Power Players

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says this piece of advice impacted him profoundly

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at the Microsoft Build developer conference in Seattle on May 10, 2017.
David Ryder | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Microsoft's 52-year-old chief executive officer, Satya Nadella, has proven himself a formidable leader, pushing the company to an extra $500 billion in market capitalization since he taking the helm five years ago.

But it was during his 30s that he received some advice from Doug Burgum, the current governor of North Dakota, which he says helped shape him into the businessman he is today.

"(Burgum) said, look, you're going to work … at Microsoft more time than you are going to even spend with your kids," Nadella recalled at a Stanford University Graduate School of Business speech in October.

"I said wow, that sounds pretty harsh," Nadella added.

Still, there's some truth to Burgum's statement. Since work takes up so much of our lives, Nadella said he realized it's important to think about a deeper meaning to work — one that's more than transactional.

For the engineer, that comes down to relating to the people he works with, he said.

"I take great pride in these people whom I've mentored or go on to do great things," Nadella said.

"The technologies will all be passed in time, but the people, what you did, how you behave … that's the relationship that I think you seek out while being true to yourself, and what makes you happy."

Governor Burgum's advice to find meaning at work also made Nadella think about his purpose at Microsoft, he said in a May 2018 interview with CNBC.

It forced him to question: "Why am I at Microsoft? What is it that gives me the energy at Microsoft, day in and day after?" Nadella told CNBC's Jon Fortt.

That motivation came, he said, from being able to connect his passions to work, and see its impact on the world.

"What defines me, I think, is curiosity, love of ideas, and the ability to translate that into impact," he said.

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