While Satya Nadella has not yet been selected as CEO of Microsoft, the reaction in India’s Hyderabad has been euphoric at the possibility that a native son will be running the global software giant.
The 46-year-old Microsoft veteran — he got there in 1992 after a short stint at Sun Microsystems — who heads its enterprise efforts was born in the Andhra Pradesh region known as one of the key tech sectors of the country. So much so, that the former “City of Pearls” is now referred to as “Cyberabad.”
Microsoft has its biggest research center outside the U.S. in the area, along with many big U.S. tech firms.
Nadella went to school there through college, part of an Indian engineering talent pool known as the “Telugu techies” for the Dravidian language spoken there. The son of a government official in the Indian Administrative Service, he moved to the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee for computer science postgraduate work, as well as getting a business degree at the University of Chicago.
In an interview with the Hindustan Times, Rameshwara Rao, vice-chancellor of the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, noted that “the seeds sown two, three decades back are giving their fruit. What Hyderabad is today is due to the sum and effort of many and Nadella’s elevation would add to the global recognition we achieved.”
It’s a common sentiment that has run through much of the media in India, since Re/code first named Nadella last week as the likely winning candidate in the six-month search. He would replace Steve Ballmer and become the third CEO in Microsoft’s history. The first was, obviously, co-founder Bill Gates, who will be working closely with Nadella if he is chosen.
In the Economic Times, a former classmate at the Hyderabad Public School in Begumpet recalled Nadella as a young man, saying that “he was very friendly and jovial. He was also a bright student. We studied together for about five years and there was not one single person who had issues with him in class.”
A professor at the Manipal Institute of Technology remembered a much more aggressive Nadella — who studied electronics and communications engineering there — in an interview with the Times of India.
“When all other students will quietly listen to what I would teach, he will ask a lot of questions — ‘Why does it have to be like this, why can’t we do it like this?'” said Harishchandra Hebbar. “Sometimes it felt like he was just testing my patience.”
The excitement in India is no surprise. If selected, which is expected to happen this week after a formal board vote, Nadella will become one of the most powerful tech execs in the world. Another prominent Indian-born tech exec is Shantanu Narayen, CEO of Adobe, who is from the same area as Nadella.