UWM alumnus is new CEO of Microsoft

Microsoft Corp. today announced that its board of directors has appointed Satya Nadella, an alumnus of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, as its chief executive officer.

Nadella also was named to Microsoft’s board of directors, effective immediately. He previously held the position of executive vice president of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise Group.

Nadella, 46, is the third CEO since the Redmond, Wash.-based company was founded in 1975. He replaces Steve Ballmer, who is retiring.

Nadella graduated from UWM in 1990 with a master’s degree in computer science. Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise group builds and runs the company’s computing platforms, developer tools and cloud services. Nadella received the UWM Chancellor’s Innovator Award in 2013.

“During this time of transformation, there is no better person to lead Microsoft than Satya Nadella,” said Bill Gates, Microsoft’s founder and  member of the board of directors. “Satya is a proven leader with hard-core engineering skills, business vision and the ability to bring people together. His vision for how technology will be used and experienced around the world is exactly what Microsoft needs as the company enters its next chapter of expanded product innovation and growth.”

Gates will shift to a new role, technology advisor, while John Thompson will replace him as chairman.

A native of Hyderabad, India, Nadella also has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Mangalore University and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago. He worked in Sun Microsystems’ Chicago office before joining Microsoft in 1992.

Since he joined the company, Nadella has driven strategic and technical changes across Microsoft’s product suite, particularly in the area of cloud infrastructure and development.

“Microsoft is one of those rare companies to have truly revolutionized the world through technology, and I couldn’t be more honored to have been chosen to lead the company,” Nadella said. “The opportunity ahead for Microsoft is vast, but to seize it, we must focus clearly, move faster and continue to transform. A big part of my job is to accelerate our ability to bring innovative products to our customers more quickly.”

Since joining the company in 1992, Nadella has spearheaded major strategy and technical shifts across the company’s portfolio of products and services, most notably the company’s move to the cloud and the development of one of the largest cloud infrastructures in the world supporting Bing, Xbox, Office and other services. During his tenure overseeing Microsoft’s Server and Tools Business, the division outperformed the market and took share from competitors.

“Microsoft is one of those rare companies to have truly revolutionized the world through technology, and I couldn’t be more honored to have been chosen to lead the company,” Nadella said. “The opportunity ahead for Microsoft is vast, but to seize it, we must focus clearly, move faster and continue to transform. A big part of my job is to accelerate our ability to bring innovative products to our customers more quickly.”

“Having worked with him for more than 20 years, I know that Satya is the right leader at the right time for Microsoft,” said Ballmer, who announced on Aug. 23, 2013, that he would retire once a successor was named. “I’ve had the distinct privilege of working with the most talented employees and senior leadership team in the industry, and I know their passion and hunger for greatness will only grow stronger under Satya’s leadership.”

“Satya is clearly the best person to lead Microsoft, and he has the unanimous support of our Board,” Thompson said. “The Board took the thoughtful approach that our shareholders, customers, partners and employees expected and deserved.”

The announcement created a buzz today on the UWM campus.

“To think that one of our graduates has arrived at such a high place at such an important company in the world really is exciting,” said UWM Chancellor Mike Lovell. “He should know that he’s always going to be a Panther and we’ll be behind him here at UWM.”

K. Vairavan, emeritus professor of electrical engineering and computer science at UWM, said, “Well, I am extremely happy. Happy is the right word. And of course, I am proud, I am proud because his technical education had its origins in our program. And that means, you know, that speaks well for our program.”

Vairavan helped lead a research group Nadella was part of while completing his thesis on parallel algorithms in the College of Engineering & Applied Science.

Vairavan, who also served as UWM’s chairman of computer science while Nadella was pursuing his master’s degree in computer science, said Nadella was a very focused, talented and hardworking student.

“He was very focused, and he knew exactly what he wanted to do, and in a very short time he completed (an) excellent thesis,” Vairavan said. “Our master’s program is a challenging, strong program, and he did well, quite well.”

Nadella’s attitude, focus and goals “indicated to me always that he would reach the very top,” Vairavan said.

“He will be a very good CEO of Microsoft because of his extraordinary talents (and) dedication, and he always looks to the future,” Vairavan said.

Hossein Hosseini, Ph.,D.,professor of electrical engineering and computer science at UWM, also guided Nadella through his thesis.

“He had a passion for learning, and he wanted to be the best he could be,” said Hosseini, who served as Nadella’s academic advisor. “So he was always after learning more.”

Hosseini said Nadella is among the best students to have graduated from the College of Engineering & Applied Science, and he has often used Nadella as a role model when helping other students navigate their academic pursuits.

“By having good technical skills, good business skills  and good people skills, you can be very successful, and he is a good example (of that),” Hosseini said.

To view a video UWM produced about today’s Microsoft announcement, click here.

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