Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella never expected to lead one of the world's largest, most powerful tech companies — he was just excited to work there, period.
Nadella joined Microsoft as a young engineer in 1992 and, after a 22-year climb up the corporate ladder, became the company's third CEO in 2014.
"I remember distinctly walking into building 22 at Microsoft thinking that's the greatest job on Earth I [could] have and I don't need anything more," Nadella, 55, told LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky in an interview published last week.
Becoming CEO was "not even a thought" in his long-term career plan, Nadella said.
Instead of being forward-minded, Nadella says he was focused on excelling in the role he had at the time. One of the most important lessons he learned in his decades at Microsoft — and his "best career advice" — is simple: "Don't wait for your next job to do your best work."
"There was never a time where I thought the job I was doing, all through my 30 years of Microsoft, that somehow I was doing that as a way to some other job," he explained. "I felt the job I was doing there was the most important thing. I genuinely felt it."
Instead of viewing your current job as an obstacle to achieving your career goals, Nadella recommends looking at it as an opportunity to demonstrate your enthusiasm and commitment to work, as well as your willingness to learn.
Nadella's career is a prime example of how this attitude can put you on the fast track to a promotion or pay raise sooner than any five-year plan can.
Throughout his tenure at Microsoft, Nadella had to constantly adapt depending on the teams he worked with and the divisions he managed, all while keeping pace with fast-changing technologies. He led the development of some of Microsoft's complex products, including Bing and Xbox Live.
"You cannot grow if you don't think your growth comes because of what you're doing," he added.
If you're feeling stuck at work or struggling to find meaning in your job, Nadella has advice for that, too.
During his 30s, a conversation with Doug Burgum, the current governor of North Dakota, made him think about his purpose at Microsoft, he said in a May 2018 interview with CNBC.
Burgum pointed out the importance of thinking about a deeper meaning to work, one that's more than transactional, since we spend so much time at our jobs.
It led Nadella to ask himself: "Why am I at Microsoft? What is it that gives me the energy at Microsoft, day in and day after?" he told CNBC's Jon Fortt.
That motivation came, he said, from "curiosity, a love of ideas, and the ability to translate that into impact."
Asking yourself those same questions about your job and company can help you evaluate if your job is aligned with your passions and the impact you want to have on the world.
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