Book review: Hit Refresh by Satya Nadella

Cindy Lewis and Erik van Hurck join forces to bring you this book review.

Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone

Cindy Lewis (North America) and Erik van Hurck (Europe) are half a world away, but they have actually been working together for many years solving customer problems and sharing ideas. After a casual conversation recently, they decided to collaborate on this book review knowing they’d make the review more thorough by combining their thoughts into one piece.

A Brief Summary of the Book

“Microsoft’s CEO tells the inside story of the company’s continuing transformation, tracing his own personal journey from a childhood in India to leading some of the most significant technological changes in the digital era. As much a humanist as an engineer and executive, Nadella concludes with his vision for the coming wave of intelligent technologies and a distinct call to action for leaders everywhere.”

Erik chose to read the book version while Cindy selected the Audible version.

The Review by Erik

In terms of selecting the actual hard copy book to read, I wish I would also have chosen to listen to the Audible version. I’m Dutch, and Satya Nadella’s writing style is sophisticated for a non-English speaking native like myself. That made reading it in English a bit of an added challenge, but that doesn’t in any way mean that I disliked reading ir. In some ways, it was even refreshing and an achievement to read through the book.

There’s a lot that can be said about the content of the book itself. I will divide it into three parts:

(Very) Personal

I was highly surprised (astounded, as Satya would probably say) and touched by the first part of the book, wherein Satya gives the reader a glimpse into the hardships, challenges, and achievements of his personal life. I found there to be some paragraphs in the book that one could not read without having warm feelings for the man.

And then there is Cricket. I have never seen a match, either on TV or on the field, but it’s funny to read how much impact the sport has had for Satya. That is, impact on his aspirations and leadership methods. In one section, he draws parallels between coaching and leadership that will first make you laugh and then immediately make you think.

Empathy, culture, mutual respect, and love for what you do and who you are with—such are the concepts that Satya clearly wishes to convey to the reader.

Leadership and Microsoft

At some point halfway through the book, I started to grab a pen and underline sentences. It’s a habit I picked up after reading The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. Hit Refresh contains actionable leadership advice, as well as a great story on how it came to be that Microsoft is changing its culture.

Satya is a wonderful storyteller. The book includes details about his role in leadership as CEO of Microsoft, and along the way, we learn a lot about him as a leader.

The Future

As we all know, there are a lot of technological advancements happening at a very fast pace today. In an attempt to look into a crystal ball, Satya Nadella picks three trends that are getting a lot of focus today. These include quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and mixed reality.

The subjects are clearly close to Satya’s heart because his passion is clear as he talks about Microsoft’s (artificially) Intelligent Assistant, Cortana, and the Microsoft Mixed Reality headset, HoloLens.

Hit Refresh takes a look into the future, past the PC and servers. I would argue that this is a very interesting book to pick up, not only because of the great content and in depth knowledge of Microsoft’s management, but also because of the fact that it’s written as a biography. Even more impressive is that the author (the CEO of one of the biggest companies around) is still in his prime. I believe that rarely happens.

The Review by Cindy

After my November 2017 visit to Microsoft’s Redmond campus, I learned everyone was talking about the book. I even heard ideas from the book coming out in many presentations from Microsoft employees, so it was very helpful for me to have finished it. A positive for the Audible version is that listeners get to listen to Satya Nadella himself during one part of the book. For the remainder, producers selected a narrator with a similar accent as Satya.

The information shared within this book helped me understand several tough decisions made by Satya as an individual and by Microsoft as a corporation. Many of those decisions shocked me, given Satya’s position at Microsoft.

Stories Helped Illustrate

I appreciated the stories that illustrated how not everything will go right in business, and how often one has no choice, but to deliver the truth about poor performance. I also saw illustrated firsthand the need to sometimes eliminate portions of business in order to move forward.

The book helped me understand technology news topics that were hotly debated and the stand that Microsoft had to take and why. For example, when Edward Snowden leaked information from the National Security Agency about government surveillance programs of individuals, the public immediately assumed that access to Microsoft customer data was included, as well. At the time, Microsoft was questioned about joining forces with their competitor, Google, to petition for new laws. In reality, this partnership was best for all because it helped promote legislation to protect customer data while also cooperating with law enforcement.

New Ideas, New Thinking

Satya made me think about the cloud in new and interesting ways. He stretched my brain beyond traditional cloud benefits that people talk about. I’m now thinking about the cloud and how it relates to the three trends that Erik mentioned earlier.

I liked Satya’s humble approach. The book was not about how great he is as a leader, but more about his journey (that is not over) and how he continues to do uncomfortable things to grow. He shared stories from both his personal and work life to illustrate this concept.

A clear takeaway from this book is that vision and culture can’t fight each other if your business wants to succeed. My final recommendation is to add this book to your reading list, you will not be disappointed.

If you would like to obtain the book yourself, below are some links to help you find it or you may check your local bookstore.

Hit Refresh Hardcopy or Downloadable Book Version

Hit Refresh Audible Version

Written by 

Cindy LewisCindy Lewis is a Microsoft Project MVP and an expert in scheduling with a long history in project management. Cindy believes in helping customers jump start their knowledge in a topic and continue to grow on their own after she departs. Her training philosophy is known as the 4 Pillars of Success which is also the name of her company:

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Written by Cindy M. Lewis

Cindy Lewis is an awarded Microsoft Project MVP and an expert in scheduling with a long history in project management. She holds numerous credentials in the field including: PMP, PMI-SP, MS, MOS, and MCT. She serves on the board of the MPUG Detroit chapter and is a frequent speaker at conferences and events across the country . Cindy’s personal passion is sharing knowledge with others and helping them grow and achieve personal success. Her training philosophy is known as the 4 Pillars of Success® which is also the name of her company. Feel free to connect with Cindy on social media or contact her directly through her website

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1 Comment
  1. Thanks Cindy and Erik for sharing this lovely book review. I was very interested in reading the book since it has been launched, and I actually bought my copy, so it should be the next one after I finish my current read.

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