When Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was interviewing for his first job at Microsoft, the last question he was asked was curveball.
It went something like this: “A young child falls in the street in front of you and is crying. What do you do?”
Nadella said his answer was that he would call 911. He was told later by a Microsoft manager that it wasn’t the correct answer. He should have said he would try and comfort the boy.
The lesson, Nadella, explained during a visit to the University of Texas, was about the importance of empathy in business.
“The source of innovation is empathy,” Nadella told the UT audience. Empathy allows you to truly understand your customers and how to help them, he explained, and it’s not something you either have or don’t -- you can grow your capacity to empathize, he said.
Nadella is using his visit to Austin to promote his new book, called “Hit Refresh,” and meet with local business leaders and tech startups.
Like Apple CEO Tim Cook and President Barack Obama before him, Nadella also made a stop by Capital Factory, where he spoke to a rapt audience about topics ranging from Microsoft’s HoloLens virtual and augmented reality platform to quantum computing.
“Your energy is what will help not only our industry, but our economy, forward,” Nadella told the standing-room-only crowd.
Nadella: The tech sector needs to broaden beyond Silicon Valley. "It's great to see Austin thrive."— Lilly Rockwell (@LillyRockwell) November 13, 2017
Now it's time for audience Q&A. First question has to do with education. Nadella says CS curriculum "has to be re-jiggered" to get girls interested in tech.— Lilly Rockwell (@LillyRockwell) November 13, 2017
He also discussed using Microsoft 365 products in education, who is free for educators.
Of course, a lot of the tech startup founders in the room wanted to know more about Microsoft’s acquisition strategy.
Nadella said Microsoft’s approach to acquisitions is that it’s all about who the founders are. “To me what is super important is having any founder who comes into Microsoft is that they help shape our company,” he said, adding that “we welcome any and all pitches.”
He also mentioned that he’s encouraged by the amount of startup activity outside of Silicon Valley. “It’s great to see Austin thrive.”
Nadella’s talk at Capital Factory was cut short because he was late arriving. Earlier he had spent time with three Austin-based startups, and mentioned that in the morning he met with Dell Technologies CEO Michael Dell.
His Capital Factory talk stayed on broad themes, though he did touch briefly on the value that technology can play in education. He has children with special needs, he said, and is hopeful that technology breakthroughs can create more personalized learning experiences.
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