Sundar Pichai’s Rise To The Top Of Google Is Built On Hard Graft And Leadership

October 27, 2014 - Written By David Steele


We wrote the other day how Sundar Pichai is now running most of Google’s front line services because Google’s founder and Chief Executive Officer, Larry Page, is taking a step back to focus on commercial, secretive projects and the bigger picture. Sundar is taking on the reins of the search, maps, research, Google+, infrastructure, advertisements and commerce units as well as retaining control over Android, Chrome and Google Apps. Let’s take a look at Sundar’s career at Google and investigate some of the reasons why he’s been handed the keys to many of Google’s front line apps and services.

Sundar joined Google ten years ago as Vice President of product management, leading the team responsible for the Chrome browser and operating system. He quickly gained more responsibility including various Google search products including Firefox, Google Toolbar, Desktop Search, Gadgets and Google Gears. In September 2008, Pichai oversaw the successful launch of the Chrome web browser, then Chrome OS, which led to Chromebooks and ultimately, the Chromebox product. In March 2013, he took on Android and I cover some of his achievements in the linked article. Throughout his brilliant career at Google, Sundar has developed a reputation for being well liked but he is also not afraid to throw his weight around. Earlier in the year, Sundar is reported to have told Samsung that Google was willing to walk away from the enormous ‘phone partnership with the company.

Of course, being the nice-but-determined-guy isn’t enough. Let’s not forget that Sundar has been given this responsibility because he has an established and proven track record. Two of Sundar’s earlier projects included Google Toolbar and Chrome. Both of these projects have kept users on the Google webpage during times when the business was announcing massive profits and consumers might have been less than confident using a financially very successful business. Now behind every successful manager is a happy and well performing team and here, Sundar has also delivered: he has personally recruited and mentored great teams.

Another lesson that many of us probably learn too late is not to make enemies: all companies large and small have internal politics and part of being successful in a given organisation is less about making friends and more about not making enemies. This is something that Sundar has successfully managed: his projects have been successful without being damaging to other teams. A brilliant example of this is how Chrome OS and Android coexist and even cooperate, where from at least some perspectives it’s easy to see how these two units could be competitors. Sundar’s rise to power, if we can call it this, may sound like something of a fairy tale but as we have read, it’s backed up by years of hard work and team development. Sundar’s brilliance has been recognized elsewhere in the industry: we know that he has been approached by Twitter to lead the product team at the social network, but thankfully for us, Sundar declined. He’s also been linked as a potential Chief Executive Officer for Microsoft after Steve Balmer resigned just over a year ago. Luckily for us, he declined any offer here. Sundar’s had a brilliant ten years; here’s hoping for the next ten!