Microsoft Names Former UVA Engineering Ph.D. Student Chief Technology Officer

Microsoft Corp. has named Kevin Scott, a former student in the Computer Science Ph.D. program at the University of Virginia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, to the role of chief technology officer.

Microsoft’s announcement said the position is an expansion of Scott’s role at LinkedIn as senior vice president of infrastructure. Scott will report to Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella.

“The thing that gets me up in the morning and that has always excited me about technology is its role in empowering people and helping to enrich their lives,” Scott said in Microsoft’s announcement. “I am very optimistic about where Microsoft is headed and how we can continue to use technology to solve some of society’s most important challenges.”

Scott is a former student of Jack Davidson, who is a UVA Engineering Computer Science professor and nationally renowned cybersecurity researcher. Scott and Davidson credit each other with providing inspiration in their work and careers.

In a blog post about the best professional advice he ever received, Scott describes Davidson reminding him always to “work harder,” which meant “to clearly understand what it was that I was trying to accomplish, and to make sure that I was objectively prioritizing the effort it was going to take to accomplish those goals.”

“Kevin is an amazing individual,” Davidson said. The two worked for Microsoft together in 2001, Scott as an intern and Jack on sabbatical in the company’s research division.

“Even back then, he just had this amazing talent for engineering and understanding complex systems and how to manipulate them and make them run better,” Davidson said. “He is just incredible.”

In 2000, after a national conference where Scott presented a paper he and Davidson had authored and where they saw an inspirational keynote speech, the two spent hours on the train back to Charlottesville brainstorming a notebook full of ideas for how the techniques in the speech could be applied to new systems and to cybersecurity.

“I still have that notebook,” Davidson said, “and I’m still following up on those ideas. It was just an incredibly creative experience. That, in some sense, set my research agenda from then on.”

Scott worked in leadership roles for Google, AdMob and LinkedIn after leaving UVA in 2002. Read Scott’s blog post about his new position here.

“Microsoft has had great CTOs, and Kevin is just the kind of person Microsoft needs in that role,” Davidson said. “He has this deep understanding of technology and where things are going. It will be interesting to see where he takes it.

“I was privileged to be able to work with him.”