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Microsoft's new CEO says Ballmer and Gates 'pressure-test you'

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Satya Nadella stock
Satya Nadella stock

Microsoft’s Satya Nadella took over from Steve Ballmer more than two weeks ago, and he’s providing his first interview as CEO today. The New York Times has discussed management style, culture, and Bill Gates' role with Nadella, offering some insight into his focus for Microsoft. While there’s no mention of the "cloud first, mobile first" strategy that Nadella discussed during his first few hours as CEO, he does reveal some details about his relationships with Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates, Microsoft’s former CEOs.

"Bill is the most analytically rigorous person," explains Nadella. "He’s always very well prepared, and in the first five seconds of a meeting he’ll find some logical flaw in something I’ve shown him." Nadella explains that during his early days of meeting Gates he used to feel intimated, but that he has learned Gates is grounded and "you can push back on him" during arguments. "Both Bill and Steve share this," says Nadella. "They pressure-test you. They test your conviction."

Bill Gates role not a big deal to Nadella

Nadella and Gates will both be working together closely on future products, but the new CEO doesn’t believe this is a big change as the pair have been working together "closely" for around nine years. "One of the fantastic things that only Bill can do inside this campus is to get everybody energized to bring their ‘A’ game," says Nadella in his New York Times interview. "It’s just a gift."

Moving forward, Nadella says he’s focused on figuring out how to take 130,000 employees and push Microsoft to be innovative and reinvent itself. Discussing the new "One Microsoft" culture, Nadella says "any organizational structure you have today is irrelevant because no competition or innovation is going to respect those boundaries." While that doesn’t suggest Nadella is going to make any big changes immediately, he stresses that Microsoft’s response times and focus on emerging businesses is key. "When you have a $70 billion business, something that’s $1 million can feel irrelevant," explains Nadella. "But that $1 million business might be the most relevant thing we are doing."