Amy Rees Anderson

An inspiring message on the importance of empathy from Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft

Friday evening it was my honor to be able to meet Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. He had come to Utah to be the keynote speaker for the UTC Hall of Fame that I was being inducted into and I had the privilege of getting to meet and talk with him before the event. Here’s a fun picture (if viewing from a cell turn phone sideways to view the entire picture):

Satya Nadella, Amy Rees Anderson and Senator Orrin Hatch

I was impressed at how gracious and down to earth he was in our conversation. I was even more impressed when he gave his keynote talk later in the evening.

Satya shared the message that empathy is the key to innovation. He explained that empathy is what allows us to gain understanding that helps us create products that can meet people’s unarticulated needs. Satya was open about the fact that he didn’t always have empathy to the same degree he does today. In fact, he shared that 25 years ago during his initial job interview with Microsoft he had been answering coding questions for hours on end only to get to the end of his interview and be asked a question that totally caught him off guard. “Imagine you see a baby fall down on the street and start crying – what’s the first thing you do?” Feeling completely lost as to how this question could possibly relate to writing software code, Satya thought for a moment and responded “I’d call 911”. The interviewer shook his head with disappointment and said, “No, when you see a baby fallen down crying the first thing you do is pick them up and give them a hug!” Despite his incorrect response he was still given the job at Microsoft, but to this day he has never forgotten the lesson that question taught him. It taught him the importance of having empathy.

It was the birth of his first child, a son born with cerebral palsy, which had a profound impact on Satya’s level of empathy. He said it changed the way he looked at life, at himself, and at others. He went on to explain that our experiences in our home life have a dramatic impact on the person we are at work and vice versa – they are not compartmentalized as they all affect the person we are.

I was so happy to hear him share that because I agree wholeheartedly. And I loved that he pointed out that it’s not so much about work/life balance as it is work/life harmony. We need to have each one build the other in positive ways.

It’s great to have a leader like Satya use their platform to spread such a positive message. I am so grateful I was able to meet Satya Nadella and be inspired by his message and his authenticity.

Have a beautiful Monday everyone!

~Amy Rees Anderson

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