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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella: How Empathy Sparks Innovation

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When Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was a kid growing up in Hyderabad, India his father couldn’t believe how poor his grades were. “My father, who was very, very good academically, always used to look at my report cards and be pretty stunned as to how anybody could be this bad.” But the way his father expressed it, Nadella said, was “endearing” — he told his son that meant he “must have some other real passion.”

Nadella loved playing cricket but at some point realized he probably wasn’t good enough to play professionally. He developed a glimmer of interest in computer science when as a young teenager his father bought him his first computer, a Sinclair ZX80 (an affordable home computer launched by the British firm Sinclair Research in 1980). “That turned me on to a lot of what eventually became a real passion,” he said.

Even so, he failed his entrance exam to the Indian Institutes of Technology. He did earn an engineering degree in his home country, then traveled to the U.S. for a master’s in computer science from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee — even though he said he had never been “west of Bombay.”

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