One of the defining facts about Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is that he’s been at the company for 25 years–nearly his entire career. But one of the more intriguing tidbits I learned while researching our new cover story on Nadella and the change he’s bringing to Microsoft is that he’s using lessons he learned at another iconic tech company: Netflix.
When Nadella ran engineering for Microsoft’s Bing search engine, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings became a mentor to him. “I got to know Reed very well,” Nadella explains. “He’s an amazing guy in so many ways. And so he said, ‘Hey, you can become an insider at Netflix, and just come and attend all my meetings and executive offsites.'” For about a year, Nadella took Hastings up on the offer, making multiple trips to shadow him at Netflix. Seeing another company from the inside after so many years at Microsoft changed his way of thinking, he says.
The experience was cut short when Nadella was named to lead Microsoft’s cloud business, leaving him short on time for extracurricular activities. But Hastings’ influence continues on: “Even today, whenever I get together with Reed, he’s always giving me one or two ideas about what to do and what not to do and how to think about stuff,” Nadella told me.