'Be Bold, Be Right': Microsoft CEO Eyes Future Of Digital Transformation

After 41 years in business, Microsoft is on just its third CEO, which means anyone who answers the call to be the tech giant’s leader has some very big shoes to fill. And for current CEO Satya Nadella, who’s been with the company since 1992, a respect of the past with a vision for the future is the primary focus.

Nadella was the Gartner Symposium ITExpo’s keynote speaker on Tuesday, Oct. 18 via live feed from Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington. Due to a back injury suffered the day before, he was unable to fly cross-country.

“If you’re 49, don’t act 19 in the gym,” Nadella joked with the packed auditorium.

Nadella applauded his predecessors, of course nodding to Bill Gates who founded the company, and Steve Ballmer, who took over in 2000 and pushed Microsoft beyond the computing space with the invention of the Xbox gaming system and the Windows smartphone.

Nadella said he remains focused on what made the company so successful leading up to his appointment as CEO in February 2014, but explained, “Ours is not an industry that respects tradition, it only respects innovation.”

Despite its size and global influence, Nadella lamented Microsoft is still figuring out the future like most tech companies.

“Microsoft at its core is a platform company,” he said. “You have to think ecosystems, you have to think platforms. How do we bring end users, IT, and developers together? When you can do that, magic happens.”

Taking part in a Q&A session hosted by Gartner analysts Chris Howard and Helen Huntley, measured the influence of artificial intelligence and its growing effect on technology, specifically with Microsoft’s Cortana product.

When asked if he subscribed to the belief that AI will someday replace human capabilities, the company chief quickly reiterated Microsoft’s stance on the topic. “We’ve clearly stated we’re about augmenting human capabilities, not replacing them,” Nadella said. “How can we help humans get the most out of their lives?”

To that end, Nadella said one of his favorite business moves Microsoft has made under his watch is the acquisition of Minecraft because of its ability to link kids to technology and the future of IT. “The next 10 years has to be about profound creation,” Nadella said. “Minecraft education was the best way to introduce kids to STEM; it’s attractive to both girls and boys, and I love that aspect of it.”

Nadella finished the 45-minute presentation with a bit of cheeky advice for the Gartner crowd.

“Be bold, and be right,” he said to a laughing audience. “If you’re not bold, you’re going to have a future. And if you’re not right, you’re going to be dead.”

Learn more about information session from the Gartner Symposium by reading this article.