The Three VPs at Microsoft

Date:   Friday , February 28, 2003

Sivaramakichenane Somasegar began his career at Microsoft on Jan. 23, 1989 as a software design engineer in the OS/2 group. He took on management roles of increasing responsibility, eventually becoming responsible for Test Management for the NT family of products. Today, he is the Corporate Vice President for the Windows Engineering Services Group, responsible for the overall project and release management of the Windows family of products. He heads a team of over 2,000, and is also in-charge of Microsoft’s India Development Center.

The biggest difference between engineers here and India, he says, is that over time, the Indian engineer turns into a project manager, whereas a U.S engineer will pursure his development role into becoming a lead architect. Communication is another issue, says Somasegar. “People will grill me here,” he laughs, “whereas people in India are more hesitant.”

Passion is god, he says. “If I notice a spark in an interviewee, am half-way there in choosing him,” says Somasegar. Key to his success, he says, are five priorities: company, customers, the group you work for, the people who work for you, and yourself. If there is a trade-off, the company and customers come first, and you must come in last. Success is then automatic, he says.

Do your job well, he advises. “Tomorrow, if I am a janitor, I’d better do my job so well, that somebody will notice it and yank me out of it for a better role,” he says, “and that is all important.”

He holds a Masters in Computer Engineering from Louisiana State and a B.E from Anna University, India.

Sanjay Parthasarathy has been with Microsoft since 1990 and has served in a number of roles, including director of public network marketing and product manager for multimedia technologies. Parthasarathy joined Microsoft as product manager in the Windows multimedia group in August 1990. Today, he is corporate vice president of Strategy and Business Development Group as well as the evangelism of the .NET platform to the developer community.

“One thing that I have tried to do is to push myself into areas in which I know little or nothing,” says Parthasarathy. “That way, I have gained a wider perspective on many diverse issues and I use them in the subsequent responsibilities that I have taken on.” Despite Interactive TV not taking off, he says, the experience has been very useful in his current role.

Learning from failure is as important, says Parthasarathy. The failure itself, he says, is only a phase of a set of events, which could change with time. “But if the learning is lost in that experience, the failure is colossal,” he remarks.

Parthasarathy has a master’s degree in engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA, a master’s degree in management from the MIT Sloan School of Management, and a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Anna University in Madras, India.

Sathya Nadella has been at Microsoft for 10 years and has held a variety of marketing, product development and general management roles. Today, he is the corporate vice president responsible for leading the Product Group within Microsoft Business Solutions. Before taking on his current role, Nadella was responsible for launching and leading Microsoft® bCentral™, the leading Internet service providing Web presence, communications, customer marketing and e- commerce tools to small businesses. Nadella became part of Business Solutions when the division was formed by combining the bCentral, Great Plains® and Navision a/s groups.

“There are two kinds of dreamers—those who dream with their eyes closed, and those who do it with their eyes open,” says Nadella. “Software is about bringing dreams to reality.” Microsoft, he says, has carefully nurtured the culture of allowing people to dream, and bring those dreams to reality. “Whatever happens, don’t lose the capacity to dream,” he says. “Being an entrepreneur is very important in the corporate world. If the entrepreneurial world looks at Microsoft and wonder what we got right, it is the spirit of free thinking and the fearless ability to bring it to board.” It has been this culture, he says, that has brought him to this stage in his career. “We have the biggest VC [Gates] in residence here,” he laughs, “and this company still functions like a startup.”

Nadella has a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago.