I was so happy to hear the news for Satya Nadella (or Satya NERDella as he will become known!).
I was his first boss at Microsoft, and continue to be one of his biggest fans, following his progress with admiration and pride.
In the early 90’s and the dawn of client server computing, we recruited Satya from Sun to be a part of CATM (the Corporate Account Technical Marketing team) that was helping our sales force sell in client server computing and ultimately the success of Windows NT in the corporate world.
His knowledge, curiosity and expertise of the workstation environment was exactly what we needed as we approached some of the leading investment firms, retailers and technology frontier corporate clients. I saw at that time his willingness to engage and pioneer on a new frontier.
I remember the interview. His thoughtfulness around every question. The brilliance in his response. And the struggle to come up with a follow-on question that would challenge him.
His youthful, angular and awkward presence still growing into his own skin, and his passion — absolute passion — for the power and potential that technology could hold. Lastly my thoughts of: “Who really puts cricket on their resume anyway?!?!”
From the day we met, I knew he was special. But in his recent announcement as CEO of Microsoft, he has overcome all expectations.
What we have seen in recent years across a broad range of technology firms is a quest to find the right balance of product and technology passion, market acumen and business leadership, and the personality that becomes synonymous with a mission and the culture of the company.
In other words, someone that those who follow can identify with, believe in and trust with the destiny of which they feel a part and ultimately must own. This trifecta has often proven elusive and rarely enduring, but when it has emerged, history has been made.
Right now, for Microsoft the power is in the potential, rather than the past. The election of a new hero from within delivers that message with conviction.
There is no question that this step is a big one, and the critics will be waiting for a stumble.
But Satya is not in this alone and will surround himself with those that compliment and increase the likelihood of success as I saw him do with CATM and how he elevated all of our games.
We won as a team.
For the next generation of leaders within Microsoft the calling will be “if not now then when, and if not you then who.” We need to see the best and brightest step forward to share in carrying the torch that will light the way to success.
On the client server mission — and his most recent successes within the company — I have seen Satya gain confidence, establish little wins that lead to larger successes, and build organizations and technology that create sustainable advantage, all with a personality that remains true to that first interview, thoughtful, curious, passionate about technology and ooh so smart.
At the end of the day, people love to work with him and respect him dearly. They will follow him through fire. Those are good characteristics in any leader and for the challenges and opportunities Microsoft now faces.
Lead us out NERDella!! Satya we are cheering you on. Be you, and brilliance will follow.
Richard Tait is a serial entrepreneur who co-founded Cranium and now serves as CEO of sports energy drink company Golazo. He’s also the co-founder of Simple & Crisp, Moment Lenses and MakerWear Design. He worked at Microsoft in various roles from 1988 to 1998.