‘You cannot grow if…,’ Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella dishes out his best career advice

Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, never expected to lead one of the most powerful technology companies in the world. In a candid conversation with LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky, he said that when he joined the company as a young engineer in 1992, becoming CEO was “not even a thought” in his long-term career plan.

Still, he was looking forward to working there. “I clearly remember walking into building 22 at Microsoft and thinking this is the greatest job in the world I [could] and that’s all I need,” Nadella said in an interview with LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky.

Rather than being forward-thinking, Nadella focused on excelling in the role he held at the time, and one of the key lessons he’s learned during his decades at Microsoft is simply, “Don’t wait for yours next job to do your best work.”

“There was never a time, in all my 30 years at Microsoft, that I thought the work I do was somehow doing this as a pathway to another job,” he explained. “I felt that the work I was doing there was the most important thing. I really felt it.”

Nadella says you shouldn’t view your current job as an obstacle to achieving your career goals, but rather as an opportunity to demonstrate your drive, dedication, and willingness to learn. If you adopt this mindset, you may be able to accelerate your promotion or raise faster than any long-term plan could.

During his time at Microsoft Nadella continuously adapted to different teams and departments while staying current with rapidly evolving technologies. He led the development of several complicated Microsoft products, including Bing and Xbox Live.

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“You can’t grow if you don’t believe that your growth comes from what you do,” he added.

If you are stuck in a dead end job or have no purpose in your job, Nadella has guides for such situations as well. In his 30s, a conversation with Doug Burgum, the current governor of North Dakota, got him thinking about his mission at Microsoft.

Burgum pointed out the importance of reflecting on a deeper meaning of work, one that is more than just a transaction as we spend so much time in our work. This made Nadella wonder, “Why am I at Microsoft? What gives me the energy at Microsoft every day?”

That motivation, he said, came from “curiosity, a love of ideas and the ability to turn them into action.”

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