The Microsoft rank-and-file are cheering the appointment of Satya Nadella as the new CEO, not because he’s safe but because he isn’t, one former Microsoft employee who worked for Nadella told Business Insider. This employee, Rakesh Malhotra, left Microsoft two years ago to join cloud-startup Apprenda as a vice president. But he worked for Nadella since 2011, when former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer put Nadella in charge of the server and tools division, replacing longtime executive Bob Muglia.
Nadella, who has been with Microsoft for 22 years, is seen as a safe choice as Microsoft’s new CEO, someone who knows the company and won’t drastically change course. But inside Microsoft, he’s known as the guy who gets rid of Microsoft’s over-the-top sales-y culture, ushered in when Ballmer, a boisterous sales guy, took over for Bill Gates as CEO. Nadella is also known as the guy who gets rid of middle management.
Malhotra first met Nadella when he became his boss in the server and tools group. Malhotra was an engineer, and Nadella held an informal meeting to ask lead engineers about their products. That meeting was unusual for Microsoft because it wasn’t extravagant. Meeting a new executive usually involved a lot of pomp and circumstance, Malhotra said, including PowerPoint presentations, demonstrations, and rehearsals for the meeting. Nadella “literally gave you a day’s warning. No theater. That may seem normal to people outside of Microsoft, but I can tell you that at Microsoft, and I was there for 10 years, that never happened before Nadella. Never once,” Malhotra said.
If big changes are needed at Microsoft, Nadella won’t be afraid to make them, either, Malhotra says. “People say he’s safe, but I don’t think he’s a safe choice. He changed how the server and tools division worked. He got rid of three layers of management,” Malhotra said. “Microsoft at its core is an engineering company, and he’s an engineer. By and large the rank-and-file say, ‘He’s one of us.’ People at Microsoft are happy.”
Correction, February 5, 2014: This post originally misspelled Rakesh Malhotra’s last name.