10 ways Sundar Pichai forged his mark at Google in 15 years

Sunder Pichai has been named the CEO of Google's parent company, AlphabetBCCL

  • As Google's co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, are stepping down from their respective posts at Alphabet and appointing Sundar Pichai as the CEO.
  • Pichai was one of the first few to see the end of 'toolbars' and has been credited for coming up with the idea for Google Chrome.
  • Aside from forethought, Pichai journey rising through Google's ranks over the past 15 years is fraught with examples of why he's a good choice to lead Alphabet.
In the last two years, Sundar Pichai has gone from being the CEO of Google to also being the CEO of Alphabet as well— a meteoric rise for someone from humble beginnings. In fact, it only took Pichai 15 years to go from being the VP of Product Management to his current position.

This is a much-needed change in Alphabet's executive make up. Google co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin have been missing in action for more than a year -- that too at a time when the company was facing some of its biggest challenges.

According to Google co-founder Larry Page, “Alphabet and Google no longer need two CEOs and a President.”

Pichai will now be at the helm of both companies and here’s what makes him a good fit:
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Pichai can admit when he doesn’t know the answer

Pichai can admit when he doesn’t know the answer

(Source: BCCL)

Pichai may be the boss at Alphabet now but during his first job interview for the VP of product management at Google, he didn’t have all the answers.

Gmail had launched it the very same day, so when the interview panel asked that he about Gmail — Pichai didn’t know what it was. “I thought it was an April Fools joke,” he recalled later. After all, the interview was on 1 April 2004. So, Pichai answered as honestly as he could — that he simply hadn’t used the product.

The interviewer then showed him Gmail and whatever Pichai said must have impressed them — since he did get the job.

​Pichai saw the end of ‘toolbars’ before anyone else at Google.

​Pichai saw the end of ‘toolbars’ before anyone else at Google.

(Source: BCCL)

Pichai started off as the lead on product management for the Google toolbar. For those of you from before that era — it wasn’t always possible to set your default search engine through browser settings, so you installed a ‘toolbar’ to search the web.

In 2006, Pichai recognised that having to add a toolbar to your browser to perform a basic function like ‘search’ might not be the best strategy. This showed that not only did he have forethought but also the courage to challenge the status quo.

That’s how Chrome was born and Google forayed into the browser market at a time when Microsoft was attempting to garner the search engine market with Bing by making it the default setting on Internet Explorer.

​Pichai doesn’t take no for an answer

​Pichai doesn’t take no for an answer

(Source: BCCL)

The first time Pichai pitched the idea for Chrome, it was shot down for being ‘too expensive’. It was only after Pichai compiled data and bid his case to the stakeholders, that the project was greenlit.

Now, Chrome is the most popular search engine across platforms and devices.

Pichai saw Chrome as more than a browser

Pichai saw Chrome as more than a browser

(Source: BCCL)

Under Pichai’s direction, Chrome moved from beyond just being a browser. ChromeOS was launched for Chromebooks and Chromecast was introduced as a way to connect phones to TVs.

Meanwhile, Android was dominating the smartphone market -- making Chrome the default pre-installed search browser in most phones.

​Pichai wanted Android to be for every’one’

​Pichai wanted Android to be for every’one’

(Source: BCCL)

Pichai took over the management of Android in 2013 from the group’s founder, Andy Rubin. And a year after he was there, Google shipped a billion devices.

Recognising that the ‘next 5 billion’ users will come from India, Pichai spearheaded the project to create Android One — a lightweight version of Android that would work on affordable phones that didn’t have the highest specifications.

Although the project has met limited success, Pichai saw a market opportunity for Google and chose to capitalise on it.

​Seriously, for everyone, even when it gets controversial

​Seriously, for everyone, even when it gets controversial

(Source: BCCL)

Last year, Pichai came under a lot of heat for project Dragonfly — a censored search project in China. Though backlash came from all corners, Pichai maintained that it was the right thing to do.

“I’m committed to serving users in China. Whatever form it takes, I actually don’t know the answer,” said Pichai told The New York Times.

​Pichai stayed loyal to Google — and Google stayed loyal to him

​Pichai stayed loyal to Google — and Google stayed loyal to him

(Source: BCCL)

As Pichai diversified, everyone wanted him on their team. He was reportedly offered a top product job at Twitter and some thought that he may even take over for Steve Ballmer at Microsoft -- a post that eventually went to Satya Nadella.

But Pichai didn’t leave. Instead of letting him be poached, Google eventually offered to make him the CEO.

Since his appointment at CEO, Alphabet’s stock price has risen 90% and revenue is up by 80%.

​Pichai used to be one of the highest-paid executives — but it’s been two years since he took a big payday

​Pichai used to be one of the highest-paid executives — but it’s been two years since he took a big payday

(Source: BCCL)

In 2018, Pichai turned own a grant of restricted stock because he felt he was already being paid generously. Since then, he’s gone from being one of the highest-paid executives in the world for years but now he hasn’t seen a paycheck in two years.

Meanwhile, there are some that say he only did it for the optics.

Pichai knows how to navigate office politics.

Pichai knows how to navigate office politics.

(Source: BCCL)

According to Chris Beckmann, former product manager at Google, Pichai avoided making enemies at the office. “Google has politics like any other large company, and Sundar navigated those politics to make his team successful while inflicting the least possible damage on any other team,” Beckmann wrote on Quora.

And, how to pick out a good team.

And, how to pick out a good team.

(Source:BCCL)

"He recruited, mentored, and retained a great team," wrote Beckmann. According to him, Pichai’s team of product managers had a reputation as being among the best of the best.

But he’s never been shy of airing his opinions when needed.

But he’s never been shy of airing his opinions when needed.

(Source: BCCL)

Earlier this year, Pichai took a stab at Apple when he wrote, "Privacy cannot be a luxury good,” in an op-ed published in the New York Times earlier this year.

Even when was Trump was elected in 2015, Pichai spoke out. “America, after all, was and is a country of immigrants,” he wrote on Medium. “That is why it’s so disheartening to see the intolerant discourse playing out in the news these days—statements that our country would be a better place without the voices, ideas and the contributions of certain groups of people, based solely on where they come from, or their religion.”

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