A surprise announcement from Google not only radically changed the structure of the Internet giant, but installed a new CEO: Sundar Pichai. He will now head up Google, which will be a subsidiary to a new company called Alphabet.
If the name doesn’t ring a bell, you’re not alone — Pichai has been with Google for 11 years, but has never made major headlines. So what’s Sundar’s story?
Pichai was born in Tamil Nadu, the southernmost tip of the Indian peninsula. He moved to the U.S. in 1993 to continue his studies, acquiring a master’s. from Stanford and an MBA from Wharton School of Business. He joined Google in 2004 — right around the time the company launched Gmail.
Over the next decade Pichai worked on products that have had a major effect on the way the company works. After cutting his teeth on the Google Toolbar, he was a driving force behind the Chrome browser and Google Apps. In 2013 was put in charge of Android, which Pichai is now working to expand into a full-blown mobile carrier. The success of these products under his leadership would be enough to elevate any manager to the highest echelons. But does it make him CEO material?
Here’s where the human element comes into play. Accounts of Pichai over the years present him as a genuinely caring, empathetic and insightful person. He’s helped smooth out political and managerial troubles, weaving together teams and promoting people who do good work.
He’s been depicted as an effective and reliable manager, able to navigate and get the best out of a complicated corporate structure, quietly maintaining and improving the company’s most valuable assets.
Of course, under this organizational structure with the newly formed company Alphabet at the head, the Google Pichai will be managing is somewhat smaller in scope than the one he rose through the ranks of. Even so, it’s a still a heck of a success story.
“This new structure will allow us to keep tremendous focus on the extraordinary opportunities we have inside of Google. A key part of this is Sundar Pichai,” Larry Page, who assumes the role of Alphabet CEO, said in a blog post.
“Sundar has been saying the things I would have said (and sometimes better!) for quite some time now, and I’ve been tremendously enjoying our work together. He has really stepped up since October of last year, when he took on product and engineering responsibility for our Internet businesses. Sergey and I have been super excited about his progress and dedication to the company. And it is clear to us and our board that it is time for Sundar to be CEO of Google.”