It’s a big promotion for Pichai, who will now be in charge of Google’s core products including search, maps, research, Google+, Android, Chrome, infrastructure, commerce and ads, and Google Apps. Formerly, he was head of Android and Chrome.
This isn’t his first big promotion. Indeed, earlier this year there was a thread on Quora under the question, “What did Sundar Pichai do, that his peers didn’t do, that got him promoted to the highest ranks at Google?“
Former Google product manager Chris Beckmann offered an insightful answer in February. He wrote:
I never reported to Sundar or in his group, but many of my peers and friends did. Besides being incredibly talented and hardworking like many of his coworkers and peers, Sundar did a few things:
1. Foremost: he led successful efforts for difficult projects that were core to Google’s continued financial success, namely Toolbar and Chrome. Toolbar wasn’t an obviously sexy product but it helped defend the presence of Google search on users’ computers during a critical period following the revelation of Google’s incredible profitability. Chrome extended that mission to improve the user experience of the entire web: keep users on the web and you’ll keep them searching on Google.
2. He recruited, mentored, and retained a great team. Sundar’s team of product managers had a reputation as being among the best of the best, similar to the reputation of the software engineers within Search Quality.
3. He avoided making enemies. 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.
We still don’t know exactly what led to the latest changes at Google, but it’s easy to see why Pichai ended up on top again.
Originally from Tamil Nadu, one of India’s 29 states, Pichai studied at the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, where he received a Bachelor of Technology.
He received a M.S. from Stanford and obtained an MBA from Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. At Wharton, Pichai was honored as a Siebel Scholar and a Palmer Scholar.
Before his first job at Google, Pichai worked at Applied Materials as an engineer and then at McKinsey & Company in management consulting.
In 2004, Pichai joined Google as its vice president of product management, where he led the team working on Google’s Chrome browser and operating system.
Pichai quickly began to receive more responsibility, however, taking on involvement with various Google search products including Firefox, Google Toolbar, Desktop Search, Gadgets, and Google Gears and Gadgets.
In September 2008, Pichai oversaw the successful launch of the Chrome web browser, and less than a year later, the web-based Chrome operating system for netbooks and desktop computers.
Pichai added another Google division to his portfolio in 2012 after Google Apps head Dave Girouard departed to start his own company, Upstart.
A year later, Pichai was put in charge of Android after Android co-founder and CEO Andy Rubin stepped down in March 2013.
Throughout his time at Google, Pichai has developed a sterling reputation for being well-liked, leading Recode’s Kara Swisher to call his recent promotion
“a definitive case of nice guys finish first.”
Pichai demonstrated his team devotion while working under Marissa Mayer, who then was a key executive at Google. According to The Information’s Amir Efrati, Pichai “used to wait for hours outside her office to make sure that she gave his team solid work-performance scores.”
In addition to his team management skills, Efrati notes that Pichai has also been known to throw his weight around when necessary. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Pichai reportedly “told Samsung’s mobile-products leader that Google was willing to ‘walk away’ from its enormous phone partnership with the company.”
Pichai’s impressive track record at Google caused him to be approached by Twitter to lead Product at the social network, but Pichai ultimately declined. In addition to Twitter’s interest, Pichai’s name was also mentioned as a potential front-runner for the position of Microsoft CEO after Steve Balmer announced his resignation in August 2013.
As Google’s new product czar, Pichai will be one of Google’s most powerful executives next to CEO Larry Page.
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