MILWAUKEE -- Professors fondly tell the story that Satya Nadella would bring a sleeping bag and spend the night on his work in UW-Milwaukee's Computer Sciences building. They say that dedication and drive helped pave the way for his success at Microsoft.
"The trajectory is going up and now he's on the top," Computer Science Chair Dr. Hussein Husseini said.
The new top man named CEO at Microsoft Tuesday morning, Satya Nadella -a product of UW-Milwaukee.
"You could see the passion in him, he wants to learn," Husseini said. "He wasn't here just to get his degree, but he also wanted to learn the fundamentals."
Nadella came from south-central India to study computer sciences at UWM in the late 1980s. Professors knew early on he had some special qualities.
"One would be a strong technical knowledge, two would be a strong business background and third would be strong people skills that you can work with others," Husseini said.
Nadella worked at Sun Microsystems in Chicago before climbing the ladder quickly at Microsoft. Business Week Magazine described him as a member of Bill Gates' "Kitchen cabinet of techno whizzes". But UWM staff remember Nadella for more than just his brains.
"He was also a caring and warm individual," Professor Emeritus Dr. K. Vairavan said. "He helped with the project upward program at our college, which was directed at mentoring inner-city students."
Nadella came to work with Brookfield-based Construction Computer Control while he was a student. The name has since changed to Penta technologies, but CEO Karl Koenig says the new Microsoft leader's mark remains.
"Some of that software that he worked on is still in use in a number of hotels in places where they check in the reservation systems. Great for him and lucky for Microsoft.""
Nadella takes the reigns at Microsoft at a time when Koenig says the multi-billion dollar company faces big challenges. But he thinks Nadella is the perfect man for the job.
"Every time they're in the press or you see another achievement you go, 'Yeah, that's great, good for him,'" Koenig said. "That's really cool."
Nadella has shown interest in coming back to UWM to speak with students in the future. He's also talked about looking into UWM's partnership with Johnson Controls in regards to their battery research.