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Five Key Drivers Behind New Google CEO Sundar Pichai's Success

Google's new star Sundar Pichai hasn't taken any short cuts to success and exemplifies the old school formula of hard work and resilience.
BY Uttara Choudhury |   12-08-2015
Sundar Pichai
Sundar Pichai, Google's new CEO, is well-liked and knows how to sidestep office politics.

A person is sometimes incredibly lucky to be in the right place at the right time. However, there is nothing accidental about the meteoric rise of quietly driven 43-year-old Google star Sundar Pichai. The soft-spoken middle manager emerged as a clear No 2 to Google co-founder Larry Page with the launch of the Chrome browser in 2008, which blazed past Internet Explorer and Firefox to become today's dominant browser.

Skilled as an Engineer and a Manager
Chrome's success "paved the way for a series of related strategically important products including Chrome OS, Chromebooks, and Chromecast," said "Fortune."

"It became the engine that powered Pichai through one of the fastest corporate ascents in the technology industry."

Since he joined Google in 2004, Pichai has grown his product fiefdom to include Chrome OS, Android, search, Google Drive, Maps, apps, Ads and more. Google watchers say that Pichai, who is well-liked and respected by his colleagues, has already been playing a hands-on role in the company's everyday operations.

"In essence, Pichai was given keys to the $444 billion car he was already driving," noted "USA Today" as Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin handed Google's reins to Pichai on Monday.

The market endorsed the restructuring of Google, creation of Alphabet and Pichai's elevation by sending Google shares up by six percent in trading on Monday.

Return From India Education
A lot of Indians coming of age in the executive suite in America often were educated at one of two iconic institutions founded in the 1950s and 1960s, the now seven-city Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and the six-member Indian Institutes of Management (IIM).

Google, isn't the first US-headquartered global corporation to recognize the high caliber of Indian executive talent. Like Pepsi's IIM Calcutta educated CEO Indra Nooyi and Manipal Institute of Technology educated Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, most are products of an investment in higher education.

Pichai was born in Chennai and had a humble upbringing. His family didn't own a car or television and lived in a small two-room apartment with a number of family members. As a result, Pichai didn't have a bedroom and slept on a mattress with his younger brother in the living room floor.

Bookish and quiet, Pichai studied metallurgical engineering  in the Indian Institute of Technology, in Kharagpur. He obtained a Master of Science degree from Stanford University and even toyed with the idea of following it up with a PhD to be able to join academe and become a professor.

"He won a scholarship to Stanford University to study materials science and semiconductor physics. The plane ticket to America reportedly cost more than his father's annual salary," reported "The Telegraph."

Early Signs of Academic Brilliance
However, after obtaining a Master of Science degree from Stanford University, Pichai veered towards an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Ivy League Wharton School of Business.

At Wharton, Pichai was honored both as a Siebel Scholar and a Palmer Scholar. Each year, top students from 27 graduate schools of business, computer science, bioengineering, and energy science in the U.S, China, France, Italy, and Japan are selected as Siebel Scholars. Deans of these top-ranking schools handpick Siebel Scholars on the basis of outstanding academic performance and leadership to receive a $35,000 award.

The Likeability Factor
Pichai scores very high on the likeability scale and has the ability to make tough decisions without rubbing people up the wrong way. The words colleagues use most often to describe him are "affable" and "nice guy."

"He has integrity, intelligence and a decency about him," quipped a colleague who worked closely with him on building out Chrome.

Chris Beckmann, who was a project manager at Google for several years, said Pichai was "incredibly talented and hardworking."

"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," Beckmann said in a post on "Quora."

Talent for Building Great Teams
We all know that great teams whether composed of super athletes or business people have an intense, shared passion to achieve a specific goal. According to colleagues, Pichai excels in getting the team passionate about the mission. Apparently he is generous about giving full credit to his team which no doubt adds to his likeability quotient.

"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," Beckman wrote in "Quora."

Uttara Choudhury is Editor, North America for TV 18’s Firstpost news site. In 1997, she went on the British Chevening Scholarship to study Journalism in the University of Westminster, in London.

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