When Sundar Pichai got a promotion last year to head up Google’s Android division, it further cemented his role as a rising star in the company. As senior vice president of Android, Chrome and apps, Pichai is responsible for some of Google’s most important products.
Today, many people see him as CEO Larry Page’s likely replacement, when the time comes. He’s expected to be on stage at Google’s big I/O conference this week.
The Information’s Amir Efrati just published an interesting profile on Pichai that highlights how he rose through the ranks to become one of Google’s top managers.
The entire piece is worth a read, but here’s a quick look at what you need to know about Pichai, the second most important person at Google:
- Pichai, who has an educational background in business administration, has worked for Google since 2004. He started as a product manager for Google Toolbar, an extension that Internet Explorer users could install for making quick Google searches. It was a pretty unsexy job at the time, but he proved he could build strong relationships with other companies and managed to grow Toolbar’s user base to about one in four web users by 2006. Marissa Mayer eventually made him the director of product management and Larry Page immediately promoted Pichai to a senior vice president position when he took the CEO spot back in 2011.
- Today, Pichai is Page’s right-hand man when it comes to important meetings. He joined Page when he met with WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum to try to convince him not to sell his messaging startup to Facebook and he helped Page convince Nest’s Tony Fadell to join his company with the Google team.
- Many Google employees picture Pichai as being the next CEO, despite the fact that he’s not a technological visionary. He’s like the Tim Cook to Apple’s Steve Jobs: Not necessarily a man with a grand creative vision about how the company will change the world, but one that knows how to lead.
When Microsoft was looking for a replacement for former CEO Steve Ballmer, the company reached out to Pichai as a possible candidate. Twitter also tried to poach him to be a head of product in 2011.
- Pichai is a team player. He has a knack for avoiding the drama that Google higher-ups are known to succumb to and he’s more collaborative than combative when working with other execs. As one employee told Efrati, “He got s**t done without alienating the entire company.”
- He’s also known for being an emphatic leader. When he reported to Marissa Mayer, he used to wait for hours outside her office to make sure that she gave his team solid work-performance scores. He wanted to make sure they were always treated fairly. Even when he became vice president, he made time for long meetings with his subordinates.
- Pichai’s team was responsible for launching Google’s Chrome browser in 2008. Pichai had the tough job of calling up Google’s partners — like Apple, which makes Safari, and Mozilla, which makes Firefox — to make sure that those relationships remained solid even though Google was releasing a competitive product. He managed to handle the situation extremely diplomatically.
- Pichai also knows when to throw his weight around. During a tense meeting 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.
- One of Pichai’s toughest jobs has been trying to turn Google’s Chromebook laptops into mainstream products.