Originally published on Goodreads
Why does Microsoft exist? And why do I exist in this new role? That was the questions Nadella asked of himself when he was offered and appointed as the CEO of Microsoft - only the third CEO in its 40-year history. Why am I writing this book is another question that I think Nadella should have asked himself.
Hit Refresh is according to Nadella, not a biography, nor is it a book solely about himself. It’s not really a book about technology although that does feature a lot. Nor is it a book about the challenges of leading one of the most valuable companies in the world. In fact I find it very strange as a book. Nadella wanted this book to be about the transformations happening in him, Microsoft and technology and he half-manages to write about these subjects.
The first few chapters are about him. His upbringing in India where he grew up loving cricket but finding a second love in computers. His move to the US where he worked his way up through Microsoft. And then about how he became a father to three children. It’s a very broad picture of his life and clearly he didn’t really want to go into details, preferring to skirt through formative years and only mentioning specific events that would portray him in the culture that he wants to bring to Microsoft. Transformations in Microsoft is also dealt with swiftly and superficially. He acknowledges how Microsoft lost its leadership and have to catch up. This part of the book is partly super interesting material about the inner workings of Microsoft and some of the executive decisions you rarely hear of and part of evangelizing the Microsoft mission. Nadella writes a lot about how he brought a culture change to Microsoft after his appointment as CEO and how quickly it turned around things. Lastly transformation in technology. Nadella switches to long term thinking and writes how Microsoft is focusing on three particular technologies: mixed reality, AI and quantum computing. This is the part of the book I found most interesting, simply because it seems to be more genuine that the rest of the book. Nadella is clearly passionate about the changes in technologies and how it will affect society.
Overall the book is not really that bad. It’s not really that good either. Why it was written, I have no idea. On some level, it seems like a way for Nadella to legitimize his position as CEO as he writes about how his life seemingly brought about the right kind of qualities needed to lead Microsoft. On another level it’s a bit of a sales pitch, trying to convince the world that a new Microsoft is here. And for employees it seems like it’s written to convince them of the culture which can sometimes be seen as corporate kool aid. I didn’t enjoy the parts about his life as it didn’t seem like he really wanted to tell the reader about it. The Microsoft politics and executive decisions are really interesting but again, it’s very superficial, only mentioning negativity whenever it’s something that posterity would agree with Nadella’s view (as in the Nokia acquisition perhaps wasn’t the best idea). The part I really liked was the forward-looking chapters. This is where Nadella is at his most lucid. In fact, writing an entire book about that would probably have been better than this book.
I would recommend reading the last 4 four chapters and treating it like a really long read on Nadella’s vision and thoughts about the future. For Nadella’s life and career at Microsoft, hopefully he’ll get down to really writing a tell-all biography when he at some point decides to retire.
3 out of 5 stars.