only the third CEO in 38-year-old Microsoft’s lifetime, 47-year-old Satya Nadella is being lauded by the American and Indian press alike.. I am, in fact, sweating a couple of jugs for what Satya’s elevation as Microsoft’s new CEO will amount to in a few weeks.
Here is my biggest grief. Satya Nadella will be used as an example by Indian parents to tell their children that engineering is not dead and can indeed take you places such as the CEO’s chair at Microsoft. At a time when the creative arts need a fillip and our historical heritage as well as cultural mores needs additional modes of expression, this is a dangerous thing.
Wonder what the new CEO will be taking home? According to a recent regulatory filing by Microsoft with the SEC, Nadella’s annual salary has been increased to $1.2 million.
As a professor of journalism at a top Mumbai college, I have had parents come up to me confidentially and tell me that they did not approve of their wards take up subjects as journalism, advertising, PR etc. To them, these are not real streams of education but more of a hobby class that needs to be tolerated for a finite amount of time. Most parents secretly hope their kids will realise their folly and go back to engineering just as they had envisioned. It is only when realisation finally hits that they come and ask me about the prospects in these new fields.
Satya’s bachelor of engineering in electronics and communication degree from Manipal Institute of Technology and MS in Computer Science from the University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin as well as an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business will be the new benchmark for teenagers hereon.
If only Satya himself had something truly revolutionary with his own career then things might have been a whole lot different. In fact, he could have been the new poster boy of a young India hungry for success across the world. But Satya himself chose to lead a simple and staid life, putting in the years at Microsoft by putting in all his hard work before his elevation to CEO. That is not path-breaking but a routine way of getting to the top.
You could call my analysis baseless paranoia and I would gladly like to be proved wrong but history is a better teacher than we credit it for. When I was studying in the last decade, almost 90 percent of my schoolmates went to engineering colleges after their junior college. Most were just following the family tradition and did not know what to make of their careers while doing engineering.
A good student went to a university in California to study computer science but is now working for his father’s interior design company after dropping out mid-way through the course. A brilliant student went into depression after he could not cope with the accumulated KTs and non-performance and dropped out to take banking exams. They were driven by their parents to emulate another Indian who had made headlines by joining hands with Microsoft to offer a revolutionary email service to the world called Hotmail. His name was Sabeer Bhatia.
The new generation of students have a new talisman to emulate now and his name is Satya Nadella.