What is one thing the CEOs of Microsoft, Mastercard and Adobe in common?

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Photo: Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Mastercard CEO Ajaypal Singh Banga/scollage of YouTube screengrabs

The CEOs of Microsoft, Mastercard and Adobe, all powerful business leaders, have one thing little-known thing in common – besides being Indian-American, they are all the products of Hyderabad Public School in Begumpet, India.

Hyderabad Public School is clearly doing something right, having produced three CEOs in top global companies: CEO Satya Nadella of Miscrosoft, CEO Ajaypal Singh Banga of Mastercard and CEO Shantanu Narayen of Adobe.

The private school is located in Hyderabad, a southern Indian city that is no known as a bustling technology hub. And since the year 1990, Hyderabad has housed the Indian outlet of the great multinational technology company Microsoft.

Hyderabad Public School (HPS) was conceptualised in 1919 and established in 1923, for the purpose of educating the sons of aristocrats. The public school’s system was developed along the lines of Eton College in London, one of the leading independent all-boys boarding schools in the UK, and has been performing well, marked as on of the top 10 schools in India for the last 3 years.

Photo: Hyderabad Public School, Begumpet, India/YouTube screengrab

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella mentioned in an interview with Stephen Dubner on an episode of the “Freakonomics” podcast that he and his fellow Indian-American CEOs (of Mastercard and Adobe respectively) all went to the same school. Dubner had noted that several big American firms have CEOs that are Indian-American and wondered what contributed toward their “massive success”.

The public school, which in the United States would be considered a private school, has influenced the lives of the three top global companies’ CEOs who attended it.

In the case of Nadella, he has come away with fond memories of the school as well as business and leadership principles that he still utilises today in his work as a CEO. He cited his experience playing cricket at HPS as a strong influence in his professional career. Here’s what he says in his autobiography Hit Refresh.

“The first principle is to compete vigorously and with passion in the face of uncertainty and intimidation, then importance of putting your team first, ahead of your personal statistics and recognition and finally that leadership is about bringing out the best in everyone, when to intervene and when to build the confidence of an individual and a team,” he says.

Another principle that Nadella abides by in his career is something that his high-school cricket coach taught him – how to walk the line “between having confidence in your own capability yet having the ability to learn.”

Nadella revived his memories by visiting his old alma mater in 2017. HPS is also where Nadella met his wife, Anupama Nadella.

“Attending the HPS was the best break I had in my life,” Nadella said during the visit, as reported by another media source.

While Nadella was a cricketer, his fellow Indian-American and CEO of Adobe Shantanu Narayen was an avid debater at HPS.

“I think more than anything else, it gave us the freedom to think, learn, and pursue bold dreams,” said Nadella, speaking fondly of his school.

The success of HPS’ students can be contributed in part to the school’s approach. Nadella noted that one of the best things about HPS was that students were encouraged to develop and pursue skills and interests outside of the classroom.

By offering activities that range from playing cricket to rock climbing and horseback riding, HPS is able to “to take advantage of these benefits and also engage a wide range of students and help turn them into well-rounded and impassioned learners”. This is according to another media source, which also covered Nadella’s interview with Dubner.

 “HPS produces generals and not foot-soldiers,” said HPS principal Ramandeep Kaur Samra.

“We want our students to lead, whichever field they want, small or big, but in a passionate manner,” he said to another news site.

The school’s official motto is “Be vigilant.” Its core values include “strong self-esteem” and “tolerance and respect for others.”

“These words exhort young students to be mentally alert, physically ready to take up the challenges that life has to offer,” said HPS’ website.

Nadella attended HPS from 1977-1984, and he said that this was his biggest takeaway from the school:

“The ability to find your passion and get the confidence. This is what I learnt from this great institution,” he said.