Du Nguyen's Reviews > Hit Refresh

Hit Refresh by Satya Nadella
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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.
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Reading Progress

September 28, 2017 – Shelved
September 28, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
Started Reading
October 12, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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Claude Forthomme I totally agree with you. I was about to write a review but I think I'll withhold it, for now, yours will do, it's an excellent, well thought-out review. Indeed, the last 4 chapters of the book are what makes it interesting and a worthwhile read. I was particularly interested in Nadella's policy advice to governments in developing countries and indeed, to any politician interested in developing his own community and fighting income inequality and unemployment.

This said, and just because of those 4 chapters, I think Nadella's book deserves 4 stars, and I personally gave it five, because I find it quite extraordinary that a sitting CEO of one of the world's most powerful corporation could find the time to write a book (albeit with the help of an excellent co-writer) and the courage to come out with all his ideas and convictions. After all, in the ears of many Microsoft employees, I'm quite sure that the "cultural shift" he advocates must sound like the usual "corporate kool-aid"!

message 2: by Du (new) - rated it 3 stars

Du Nguyen Thanks for the review of the review ;)
My biggest gripe is that it's so unfocused. I don't think Nadella is in the place to look back yet. The last 4 chapters are great, because it's what Nadella and every CEO does best, face into the future and show how we can create a path between the current and the future.
I was maybe a bit harsh on the score which showed my disappointment if not having an entire book follow the blueprint of the last 4 chapters.

Claude Forthomme Du wrote: "Thanks for the review of the review ;)
My biggest gripe is that it's so unfocused. I don't think Nadella is in the place to look back yet. The last 4 chapters are great, because it's what Nadella a..."

Yes, I can understand that. The last 4 chapters really stand out and you may well be right, as a sitting CEO, Nadella may well not be "in the place to look back yet". But he certainly tried even if (so it seems) he appears a little uncomfortable about it, understandably so.

Derek B This is a good review. The book is unusual, but is very clearly written. I like the elements of leadership and culture change, some very good insights into this. The vision for the near and far future is quite new to me, so it's good in that sense. Still reading the last parts, covering regulation, politics and some of the issues they raise. This is not a quick fix book, but it is one I will revisit. It needs a little time to digest, but I found it very worthwhile. Recommended.

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