It appears that Sundar Pichai’s ascendancy to the top job at Google is proof that, despite lots of examples to the contrary, nice guys can in fact finish first.
Pichai, 43, started at Google in 2004 at a fairly low-level management position. Over the last decade, however, Pichai worked his way up the Google ladder, ultimately becoming one of the most influential voices within the company.
Pichai was largely credited with convincing Google to create Chrome to compete with more established browsers. Chrome is now the most popular web browser, and a key part of Google’s market dominance. By 2014, Pichai was overseeing Google properties such as Android, Search and Maps, leading Bloomberg to dub him “the most powerful man in mobile.”
The toolbar to riches story was completed this month when he was named CEO of a slimmed down Google. Google co-founder Larry Page, who had been CEO, left to take the helm of Alphabet Inc. a holding company that assumed the management of a number of former Google entities that had diverged from the core Internet business.
Most remarkable about Pichai’s rise to the top of Google has been the way he did it. In a business world where brash, overbearing personalities tend to dominate, Pichai is renowned as a truly nice guy with above average people skills.
Numerous profiles and accounts from Google insiders confirm he was exceedingly diplomatic, which allowed him to avoid making enemies. Others reported that he endeared himself to his team by insulating them from office politics and working earnestly to ensure higher-ups were aware of the good work they were doing. He was also applauded for being able to collaborate closely with Page, who is renowned for being very difficult on peers and underlings alike.
How did Pichai come to this enlightened approach to management? Like so many in the tech field, his academic background was heavily focused on engineering and technology. However, Pichai did spend some time at McKinsey & Company learning management consulting.
Wherever he picked it up, Pichai embodies a new standard for top executives: savvy in both technology and people skills. More specifically, Pichai has demonstrated that taking an interest in mentoring and developing the careers of others in your organization can, in fact, help your own career.