5 Insights from “Hit Refresh” by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s recent book Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone has given me new insights about Microsoft and my own approach to life.

Here are five of those insights:

(1) Microsoft Philanthropies is the world’s largest corporate philanthropy

Satya is donating all the proceeds of this book to Microsoft Philanthropies which focused on teaching digital skills like coding and computer science. Additionally, they have the affordable access initiative which invests in three pillars:

  1. Low Cost Internet Access
  2. Affordable Power
  3. Agricultural Internet of Things (IoT)

Click here to see more about their Affordable Access Initiative.

(2) Cloud technologies have led to significant innovations in foreign countries

“Hit Refresh” cites a startup in Kenya that has built a solar grid that people living on less than $2/day can lease to have safe, low-cost lighting and cooking. Now that lease payment history is being collected in the cloud, Kenyans have a credit rating system which allows them to have access to new capital based on their reliable payment history.The book also cites Greece academia using cloud data to work with firefighters to predict and prevent wildfires. This data arms firefighters with insights into the rate of fire spread, intensity, it’s movement, and it’s proximity to a water supply. Ultimately, this enables them to catch fires early.

(3) Microsoft’s mission makes more sense now

“Our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more”

Although the book isn’t about productivity tools like Microsoft Word, Excel, etc… Satya does a good job at articulating the soul of Microsoft and shares countless examples of how they are making people around the world achieve more.

(4) Satya pisses off the host and audience at a women’s conference… and apologized.

CBS captures the drama here:

Essentially, he suggested women should not ask for a raise and then walked it back here:
Satya cites the following advice he received in his career… (paraphrasing) “Corporate HR Systems are short-term inefficient, but long-term efficient” and I’ve seen that in my own career. Those who are overpaid, lazy, and under-skilled can survive for a few years, but eventually their career see’s a major correction. He was advising that all employees who are underpaid (women included) will see their pay improved over time. However, In the moment it appears that Satya completely forgot about the sensitivities around the “gender gap” in our current political landscape.

(5) Satya maps his investment strategy across three growth horizons

  1. Grow and mature today’s core businesses and technologies
  2. Incubate new ideas and products for the future (ex: adding artificial intelligence to every aspect of their service offerings)
  3. Invest in long-term breakthroughs, or technologies that may take decades to mature (ex: Quantum Computing)

Which led to think about my investment strategy in myself… garnering thoughts like:

  1. Approach each day as an opportunity to optimize on the previous day (ex: “Is watching two episodes of ‘The Voice’ the best use of my time?”, “I probably should skip dessert today”)
  2. Take time each week to plan for completely new experiences (ex: visit a new country, take a cooking course, etc)
  3. Address issues that won’t arise for decades (ex: my kids education, my retirement, earning passive income, living off the power grid one day, switching to a Machine Learning Research Engineer career path if cyber ever slows)

Overall, I’ve enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone working in technology or anyone with pressure to apply technology in new ways for their organizations. 


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