadella Worked His Way To The Top At Microsoft

Newly minted Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has been with Microsoft since 1992, when he was just 24 years old. Over the years, Nadella has worked his way into a diverse set of roles at Microsoft, some engineering focused, others more business focused — which makes sense, since his educational background includes both skill sets.
This isn't the first time Nadella has been tapped to fill a critically important role at Microsoft. In fact, on at least two other occasions, he's been chosen from a pool of other highly qualified candidates to fill important roles at the company.

Nadella has also been a spokesperson explaining the importance of key technology shifts, including .NET, RFID and the cloud.
As Nadella settles into the Mother Of New Roles, CRN takes a look back at the path he has taken to the top.

2000 -- Says .NET Will Be Great For Partners
At its Fusion 2000 conference, Microsoft formally unveils its monthly subscription-based licensing model for its new ASP channel, along with .NET tools and the beta for Small Business Server 2000.
Nadella, in his role as vice president of the Microsoft bCentral small-business website, explains how partners will benefit from the hosting of the full range of Windows 2000 and Windows DNA 2000 servers and the .NET platform.
".NET is a way of bringing the power of Web services and traditional client/server applications together," Nadella tells CRN at the time. "The notion of what a platform is going through, a transition to client/server and now services, and we need a rich partner model to develop solutions for it."
Nadella also says Microsoft partners can make money by helping enterprises integrate and build .NET services that work with traditional Microsoft client/server products such as Office and Exchange.

2004 -- Sheds Light On Microsoft's RFID Strategy
After Microsoft launches a pilot to integrate RFID-tracking technology into its Axapta warehouse-management software, Nadella, now corporate vice president for development at Microsoft's Business Solutions group, explains the rationale behind integrating RFID into existing apps.
"It's an approach that's pragmatic," says Nadella. "It really helps small and midsize businesses realize all the benefits of RFID, with a lower cost of ownership. My goal is not to inundate these companies with more software than they need."

Sponsored post

NEXT: Moving On Up

2006 - Promoted To Head Of Microsoft Business Solutions

In September, Nadella is named to replace Doug Burgum as senior vice president of Microsoft Business Solutions, capping a nearly year-long search for Burgum's replacement.

Microsoft looked at external and internal candidates but ultimately decided that Nadella was best qualified for the job, explains Jeff Raikes, then-president of Microsoft's Business Division. "We went through literally dozens of candidates for the role and at end of the day concluded Satya was best for the job," he says on a conference call.

On the call, Nadella notes that Dynamics ERP and CRM are now profitable, adding that he intends to enlist the Microsoft channel to help drive market share for the products. "I'm really looking forward to continued progress on both the R&D side and by selling our products through our partner channel in very profitable way," Nadella says.

2007 -- Tapped To Lead Search And Ad Platform Group

Just six months after being named head of Microsoft Business Solutions, Nadella is tapped to lead Microsoft's newly formed Search and Ad Platform group. Microsoft says the surprise organizational move is aimed at aligning its search and ad platform efforts under one research-and-development leader.

Nadella gets a new boss, Kevin Johnson, president of the Platform Services Division -- but Johnson will leave to become CEO of Juniper the following year.

2009 -- On Front Lines Explaining Bing Outages

In December 2009, Nadella is senior vice president of research and development for Microsoft's Online Service Division, overseeing the cloud infrastructure that underpins the company's search, portal and advertising systems.

In one of his first challenges in this role, Nadella gets out in front of a 30-minute Bing outage that has critics questioning Microsoft's ability to mega-scale services, explaining in detail what went wrong.

"The cause of the outage was a configuration change during some internal testing that had unfortunate and unintended consequences," Nadella says in a blog post. "As soon as the issue was detected, the change was rolled back, which caused the site to return to normal behavior. Unfortunately the detection and rollback took about half an hour, and during that time users were unable to use"

2011 -- Appointed Head Of Server And Tools Division

A month after Microsoft veteran Bob Muglia is ousted from the role, Nadella is named head of Microsoft's Server and Tools unit, the biggest part of the company from a revenue standpoint. He wins the job over Amitabh Srivastava, senior vice president in the Server and Tools Business, who then leaves Microsoft.

In an email to employees, Ballmer says Nadella's diverse skill set will help keep the Server and Tools cash cow performing well. "He has strong collaboration skills, is decisive in both decision-making and delegating, and has strong customer insights, engineering and business expertise. He also knows how to structure organizations for outstanding performance," Ballmer says in the email.

In fiscal 2012, Nadella lead the Server and Tools unit to $19 billion in revenue.