Jagler: ‘Intense curiosity’ drives Microsoft innovations – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
It wasnât by plan or design, but three of the top executives in the C-suites at Microsoft Corp. have Wisconsin ties.
The CEO of the Redmond, Wash.-based technology company is Satya Nadella, who earned his masterâs degree in computer science at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Microsoftâs president and chief legal officer, Brad Smith, went to high school in Appleton.
The companyâs vice president of human resources, Kathleen Hogan, grew up in Wauwatosa.
âWe all came in through different portals. But we enjoy talking about our Wisconsin roots,â said Smith, who rekindled his home state connections this past week by speaking at Marquette University.
Smith spoke toÂ law school students and others in attendance at a presentation of âOn The Issuesâ with Mike Gousha about the keys to the success and the vision of Nadella as Microsoftâs third CEO after Steve Ballmer and founder Bill Gates.
The three CEOs who have guided Microsoft have one thing in common, Smith said: âThe intense pursuit of curiosity.â
In fact, the âintense pursuit of curiosityâ is the driving force behind Microsoftâs innovations as a company, Smith said.
âHe (Nadella) wants to developÂ not a company of know-it-alls, but a company of learn-it-alls. The key is being nimble. Weâre all going to need to keep learning.â
A sense of âintense curiosityâ can be injected into businesses if it is nurtured and promoted by company leaders, Smith said.
Smith is walking the walk. He is currently three-fourths of the way through reading a biography of Civil War general and former U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant.
Why? Because Smith was fascinated by the challenges Grant faced as president after the impeachment of former President Andrew Johnson, who took office with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Smith wanted to learn how Grant governed a country that was so profoundly divided.
Although Microsoft is a global company, Smith believes its fate is entwined with the future of the United States.
Microsoft invests more than $12 billion a year in research and development, he said, and more than 85% of it is done in the United States.
âWe know we have a lot to learn, but we believe this makes one conclusion abundantly clear: In a time of rapid change, we need to innovate to promote inclusive economic growth that helps everyone move forward.Â This requires a shared responsibility among those in government, across the private sector, and by individuals themselves,â Smith wrote in a post-election blog.
With advancements in technologies such as the internet of things, cloud computing and 3D printing, Smith said this is a time for America to aim higherÂ and rebuild its infrastructure, including high-speed trains. Such investments are fueling economic growth in China, Smith said.
The U.S.Â should leverage its diverse population as an asset, not a liability, Smith said.
âOver a third of our engineers have come from other countries âÂ 157 countries, in fact.Â We have employees from every race, ethnic background and religion.Â If thereâs a language spoken on the planet, thereâs a good chance that itâs spoken by an employee at Microsoft,â Smith said. âAnd weâre committed to promoting not just diversity among all the men and women who work here, but the type of inclusive culture that will enable people to do their best work and pursue rewarding careers. We know that this is the only way weâll fully succeed as a company.Â And we believe itâs the only way weâll fully succeed as a country.â
Steve Jagler is the business editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Send C-Level ideas to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
President and chief legal officer
Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Wash.
Expertise:Â Technology, business, public policy, law
Previous experience:Â Attorney at Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C., and London
Education: Bachelorâs degree,Â public and international affairs,Â Princeton University; law degree, Columbia University
Family:Â Wife, Kathy; son, Greg; daughter, Julia; dog, Scooter
Best advice ever received:Â âAdvice growing up from my parents, âTake an interest in other people and ask them lots of questions.ââ
Favorite movie:Â âThirteen Daysâ
Favorite musical act:Â Bruno Mars
Favorite book: âJohn Marshall: Definer of a Nationâ by Jean Edward Smith
Favorite Wisconsin restaurant:Â Any restaurant at Lambeau Field
Wisconsin roots:Â âIâm very much a product of the strong public school system in Wisconsin.Â As I was growing up, my father worked for Wisconsin Telephone, and I went through the public schools in Beloit, Wauwatosa, Racine and most especially Appleton, where I went to high school (Appleton West).Â As I spent four years at Princeton, I always felt that my strong public school education was a match for the best schools anywhere else.Â Iâve always been grateful for that, and I try to give back with support for the Appleton Education Foundation and similar work in Appleton, in particular.â