Sundar Pichai’s tale is one of perseverance despite adversity and success as CEO of one of the world’s most recognizable global technology corporations.
Born on June 10, 1972, he was raised by parents from a middle-class family in the Indian city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu. He was aware of the need for education from an early age, which he took very seriously.
He used to ride a bicycle rickshaw to school and read books while doing so. He didn’t even look up to see his fellow passengers since he was so engrossed in his book. Because of this, he could concentrate on his studies because of his basic lifestyle, which was free of distractions.
In his spare time, he would read about the exciting things occurring in Silicon Valley. He was amazed by how technology and innovative concepts were revolutionizing a wide range of sectors.
The development of cellphones and GPS, which altered the way we travel, also intrigued him later.
When he found that many of these ideas eventually originated in the most unexpected of places, he realized that “only brilliant ideas count, and it doesn’t matter where they came from.”
So, he gained the belief that he, too, could do great things in life, regardless of where he came from or what he looked like.
Because he was a great student, he graduated from IIT and he also managed to get admission into the prestigious Stanford University, the USA on a scholarship. But he could not even pay for his plane ticket.
As a result, his father withdrew $1,000 from the family funds, equal to his one-year salary to pay for the ticket. When Sundar got to the USA, he found out that even buying something as simple as a backpack cost as much as his father’s monthly salary! So, he quickly started working part-time to meet his expenses.
After graduating from Stanford, he worked in a few companies, but his heart was keen on pursuing something related to computers and the internet.
The internet was rapidly expanding in 2004, and he soon saw that this would be a game-changing technology. Google, in particular, piqued his interest in the internet.
So, he went to Google for an interview. At that time Gmail had just been launched and the interviewer asked him what he thought of Gmail. Sundar had never used Gmail. Most would have thought of making something up to impress their prospective employer, but he clearly said that he did not know and he could only offer his views once he used them. The interviewer liked his honesty and this got him to the subsequent rounds. It was only in the 4th round when the interviewer actually showed him what Gmail was. It was then that he studied everything about Gmail, and in subsequent rounds, confidently answered ways to improve it and got the job!
Pichai’s first role was to be the product manager for Google Toolbar. At the time, Internet Explorer was installed as a default browser for most users and the only alternative was Firefox.
Google saw both these browsers as a threat to their search business since any browser could promote the search engine of their choice.
So Sundar Pichai led the development of the Google Search Toolbar that could easily be installed at the top of these browsers so that no matter what browser was being used, Google Search was the most prominent option for the user for their search queries.
But then he did something completely unexpected. He started thinking like a Business Owner instead of a Product Manager.
Google’s management was focused only on the Google Toolbar. But just two years into his job, he told them that Microsoft could easily change settings in Internet Explorer to make it impossible to install external search toolbars. He said they should stop focusing on the toolbar and create a browser.
Most middle-level managers wouldn’t even think of saying that to the top management, but he was willing to put his reputation on the line to question the company’s decisions because he himself was thinking like a business owner.
The first time he proposed the idea of a web browser, it was shot down due to the costs involved. However, he was convinced it was the right decision, he compiled a lot of data and facts and then presented it to the management again. This time they were convinced and this also proved that he was someone who was not just a product manager but someone who was able to see the larger picture.
The browser, he and his team developed was Chrome. It wasn’t just a browser but an immersive experience that not only solved most of the frustrations web users had with other browsers but also offered features that were then unheard of.
It became the most popular web browser in the world that today has a 64 percent market share.
But that was only the beginning. By thinking like a business owner, displaying vision, excellent recruiting and leadership skills, and not getting involved in office politics, Pichai proved his worth to the management
Soon he went from being a product manager to a Vice President to a Senior Vice President to finally becoming the Product Chief at Google, managing some of the most important products that Google came out with, all because of his “Employee-preneur” attitude
Many of his peers left for other companies the moment they saw better opportunities, but Pichai stuck by his company. In fact, even Twitter and Microsoft wanted him for the top Job (CEO), but he chose to stay at Google as Product Chief.
So, when the top management of Google decided they no longer wanted to be involved in daily operations, the natural choice was the top Employee-preneur at their company who displayed every single quality they were looking for in their successor. The qualities were technical knowledge, a great vision, people skills, leadership skills, and finally unflinching loyalty. There was only one person fit to be the next CEO of Google – Sundar Pichai!
Eventually, Pichai did such an amazing job as CEO of Google, that in 2019 he was made the CEO of even the parent company – Alphabet! Today he is one of the highest-paid executives in the world and has a net worth of 1.3 Billion Dollars!
The foundation of Sundar Pichai’s success is based on a combination of clever effort and a strong work ethic.
His story demonstrates that one’s origins are irrelevant and that one must dream big to achieve success.
His story also teaches us the importance of honesty, courage, and the importance of thinking like a business owner, even in your job.
Finally, Sundar Pichai’s story (and that of many others) shows us that it is possible to rise up exponentially in jobs. In fact, there are countless people who have become very wealthy while doing a job. Look around you and you will find many such people in your own life!
But also remember, they aren’t employees, they are employee-preneurs. One doesn’t need to always start a business to get wealthy, they just need to treat their job as their own business and huge rewards are sure to follow!