New Microsoft CEO Earned Master's Degree at UW-Milwaukee

Feb 4, 2014

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
Credit Microsoft

UWM instructor recalls Satya Nadella's intellect and dedication to his studies. On Tuesday, he became Microsoft's third CEO in company history.

Nadella earned a master's degree in computer science from UWM in 1990, after he completed a bachelor's in electrical engineering in his native India.

Former chair of UWM's Dept. of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science K. Vairavan attributes Nadella's success to "his intellectual ability, hard work and razor-sharp focus.” In fact, the emeritus professor recalls learning that the former student occasionally slept in a sleeping bag in a lab, after working late on research projects.

Chancellor Michael Lovell cites the time Nadella spent, while a graduate student at UWM, teaching courses to inner city high school students. When the university honored him with the Chancellor's Award for Innovation in 2013, "instead of talking about all the wonderful products he developed for Microsoft, he actually talked about how he learned empathy on our campus by working with students from local high schools and getting really engaged in their success," Lovell says.

In 2000, Nadella received the UWM College of Engineering and Applied Science Dean's Outstanding Alumnus Award.

He has been with Microsoft for 21 years and is  succeeding Steve Ballmer, who's stepping down as Microsoft CEO after 14 years and Bill Gates, the company’s first CEO and current chair.

Lovell met with Nadella in Seattle last year to discuss ways of advancing UWM, including a possible link between its School of Freshwater Sciences and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s efforts in clean water research. The chancellor says the new CEO also expressed interest in UWM's partnership with Johnson Controls Inc. around battery research.