Satya Nadella Aims To Make Microsoft Mighty — and Mindful

Satya Nadella, the Microsoft CEO who kept the company relevant as its primary PC software business faded, could write a book about the challenges he faced.

And he has ... but it's not a tell-all memoir. Instead, Nadella, who has worked at the company since the early 1990s, has positioned himself as the embodiment of the story Microsoft wants to tell about its transformation into a forward-thinking outfit focused on artificial intelligence, cloud software, virtual worlds and quantum computing.

"Microsoft is known for rallying the troops with competitive fire," Nadella writes in "Hit Refresh," his new autobiography. "The press loves that, but it's not me."

Nadella isn't brash or outspoken in the manner of his predecessors or many of his Silicon Valley peers. His thoughtfulness stands out in an industry known for big egos and awkward detachment from the real world. He talks a lot about empathy and mindfulness. Those who know him say he means it.

"Companies that try to understand other people's problems tend to be more successful," said K. Vairavan, a professor emeritus of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, who was chairman of the school's computer science program when Nadella obtained a master's degree there in 1990. Even then, Nadella combined intellectual vision with a warm personality, Vairavan said.

Nor did he ever seem stressed out -- though the professor once walked into the research lab one Monday morning to find Nadella's sleeping bag on the floor -- a sign of a long weekend spent finishing a thesis.

A Passage from India

Nadella's book recounts some personal and professional struggles, including details not widely known about his upbringing in India and adjusting to his children's disabilities.

In a surprising passage about the "perverse logic" of U.S. immigration law, Nadella reveals how during his early years at Microsoft, he gave up the security of a green...

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