Profile: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
Since his appointment as CEO of Microsoft on February 4, 2014, Satya Nadella has been working to reinvigorate the once dominant tech brand. Under the stewardship of his predecessor, Steve Balmer, Microsoft went from one of the most innovative and profitable countries in the world to one rife with internal turmoil and employee paranoia. As 2016 moves forward, Satya Nadella will continue to take an active role in securing partnerships with innovative tech startups while increasing the user footprint of the company’s legacy software, Windows.
Office Announced for iPad
After recognizing that more and more users were choosing Apple’s iPad as their primary computing platform, Nadella made the decision to partner with their primary competitor in order to bring Microsoft Office to the iOS platform. In a world in which cloud based systems that provide a user’s data instantly across any platform is increasingly becoming the norm, Nadella recognized that the best way to ensure Office remained the top of the business suite heap was by making sure it was available on as many different OS’s as possible.
Windows 8.1 and Cortana
Within a year of taking the helm of Microsoft, Nadella chose to unveil the latest addition to their venerable Windows platform:; Windows 8.1. More than simply a slight upgrade from Windows 8, the release promised a host of new features geared towards professional users and business. The return of the Start Button, Internet Explorer 11 and the move to make it more desktop friendly were a big hit among consumers unsatisfied with the original Windows 8 release.
On the smartphone front, Microsoft released their virtual personal assistant “Cortana.” An answer to Apple’s “Siri,” Cortana promised the ability for users to search the web using Microsoft’s Bing using only their voice. The feature was later integrated into all Microsoft tablets and Windows machines.
Shift in Corporate Culture
During the 1990s, Microsoft was largely seen as a company who would partner with or purchase smaller startups, only to crush them once fully absorbed into the larger entity. This continued through Steve Balmer’s term and gave Microsoft the reputation of being a destructive force within the tech industry, incapable of true innovation and becoming increasingly outdated.
Nadella has made it his personal mission to reverse this perception, furthering integrating Microsoft products on operating systems other than windows and investing in the alternative computing platform, “Hololens.” Microsoft’s renewed interest in working with smaller companies has led to a more nimble, modern company that is better in tune with the ever changing world of technology.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.