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Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone Hardcover – September 26, 2017
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“In this thoughtful debut, the Indian-born Nadella tells the story of his personal life and his work as a change-making leader, and he explains the coming importance of machine intelligence. The author emerges as a modest, likable individual from an accomplished family… A valuable blueprint for techies and others in a culture-change state of mind.” (Kirkus Review )
About the Author
Satya Nadella is Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft. Before being named CEO on February 4, 2014, Nadella held leadership roles in both enterprise and consumer businesses across the company.
After Joining Microsoft in 1992, Nadella quickly became known within the company as a leader who could span a breadth of technologies and businesses to transform some of the world’s best known and most used products.
Originally from Hyderabad, India, Nadella now lives in Bellevue, Washington. He holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Mangalore University, a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago. Nadella is married and has three children. In his spare time, he loves to read poetry and follows cricket, a sport he played in school.
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Top customer reviews
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While some of these aspects were occasionally true, I've seen a sea change the last few years. Microsoft is now the company willing to take risks. They're willing to listen. They may not execute exactly as customers want, particularly at first, but they iterate fast and often. They're not as interested in milking the cash cow.
The cultural turnaround is shocking... and welcome. Enterprises take on the culture of their leaders, and Satya has clearly left an empathetic, but thoughtful impact on his employees. It's a bit early to call if this will be a success - Ballmer and Gates were arguably successes despite their hardnosed attitudes. However, if he succeeds (and so far he's doing well) it will be a great case study on how to lead in business while still being a good person.
In his 2017 book, “Hit Refresh,” Satya Nadella, Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft, provides detailed outlines and on-going steps for how he answered the challenges when he was named the third CEO in the company’s history following Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer.
Through nine chapters and a postscript he presents the Microsoft situation he initially inherited, how he pursued cultural and business changes and, finally, where he sees the future for not only Microsoft but also “big change” technology headed.
During the first three chapters Nadella recounts his background, early experiences in technology and working at Microsoft. Make no mistake: despite his modesty and understatement, Nadella is clearly a talented and exceptional person.
During the middle chapters he describes the need to rethink the future and goals for the company with specific insights that managers might find helpful:
• “Obsess about customers… and meet a customer’s unarticulated and unmet needs with great technology.”
• “Actively seek diversity and inclusion.”
• “We are one company… not a confederation of fiefdoms…have to learn to transcend those barriers.”
The author has shown his willingness to embrace change by forging new partnerships with companies long-viewed as arch rivals such as Red Hat and Apple and acquiring new platforms promising growth opportunities such as Linked-In.
Nadella offers his perspective on principles for leadership:
• “Bring clarity to those you work with.”
• “Generate energy, not only on (your) own terms but across the company.”
• “Find a way to deliver success, to make things happen.”
During the last chapters the author focuses on three technologies that lead to massive shifts in the economy and society: mixed reality, artificial intelligence and quantum computing. The first changes how people interface with computing and the digital world by increasing the experiential nature of the specific task.
The second, Nadella sees as augmenting human capabilities with analyses leading to insights and predictive power achieved far more rapidly than people working on their own. He does caution later adapting to this technology requires major changes in the educational system to prepare today’ students to be the managers and developers of tomorrow.
Finally, while still experimental, quantum computing will give rise to rapid growth in computing power and speed so that complex calculations once thought beyond reach can be achieved, If you want more insights, read my Amazon review of Scientific American’s 2016 collection, “Ultimate Physics” (here’s the link: https://www.amazon.com/review/R2L9R6OLCSFQUM/ref=cm_cr_srp_d_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8)
At the end of the book Nadella reprises a theme he sees as a core value in creating successful relationships for employees, managers, partners and people in general: the importance of education and empathy. Education as an essential road to understanding and using new technology so that a knowledge gap does not create further displacement in society.
Empathy is critical for leaders and managers to understand others, their motives, wants and needs. And something that seems to be in short supply at this time.
I am very disappointed. I am willing to bet the corporate communications team wrote 99% of the book with only a minor review, if any, from Satya or maybe from someone reporting to him. Let me give a few specific examples.
The book is often pitched about one of culture change. But I did not find anything specific that would illustrate the change. For example, on page 109 it reads “the key to the culture change was individual empowerment” when Microsoft already had the most empowered employees in the World.
It talks about Diversity and women’s right, when Microsoft has the most diverse workforces. In one of the small buildings where I worked, there were people from probably 100 nationalities who spoke dozens of languages. In fact, 10 years ago I saw reverse discrimination: underperformers being promoted over much more qualified employees to meet the quota of women and minority in leadership positions.
The book touts the partnership with Apple as a great example of the new strategy for Microsoft: “Seeing me demo Microsoft software on an iPhone designed and built by Apple, one of our toughest, longest standing competitors, was surprising and even refreshing.” In reality Microsoft and Apple have worked together for decades.
In fact, Microsoft has always been the top software vendor for macs. In 1997, Microsoft invested $150 million in Apple, effectively saving the company from bankruptcy. The partnership included a broad patent cross-licensing agreement and preferential treatment for the Mac for the next version of Office, which had been available for a long time. Office for the iPhone was already being built when Satya took over as CEO.
The book tries too hard to position Microsoft a visionary, with a healthy dose of buzzwords and very little substance. This sentence, for example: “Toyota…has transformed their cars and trucks into next-generation digital era vehicles”, whatever that means.Most of the book is non-stop talk about how great Microsoft is, how talented is the executive team, how Microsoft will dominate Internet of things, AI, cloud, and security.
I still think Microsoft is a wonderful company and Satya is a great CEO. Sadly, this book itself is a statement about the culture of the company. A sad one.
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