- Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has helped transform the company into a trillion-dollar cloud powerhouse.
- Part of that effort included cultivating new talent, even as much of Microsoft’s old guard departed for greener pastures.
- Business Insider compiled a list of 13 of the most significant executive departures since Nadella took over as CEO – and what those executives are doing now.
- Business Insider has been exploring the cultural change led by Nadella within Microsoft since he became CEO in February 2014.
- Click here to read more BI Prime stories.
An analysis of the most high-profile Microsoft executive departures under CEO Satya Nadella helps shed light on how the company’s transformation into a trillion-dollar cloud powerhouse has taken shape.
Business Insider has been exploring the cultural change led by Nadella within Microsoft since he became CEO in February 2014.
Under Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, Microsoft teams were warring factions and the company’s leaders promoted a “star culture” that valued the smartest person in the room. Nadella has tried to make Microsoft more collaborative, both internally and with the company’s competitors – and part of that effort included cultivating new talent, even as much of Microsoft’s old guard departed for greener pastures.
Some of executive shifts started immediately. Less than a month after Nadella became CEO, he announced two executive departures and made it clear he expected an “‘all in’ commitment as we embark on the next chapter for the company” from Microsoft senior leaders. Others took time, and unfolded throughout reorganizations.
Here are 13 of the most significant executive departures since Nadella took over as CEO – and what those executives are doing now:
SEE ALSO: Microsoft finance chief Amy Hood said its secret weapon in the cloud wars is its enterprise sales force — something Amazon’s cloud is still building out
Tami Reller, former executive vice president of marketing
Former Microsoft title: Executive vice president, marketing
Left Microsoft: March 2014
Current title: UnitedHealthcare chief marketing and experience officer
Shortly after Nadella took over as CEO, he sent out a memo announcing the departure of two top executives: Tami Reller, executive vice president of marketing, and Tony Bates, executive vice president of development and evangelism.
In the memo, Nadella seemed to indicate Reller and Bates were leaving the company because they didn’t buy into Nadella’s vision.
“I have discussed this point in various forms with the SLT and have asked for their “all in” commitment as we embark on the next chapter for the company,” Nadella wrote. “We need to drive clarity, alignment and intensity across all our work. With that as a backdrop, I want to share a set of changes to the leadership team.”
Reller, a 13-year Microsoft veteran, was replaced by Microsoft’s current Chief Marketing Officer Chris Capossela.
Reller has since worked for UnitedHealth Group, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Tony Bates, former executive vice president of development and evangelism
Former Microsoft title: Executive vice president of development and evangelism.
Left Microsoft: March 2014
Current title: Genesys CEO
Bates, whose departure was mentioned in the same memo as Reller’s, was once considered a candidate for Nadella’s job.
Bates decided to leave because he wanted to be a CEO, Business Insider reported at the time based on information from a source familiar with the situation.
Gates became GoPro president shortly after leaving Microsoft and moved around a bit before taking a job last year as CEO of call center software company Genesys. He’s also a board member of eBay and VMWare.
Lisa Brummel, former chief people officer
Former Microsoft title: Chief people officer
Departure announced: December 2014
Current title: Retired
Lisa Brummel was once called “perhaps the most universally hated exec” at Microsoft for overseeing an unpopular performance evaluation system called stack ranking – although it was largely architected by Ballmer.
Microsoft managers had to rank their employees from one to five in equal measure. Which meant that, no matter how good the employees were, some of them had to get the lowest ranking of a five.
Brummel retired late in Nadella’s first year as CEO and was succeeded by the company’s current chief people officer, Kathleen Hogan, who along with Nadella created a new system to evaluate employees – although Ballmer started to phase out stack ranking while he was CEO.
Brummel is now a co-owner of the Seattle Storm Women’s National Basketball Association team and a board member at Laird Norton Wealth Management and Domino Data Lab.
Stephen Elop, former executive vice president of Microsoft Devices Group
Former Microsoft title: Executive vice president of Microsoft Devices Group
Left Microsoft: July 2015
Current title: APiJET CEO
Nadella in 2015 announced his first major reorganization, changing Microsoft’s senior leadership team to align the company under new “core ambitions,” which he described at the time as “reinvent productivity and business processes, build the intelligent cloud platform, and create more personal computing.”
The reorganization included an exodus of three top executives: Stephen Elop, Kirill Tatarinov and Eric Rudder. Nadella announced Chief Insights Officer Mark Penn’s plans to leave at the same time, but said his departure was unrelated to the reorganization.
Elop was the former CEO and president of Nokia who became the executive vice president of Microsoft Devices Group after Microsoft acquired Nokia’s device group in April 2014.
The acquisition was contentious within Microsoft, and the friction between Ballmer and Microsoft’s board of directors that was generated by the Nokia acquisition was ultimately what led to his decision to resign.
The company ultimately took a write-down for almost the entire purchase price and laid off thousands.
Elop, once expected to be a contender for Nadella’s job, was at the center of the deal. He’s now CEO of aviation data analytics company APiJET.
Eric Rudder, former executive vice president of advanced strategy
Former Microsoft title: Executive vice president of advanced strategy
Left Microsoft: October 2015
Current title: Pulumi founder
Eric Rudder, Microsoft’s former executive vice president of advanced strategy, spent more than 23 years before leaving during Nadella’s 2015 reorganization.
Rudder previously took over the duties of Bates, the former executive vice president of development and evangelism and CEO-hopeful who left shortly after Nadella was appointed.
Rudder had also once been considered as a candidate for Microsoft CEO, but back in the early 2000s before Ballmer replaced Gates.
Rudder is now a founder of Pulumi, a Seattle-based startup that builds an “infrastructure as code” platform that lets developers use regular familiar programming languages for cloud infrastructure. It was recently named by investors and industry experts among the hottest enterprise startups in Seattle.
Kirill Tatarinov, former executive vice president of Microsoft Business Solutions
Former title: Executive vice president of Microsoft Business Solutions
Left Microsoft: October 2015
Current title: Acronis executive vice chairman
Kirill Tatarinov, a 13-year veteran running Microsoft Business Solutions, was notably in charge of Microsoft’s Dynamics customer relationship management business, the company’s answer to Salesforce. While introduced in 2007, Dynamics has become an important tool in Microsoft’s cloud software business.
Tatarinov, who left after Nadella’s 2015 reorganization, is now executive vice chairman of storage company Acronis.
Mark Penn, former chief strategy officer
Former Microsoft title: Chief strategy officer
Left Microsoft: September 2015
Current title: Stagwell Group managing partner and president
In 2012, Ballmer hired Mark Penn, a Washington, D.C. insider and former senior strategist for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, to run strategic.
While Penn’s departure was announced along with Nadella’s 2015 reorganization and ousted executives, Nadella insisted Penn’s plans were unrelated, saying Penn “decided to pursue another venture outside Microsoft.”
Soon it became clear: Penn left to start an investment fund called the Stagwell Group, funded by Ballmer. Stagwell Group just acquired a startup called Headliner Labs to help clients take advantage of buzzy retail tech.
Qi Lu, former executive vice president of applications and services
Former Microsoft title: Executive vice president of applications and services
Left Microsoft: September 2016
Current title: startup investor
Qi Lu, previously one of Nadella’s key lieutenants, stepped down from his role as executive vice president of applications and services citing health issues after a serious bike accident.
Early in Nadella’s time as CEO, Lu lost a power struggle with Windows boss Terry Myerson over the direction of Bing and MSN. Later, Lu reportedly led the push for Microsoft to place an $8 billion bid for Slack, but the company opted instead to launch its own competitor, Microsoft Teams, at Bill Gates’ advice.
A few months after leaving Microsoft, he joined China’s leading search engine Baidu as chief operating officer. He stepped down from that role in July 2018 and recently set up a new startup fund called MiraclePlus.
Former Microsoft title: Chief operating officer
Left Microsoft: July 2016
Current title: Core Scientific president and CEO
Kevin Turner was a major part of Ballmer’s Microsoft and was named alongside Nadella and Bates as Ballmer’s three most likely successors. Turner ultimately left the company in 2016 to take a CEO post elsewhere in a move considered by some to mark the end of the changing of Microsoft’s old guard.
Turner left Microsoft to become CEO of hedge fund Citadel Securities. He was out after about six months. Now, Turner is president and CEO of a Seattle-area artificial intelligence and blockchain company called Core Scientific, and a board member of Albertsons and Nordstrom.
Terry Myerson, former executive vice president of Windows
Former Microsoft title: Former executive vice president of Windows
Left Microsoft: September 2018
Current title: Madrona Venture Group venture partner
Terry Myerson left Microsoft near the end of 2018 during a big executive shuffle at the company. Myerson, a 21-year veteran, formerly ran Windows and was a somewhat controversial figure at Microsoft.
Myerson went on a seven-month hiatus after leaving Microsoft before announcing new roles, including as venture partner for Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group, best known as an early Amazon investor.
Javier Soltero, corporate vice president of Cortana
Former Microsoft title: Corporate vice president of Cortana
Left Microsoft: November 2018
Current title: Google G Suite vice president and general manager
Javier Soltero, formerly head of Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana, left the company amid a round of reorganization to the Microsoft Office business and was scooped up by Google last last year.
Soltero now oversees Google’s G Suite of products, managing Google’s productivity and collaboration tools for both enterprise customers and consumers, and reports to Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian.
Harry Shum, former executive vice president of AI and research
Former Microsoft title: Executive vice president of AI and research
Left Microsoft: February 2020
Current title: Visiting researcher, Microsoft Research
Harry Shum, the Microsoft executive charged with overseeing the artificial intelligence strategy for the entire company, recently left after 23 years.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently said artificial intelligence would play a key role in the company’s future and be central to the company’s strategy to gain more customers for its important cloud business. Nadella said Microsoft is just now starting the “first innings” of artificial intelligence technology.
Shum was key to Microsoft’s efforts to take the research it was doing through research subsidiary Microsoft Research and translate it to actual products Microsoft can sell. Now Microsoft has to do that without him just as the business is starting to come together.
Shum’s LinkedIn profile now lists the title of “visiting researcher, Microsoft Research.”
Brian MacDonald, former corporate vice president of Microsoft Teams chat app
Former title: Corporate vice president of Microsoft Teams chat app
Left Microsoft: Retirement announced February 2020
Current title: Retiring
Brian MacDonald, the executive who runs Microsoft’s Teams chat app, earlier this year announced plans to retire.
“Brian has created multiple product categories — starting as the founder of modern project management in Microsoft Project, bringing together email and personal information management as the founder of Microsoft Outlook and more recently with Microsoft Teams — the fastest growing business application that is a modern productivity hub,” Rajesh Jha, Microsoft’s executive vice president of experiences and devices, said in a memo reviewed by Business Insider.
MacDonald is known as the “father of Outlook,” Microsoft’s email product. He helped Microsoft develop Teams by taking a small group of engineers to his fruit plantation in Maui.