Parag Agrawal, the Chief Technology Officer of Twitter, has now taken over from Jack Dorsey as the Chief Executive Officer. Agrawal, an alumnus of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, was appointed Twitter CTO on March 8, 2018. He succeeded Adam Messinger, who left the company in December 2016. Agrawal’s appointment was announced internally in October 2017. As CTO, Agrawal has been responsible for the company’s technical strategy, while overseeing machine learning and AI. Since joining Twitter ten years ago, he has led efforts on scaling Twitter Ads systems, as well as re-accelerating user growth by improving home timeline relevance.
Taking to Twitter, Agrawal thanked Dorsey for his continued mentorship and friendship. Further, he thanked the entire team for their trust and support. “Our purpose has never been more important. Our people and culture are unlike anything in the world. There is no limit to what we can do together,” Agrawal wrote in a note shared on his Twitter handle.
Who is Parag Agrawal?
Born in Ajmer district in Rajasthan, Parag’s family had moved to Mumbai. His father was a senior official in the Indian Department of Atomic Energy. Parag studied at Atomic Energy Central School No. 4. He won a gold medal at the 2001 International Physics Olympiad held in Turkey. He earned 77th rank in the Joint Entrance Exam in 2000 obtained his B.Tech. degree in Computer Science and Engineering from IIT Bombay in 2005. Then he moved to the United States to pursue a PhD in computer science from Stanford University.
Agrawal joined Twitter in October 2011 as a Distinguished Software Engineer after completing his PhD. While studying at Stanford, he worked as a research intern for Microsoft, Yahoo! and AT&T Labs. Prior to joining Twitter, he was involved with research in large-scale data management with collaborators at Microsoft Research, Yahoo! Research, and AT&T Labs. Agrawal holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and Engineering from IIT-Bombay, from where he graduated in 2005.
Other Top Indian-origin CEOs
In the west, Indians are stereotyped as crazy smart in mathematics and science, and for good reason. Indians are quite amazing with technology and there is a huge number of tech professionals coming out of universities every year. Some of them end up heading the biggest tech corporations globally. With Agarwal becoming the latest Indian to lead a tech firm, he joins the ranks of Sundar Pichai, Satya Nadella, and many others who lead the tech giants. Let us take a look at Indian-origin CEOs at the helm of some of the biggest technology firms:
Sundar Pichai (Google)
Sundar Pichai is one of the biggest names in the tech industry and was appointed as Google’s CEO in 2015. Later, in 2019, Pichai also got named the head of Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company.
Pichai graduated in metallurgical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, one of the most prestigious engineering colleges in India. He holds an M.S. from Stanford University and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
He joined Google in 2004 after working at McKinsey and Company for a short time. Pichai overlooked Google’s client software products, including Google Chrome, ChromeOS, Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Maps. In 2014, Pichai took Android into his hands before becoming the new head of the company.
According to a filing by Google in 2020, Pichai received a base salary of USD 2 million as the CEO of Google and Alphabet. In addition to his base salary, Pichai also got a compensation of 5 million categorised as “all other compensation.
Satya Nadella (Microsoft)
Satya Nadella has been the CEO of Microsoft since 2014. He was the third CEO of Microsoft after Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer and has been in the company since 1992. Before he was appointed as Redmont giant’s CEO in 2014, he was leading the Azure enterprise cloud computing division at the company.
Nadella was born in Hyderabad, Telangana, and completed his graduation in electrical engineering from the Manipal Institute of Technology in Karnataka. After that, he moved to the United States to pursue M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, later getting an MBA degree from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.
In 2018, he was a Time 100 honoree. In 2019, Nadella was named Financial Times Person of the Year and Fortune magazine Businessperson of the Year. In the fiscal year 2021, Nadella received a base salary of USD 2.5 million. However, his total compensation for 2021, which ended on June 30th, was USD 49.9 million.
Shantanu Narayen (Adobe)
Shantanu Narayen was appointed as Adobe’s CEO in 2007. Narayen joined Adobe as the Senior Vice President of Worldwide Product development in 1998. Later in 2001, he got appointed as V.P. of Worldwide Product, and in 2005 he got promoted to the position of COO. Before moving to Adobe, Shantanu was part of Apple from 1989 to 1995. In 1996, he co-founded a new venture Pictra Inc, a photo digital photo-sharing platform.
Shantanu grew up in Hyderabad and pursued his bachelor’s from University College of Engineering, Osmania University, Hyderabad, in electronics and communication engineering. He completed his Masters in Computer Science from Bowling Green State University, Ohio, in 1986. In 1993, Shantanu Narayen received an MBA degree from the Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley.
Narayen received an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, Bowling Green State University in 2011. In 2011, Barack Obama appointed him as a member of his Management Advisory Board. Narayen is the lead independent director on the board of directors for Pfizer, and vice-chairman of the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum. In 2019, he was a recipient of India’s Padma Shri award.
Arvind Krishna (IBM)
Arvind Krishna joined IBM in 1990 and was appointed as the CEO in 2020. Krishna was one of the minds behind IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat in 2019, worth USD 34 billion.
Born in Andhra Pradesh, Krishna did his schooling in Conoor in Tamil Nadu. After his schooling, he moved to an IIT. Krishna graduated in Bachelors of Technology from one of the country's elite engineering colleges, the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. Later, he went to Illinois in the USA to pursue a PhD in Electrical & Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Previously, Krishna was the senior vice president and director, IBM Research. In this role, he helped guide the company’s overall technical strategy, leading a global organization of approximately 3,000 scientists and technologists located at 12 labs on six continents. He had also served as the general manager of IBM Systems and Technology Group’s Development and Manufacturing organization, which is responsible for the advanced engineering and development of a full technology portfolio, ranging from advanced semiconductor materials to leading-edge microprocessors, servers and storage systems.
As per a 2020 regulatory filing, Krishna’s base salary last year was USD 1.5 million.
Raghu Raghuram (VMware)
Earlier this year, in April, Raghu Raghuram was appointed as the CEO of VMWare. Raghu Raghuraman joined VMWare back in 2003, overlooking some major products, including ESX and vSphere.
Raghuraman pursued his Masters in Electrical Engineering from IIT-B. He also holds an MBA degree from the Wharton School of Business. Before joining VMWare, Raghuraman has worked with AOL, Bang Networks, and Netscape in product management and marketing roles.
During his tenure at VMware, Raghuram has held multiple leadership roles, most recently Chief Operating Officer, Products and Cloud Services, where he had responsibility for all of VMware’s product and service offerings and centralized services, support and operational functions. Prior, he led the company’s software-defined data center business as the executive vice president and general manager, where he was responsible for the division’s strategy, business and product planning and engineering execution. Raghuram began his career at VMware running product management for ESX and vSphere.
Nikesh Arora (Palo Alto Networks)
Nikesh Arora is the CEO of Palo Alto Networks. Arora was named CEO for Palo Alto Networks back in 2018, before which he worked in companies like Google and SoftBank.
Born to an Indian Air Force officer, Arora completed his schooling from The Air Force School (Subroto Park), and went on to graduate from IIT (BHU) Varanasi with a bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering in 1989. He took up a job with Wipro following his graduation but quit it soon in order to pursue his higher education in the United States. He joined Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, from where he earned an MBA.
Nikesh is also the former President and Chief Operating Officer of SoftBank Corp; he was with SoftBank Corp from October 2014 until June 2016. Prior to joining SoftBank, he was a top executive at Google where he held multiple senior operating leadership roles. At one point in his career, he was Google's highest paid executive—he received a compensation package of $57.1 million in 2013.
Ajaypal Singh Banga (Mastercard)
Ajaypal Singh Banga is currently serving as the executive chairman of Mastercard, a global payments & technology company. He was a chairman of the U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC) and is also a member of the board of directors of the Dow Chemical Company.
Born in Maharashtra, India on November 10, Ajaypal Singh Banga graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University, and also has a degree in PGP in Management from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
Banga began his career at Nestle and moved on to PepsiCo, where he helped launch its India-based fast food franchises. In mid-2010, he became the CEO and a member of the board of directors of Mastercard, moving up from COO. In 2015, President Barack Obama appointed him to the President's Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations.
Jayashree Ullal (Arista Networks)
Jayshree Ullal has been president and CEO of Arista Networks, a computer networking firm, since 2008. She joined the board of directors of Snowflake, a cloud computing company that went public in September 2020.
In August 2018, Arista settled a multi-year patent infringement battle with Cisco, Ullal's former employer, agreeing to pay Cisco $400 million. Born in London and raised in India, she is one of America's wealthiest female executives. Ullal studied electrical engineering at San Francisco State University and engineering management at Santa Clara University.
These are some of the top Indian-origin CEOs which are ruling the tech companies worldwide. Besides being of Indian origin, these brilliant minds have some very similar qualities, which make them so successful internationally. All their journeys begin from middle-class homes in India and it is that middle-class upbringing and values that seem to have given them an edge over their peers. Most of them have studied at the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and other prominent tech institutions in the country. Besides being gifted with a great mind, their hard work and sheer grit have got them where they are today. All of them somewhere down have a heart which beats for India and that’s why they are so highly admired in India and every Indian is proud of their achievements.