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8 Things Worth Knowing About Microsoft's New CEO, Satya Nadella

Satya Nadella, the Indian-born, Wisconsin-educated Microsoft veteran, is now its big boss.
Satya Nadella, the Indian-born, Wisconsin-educated Microsoft veteran, is now its big boss.

While it's never been considered a "cool" company, Microsoft is still a force — worth $300 billion, and Windows operating systems still run on a big chunk of the world's computers. While the profile of founder and former CEO Bill Gates still looms large, outgoing leader Steve Ballmer took the reins in 2000. And Tuesday, the board chose an internal candidate — 46-year-old Indian-American engineer Satya Nadella — to head the company. He's only the third CEO in Microsoft's 38-year history.

For the uninitiated, here are eight things to know about Nadella, so you're ready for this week's cocktail party chatter.

1) Nadella is known for his work with cloud computing at Microsoft and his deep technical knowledge. The company's cloud platform — which Nadella came to oversee in 2013 — is the infrastructure beneath Microsoft services such as Bing, Xbox Live, Office 365 and Windows Azure. Nadella has helped Microsoft's cloud platform, Azure, become a more serious competitor to Amazon's cloud. Before becoming head of cloud and enterprise engineering, Nadella led Microsoft's server and tools division.

2) He's a hyper-educated guy. Nadella's education started in his native India, where he attended Hyderabad Public School, Begumpet, and earned his bachelor's degree in electronics and communication engineering from Manipal University. In the U.S., he picked up a master's degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, before earning an MBA from the University of Chicago.

3) He's a company man. Nadella knows Microsoft and its culture — he's been working there since 1992. Before taking up the job at Microsoft, Satya was a part of Oracle-owned Sun Microsystems.

4) He sees the future of Microsoft in devices and services, not software. In a December interview with Quartz about his vision, Nadella said:

"I think reconceptualizing Microsoft as a devices and services company is absolutely what our vision is all about. Office 365 and Azure on the services side are representative of it. Does that mean we won't have our software available for other people to build on? No. Windows is available outside of our devices. Windows server is available outside of our data centers. We think that's important because there will always be distributed computing. But at the same time, there is also the customer expectations that we should complete the scenario. That means running a cloud platform, running a cloud service. So we're conceptualizing the future of Microsoft along those pivots."

5) His hometown has deep ties to Microsoft. Nadella's hometown, the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, is a technology hub that is home to one of the biggest Microsoft research and development centers outside of the United States. His father, B.N. Yugandhar, still lives in Hyderabad. According to Reuters, the senior Nadella was a member of the elite Indian Administrative Service and a member of the Planning Commission during 2004-2009 under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

6) Nadella is the father of three children; two with special needs. In an interview with New Zealand-based Paymark last September, Nadella talks about balancing his professional goals with personal ones:

"At home, raising kids or maintaining a loving relationship, realizing that you have achieved something fantastic is much harder to see. For example: making sure you are at home, reading to your kids every night, just trying hard to be a great parent with just hope that it may make your children great people and parents themselves, but that for most people you won't know the result of your efforts for 20 years and nothing is certain."

7) Nadella joins the growing list of Indian-born executives heading major global corporations. They already include PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi and Deutsche Bank co-CEO Anshu Jain.

8) The man likes exclamation points. A brief scan of what appears to be his Twitter account shows it, though the brand-loyal feed doesn't seem to have been updated since 2010.

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Elise Hu
Elise Hu is a host-at-large based at NPR West in Culver City, Calif. Previously, she explored the future with her video series, Future You with Elise Hu, and served as the founding bureau chief and International Correspondent for NPR's Seoul office. She was based in Seoul for nearly four years, responsible for the network's coverage of both Koreas and Japan, and filed from a dozen countries across Asia.
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