Imagine if Satya Nadella had accepted the opportunity to work with Amazon. Both Amazon and Microsoft would have a significantly diverse face today. This speculation comes from an extensive profile by Fast Company on Satya Nadella.
Back in the days when Steve Ballmer headed Microsoft, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos tried to rope in Nadella to join Amazon.
In a very detailed and extensive profile of Nadella by Fast Company’s Harry McCracken, the CEO’s old manager at Microsoft – Doug Burgum – reveals that Bezos tried to persuade Nadella to go along with him at Amazon 10 years back.
“Early on Jeff Bezos was trying to recruit him [to Amazon],” North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a former Microsoft manager, told the magazine. “It was my job to re-recruit him.”
Although by then Amazon had already begun to widen its horizons, Burgum figured out how to get Nadella to remain by guaranteeing him that Microsoft offered a greater number of opportunities than an online book shop, a precise portrayal of Amazon before it became one of the biggest organizations on the planet.
“I was wrong about my characterization of Amazon,” Burgum added. “But I was right about convincing Satya to stay.”
Burgum, who ran Microsoft’s business solutions group, had already started grooming Nadella to be his successor. However, CEO Steve Ballmer had different plans for Satya, and he reshuffled him to lead the engineering arm of Windows Live Search, later known as Bing.
“Steve was very clear,” Nadella recalled, describing the position, which he felt he couldn’t refuse. “He just said, ‘Look, this is the most important challenge I have. I don’t think this is maybe even a smart decision for you, but I want you to do it. Think wisely, and choose. And by the way, if you fail, there’s no parachute. It’s not like I’m going to come and rescue you and put you back into your old job.’”
Eventually, diligent work and patience paid off. Initial assessments made by Burgum and Ballmer ended up being the defining moment for Nadella, and he was appointed the CEO of Microsoft in 2014, making him one of the most famous CEOs in the world.
Mason Morfit, then-president and CIO of ValueAct, an activist hedge fund that had gotten a say in the new CEO hire by investing $2 billion in Microsoft, said, “I was personally more inclined to lean toward an outsider.” Most other Microsoft watchers were. Nadella, who had joined the company in 1992 at the age of 25, was hardly a favorite, despite the fact that he was already running Microsoft’s cloud business.
Since his appointment as the CEO, Nadella has been able to reestablish Microsoft to relevance. He has generated more than $250 billion in market value in just three and a half years – more value growth over that time than Uber, Airbnb, Netflix, Spotify, Snapchat and WeWork. In fact, it’s more than all of them combined.
“[Nadella] has surpassed every one of my desires,” said Morfit, now an individual from Microsoft’s board. “I wish I could state we saw everything happening. That wouldn’t be straightforward.”