When a cricket obsessed man writes a sort of autobiography driven management book in the land that hails baseball and technology, it then is a sure thing to read. Satya Nadella, the chief executive officer of Microsoft, describes his unique love for cricket as a "wondrous Russian novel with plots and subplots played out over the course of multiple acts." So is his book Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone, where he talks about the blueprint that reinterprets Microsoft. This book unfolds his stories of finding love, his struggles, professional success and empathy in three distinct storylines. This book has been published by HarperCollins.
In the book, Nedella speaks passionately about his life from India to Redmond, hitting refresh and prophesying the upcoming fourth industrial revolution. The first part of his story takes us to Hyderabad, in his childhood and some phases of his adult life. There are the three forces that shaped his childhood: his father's intellectual curiosity and the love for history, his mother's love for happy living and his inclination towards the game of cricket.
There were posters of both Karl Marx and of Lakshmi, the Indian goddess of plenitude and contentment in his bedroom but Nadella really wanted to have a poster of the Hyderabadi cricketing legend ML Jaisimha. Growing up in the household of a Marxian economist father and a sanskrit scholar mother allowed him to learn a great deal about the essence of harmony and happiness.
It was until his father advised him to go beyond Hyderabad, he was content with life by the twelfth grade while planning to attend "a small college, play cricket for Hyderabad, and eventually work for a bank." Nadella flunked Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) entrance exam and later got into the (EE) at Manipal Institute of Technology. That cemented the beginning of everything for him.
Nadella fell in love with machines and computers but tragically he had to let go of cricket which he speaks out as, "...no longer my central passion. I played one match for my college team and hung up my gear. Computers took cricket's place and became number one in my life." Migrating to the USA was not his initial plan partly because of the hassle of visa processing. He got lucky and was offered a masters program at the University of Wisconsin in the Computer Science Department.
Bill Gates in the foreword wrote about Nadella's long term rise at the organisation. With his extensive work with Nadella in the Bing Search and other projects Gates finds him profoundly "humble, forward-looking, and pragmatic" whose leadership takes Microsoft away from a windows-centric approach to cloud and user friendly projects that changes things for the better. But Nadella's extensive mentorship came from Steve Ballmer. He was trusted with the cloud services now known as Microsoft Azure by Ballmer. According to Nadella it was him who let him understand the three Cs governing Microsoft: concept, capability and culture.
The second part of Nadella's journey starts with a Job interview at Microsoft back in 1992. He got his first lesson in empathy when he was asked the course of action Nadella would prefer if he sees a baby crying on the street. Nadella wanted to call 911. Richard Tait the interviewer ended the session and put an arm around his shoulder showing him the door saying, "You need some empathy, man. If a baby is lying on a street crying, pick up the baby." Later Nadella learned empathy the hard way with personal tragedies.
Cricket has been a lifelong lesson for Nadella. He began the second chapter of the book by boldly stating that, "I am obsessed with cricket. No matter where I am, this beautiful game is always in the back of my mind." This game has a professional tie with him throughout his life.
Nadella is indebted to the three unique leadership lessons that he has learned from cricket. The first is to have a competitive attitude no matter how strong the opponent is. The second lesson that Nadella learned is putting the team first. This valuable lesson had its impact in the cloud business he was chosen to lead. The third according to Nadella is the most important which he understood after being selected as the CEO of Microsoft. Nadella learned that a leader is far more than egoistic impulses. A leader must lead the way.
Nadella met Anu, his wife in India. She was an architecture student. Both of them snapped right away as they also share a good family bond. A problem started when Nadella was unable to bring Anu to the USA. So he made a bold sacrifice. Nadella surrendered his green card and applied for a H1B visa for temporary skilled workers.
A tragedy follows the couple in 1996 during the birth of Zain their first child. He was born with cerebral palsy. This changed both Nadella as a person and as an engineer who saw the power of cloud technologies that people rely on to transform and save lives.
The last part of the book is dedicated to future technologies that are about to change the way we perceive reality. He bets on three technological advancements: artificial intelligence, mixed reality and quantum computing. In terms of AI, like Asimov's laws of robotics, he also made Microsoft rely on three principals as: technologies that augment human experience, trust should be an engraved fact to new technologies and all technological advancements will be inclusive for everyone.
These newer technologies according to him are about changing the face of the future in concert with people who will use them for empathy, education, creativity with judgment and accountability. Nadella dismisses the fact that AI would be threatening for future jobs rather he believes that it would create a "more accessible and equitable economic playing field" for our future generations as corporations need to take responsibility for positive changes for societies. Hitting the refresh button seems to be the right choice for that, Nadella wants us to go down that path.