There is certainly a lot of spotlight on Google right now as the company finds itself struggling to calm employee outrage over sexual harassment. Keeping that on one side of the spectrum, Google as a company has come a long way from its initial search engine days, delving deep into the mysteries of AI and machine learning. Behind this movement is Sundar Pichai who comes from humble beginnings and is now the CEO of one of the most valuable companies in the world. In an interview with The New York Times, Pichai spoke about growing up in Chennai.
“There was a simplicity to my life, which was very nice compared with today’s world. We lived in a kind of modest house, shared with tenants. We would sleep on the living room floor. There was a drought when I was growing up, and we had anxiety. Even now, I can never sleep without a bottle of water beside my bed. Other houses had refrigerators, and then we finally got one. It was a big deal,” Pichai said.
As a child, Pichai had a lot of time to read. “I read whatever I could get my hands on. I read Dickens. Friends, playing street cricket, reading books – that was kind of the totality of life. But you never felt lacking for anything.” Pichai studied at IIT Kharagpur before heading out to Stanford University in the US where he pursued an MS in Material Sciences and Engineering. Pichai added that the experience of getting access to labs and computers was “a big deal.” “I was so wrapped up in that, that to some extent I didn’t understand there was a much bigger shift happening with the internet.” Pichai also has an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
Pichai joined Google in 2004 and was part of the team that developed the Chrome browser. Ten years later, he was in charge product, engineering and research efforts for the company’s products and platforms that included search, ads and Android. In 2015, Pichai was made CEO and joined the board of Alphabet last year.
The New York Times’ David Gelles also touched on the ongoing sexual harassment protest by around 20,000 Google employees across the world. “People are walking out because they want us to improve and they want us to show we can do better,” Pichai said. “We’re acknowledging and understanding we clearly got some things wrong.” The company just announced new sexual harassment and assault rules, promising more transparency in how the company deals with complaints and more.