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New Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (Plus Hipster Hoodie) to Open Code Conference in May

Time to say hello to the new leader of the software giant.


We have already announced a pretty heady lineup for the the first Code Conference (actually our 12th event in a row).

Interestingly, the spate of big names for the May event includes a number of relatively new CEOs, such as General Motors’ Mary Barra and Walmart’s Doug McMillon, BlackBerry CEO John Chen, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich and Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf.

But there is one new CEO in particular — who will be one of the opening speakers at Code on the first night — who faces perhaps the biggest challenge of all: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

There are still more speakers to announce, but Nadella is a great person to start the discussion of where tech is going as he takes the reins of the software giant, which has been facing and continues to face numerous challenges despite its great size and power.

Among the many issues piled on the new leader’s desk: What to do about mobile; how to cope with the ever-aggressive forays of Google and other competitors into its main businesses; and how to rejigger the company to become more nimble in the face of fast changes that sweep the tech industry daily.

It’s a big job, of course, and it will be important to really get to know the person who is one of the sector’s highest-profile leaders.

Though a longtime vet of Microsoft, with stints all over the company, Nadella has not been a look-at-me exec in his many years in the tech space, although he prevailed over much splashier outside candidates to win the top job. He is only the third CEO since the company’s founding, replacing Steve Ballmer. The first Microsoft CEO, of course, was co-founder and chairman Bill Gates.

Most recently, he has been a quiet and self-effacing Microsoft enterprise chief, perhaps the company’s most important division. I met him when he was a key exec in the early days of its Bing search effort.

The 46-year-old Microsoft exec — he got there in 1992 after a short stint at Sun Microsystems — was born in Hyderabad in the Andhra Pradesh region known as one of the key tech sectors of the country. So much so, that the former “City of Pearls” is now referred to as “Cyberabad.”

Nadella went to school there through college, part of an Indian engineering talent pool known as the “Telugu techies” for the Dravidian language spoken there. The son of a government official in the Indian Administrative Service, he moved to the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee for computer science postgraduate work, as well as getting a business degree at the University of Chicago.

It will be interesting to see how Nadella thinks about the future of Microsoft. In a recent interview with the New York Times, I was impressed with his forthright tone about the tough issues Microsoft faces, in which he noted:

Longevity in this business is about being able to reinvent yourself or invent the future. In our case, given 39 years of success, it’s more about reinvention. We’ve had great successes, but our future is not about our past success. It’s going to be about whether we will invent things that are really going to drive our future.

One of the things that I’m fascinated about generally is the rise and fall of everything, from civilizations to families to companies. We all know the mortality of companies is less than human beings. There are very few examples of even 100-year old companies. For us to be a 100-year old company where people find deep meaning at work, that’s the quest.

A very big quest indeed.

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