In an unfortunate incident, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and his wife Anu’s son Zain, who was just 26-years-old, died on 28th February. Zain was born with cerebral palsy. Zain was born in 1996 when Satya Nadella was 29 and his wife Anu, an architect, was 25.
In his book ‘Hit Refresh’, Satya Nadella wrote an emotional note around his son’s birth and how it changed their lives forever. He shared this heart-warming excerpt in a Linkedin post in 2017 as he launched several accessibility features at Microsoft for the specially-abled.
While talking about the birth of Zain, Satya wrote: “In the apartment, we were renting next to the Microsoft campus, we spent months busily preparing for his arrival — decorating a nursery, putting plans in place for Anu to return to her career, envisioning how our weekends and holidays would change… We were ready to add a new joy to our life,”
But things didn’t go as planned.
In Anu’s 36th week of pregnancy, the baby didn’t move as much as it generally did. A routine check-up to the hospital quickly catapulted into an emergency Caesarean section. “Zain was born at 11:29 p.m. on August 13, 1996, all of three pounds. He did not cry.”
After the birth, Zain was rushed to the Seattle Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) immediately to receive life-saving care. The newborn had suffered extensive damage. He would require a wheelchair because of severe cerebral palsy. From not being able to communicate verbally to being legally blind, Zain had no other choice but to be dependent on his parents.
Satya Nadella shared how this particular moment changed the lives of the couple. While Anu would strive hard to take care of her special-needs son without a second thought, Satya shared how he was devastated and sad about how things changed drastically for the couple in a single night.“Watching her in those first few days, weeks, and beyond taught me a lot. Over time, Anu helped me understand that nothing had happened to me or to her, but something had happened to Zain. As his parents, it was up to us not to question “why,” but instead to do everything we could to improve his life,” he remembered in the LinkedIn post.
Satya further added how Anu, his wife, has helped him to be a better father and an empathetic CEO. He further added that due to his experience with his son, he pushed for several accessibility features at Microsoft making the lives of specially-abled people easier with technology.
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Making accessibility a top priority in product development, Satya added many core features in Windows 10 like Narrator to innovations like Hearing AI. Under Nadella, Microsoft also started hiring specially-abled people through initiatives like the Autism Hiring Program and Supported Employment Program.
At that time, Satya also shared how Zain has inspired him to empower people around him.
“He (Zain) is the joy of our family, whose strength and warmth both inspire and motivate me to keep pushing the boundaries of what technology can do. And I’ve found that the moments that so deeply change our lives can also be a catalyst to empower those around us.”
R.I.P Zain, you inspired so many people around you! You will be missed!