Two technology leaders visited UT and told a packed audience that even with decades of experience, being open-minded has helped them evolve with the industry.
Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, and Robert Metcalfe, co-founder of the ethernet and university professor into an auditorium full of eager students and faculty spoke November 12. Both leaders in the tech industry, they conducted a well-versed and humorous conversation about leadership and staying at the front-end of the continuously evolving tech industry. With decades of experience in their field, the one characteristic that helped them stay at the front line of their industry was having a “growth mindset” and being open to the ever-changing presence of technology.
A VALUABLE LESSON
Nadella joined the Microsoft team in 1992, giving him 25 years of experience at the company. Despite his long and successful journey, the focus of the afternoon was not on what he achieved along the way but how he achieved it. University President, Gregory Fenves stated “He is a leader that truly cares about the people that work with him and the people that Microsoft serves around the globe.” This mindset initially came about when Nadella first interviewed with the company. The last question he was asked was “If a child fell in front of you, what would you do?” At the time, his response was to call emergency services. Microsoft, however, was looking for empathy. They wanted him to say that he would pick up the child and help him. Despite his response, Nadella was given a position at the company and began his career with a valuable lesson learned.
Aside from empathy, another key factor that Nadella credits his success to is his “growth mindset.” Microsoft has been considered one of the top five companies in the world three times. Originally competing against the oil and gas industry, Microsoft is now in the top five with tech companies. With technology constantly changing, Microsoft and Nadella’s strategy is to stay at the forefront of industry, positioning themselves as a leader in innovation. Evolving with the industry, Microsoft focuses on finding solutions for unmet customer needs while questioning the status-quo. Nadella wants to create technology so that others around the world can create more technology.
Metcalfe and Nadella went on to discuss the emerging and popular technology, AI. With technologies such as AI, VR, and AR growing more prominent each day, a small fear becomes present in the back of many minds: the adoption of technology will soon replace the need for human labor. However, Nadella begs to differ. He believes the world will always have a need for innate skills and intelligence to provide solutions for change. The adoption will lead to more productivity in life and the workplace. For example, with the app, Seeing AI, workers with visual impairments can “see” and be more confident around their surroundings. Lives are already changing with the adoption of this technology. Witnessing the evolution of AI in the next 10-20 years will definitely be a turning point.
HIS BOOK AND CLOSING REMARKS
To conclude the talk, Metcalfe and Nadella opened up the floor to a few questions. The main theme around the questions was Nadella’s belief in “growth mindset” and the details of his book, “Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone”, which was published earlier this year. The book highlights the transformation of business at Microsoft, as well as giving an inside scoop into Nadella’s journey that led him to his position today. The auditorium was left in awe at his empathy and intelligence while also feeling the sense of relatability with his humor and down-to-earth personality.