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Sundar Pichai’s career path to CEO of Google and Alphabet

But the top job at Alphabet also comes with increased public and internal scrutiny.


Google CEO Sundar Pichai sits at a table while testifying before Congress, while an audience sits behind him watching.

Pichai has testified numerous times before the U.S. government.

Alex Wong/Getty Images



In 2018, the House Judiciary Committee questioned the CEO about Google’s data privacy practices and its plans with China.

Two years later, Pichai again testified before Congress on antitrust grounds. Two other major lawsuits against Google were subsequently filed by the US government for its alleged monopoly tactics.

Google also faced internal turmoil after firing one of its top AI ethicists.

In December 2020, Google fired Timnit Gebru. Her departure came weeks after she was asked to retract an article about the dangers of big language patterns and speaking out against the company’s treatment of minority employees.

Google employees were “seriously upset” about how the firing was handled, one of them told BI at the time, and Gebru said Pichai and other managers helped create “hostile work environments”.

Pichai ultimately apologized for the way the company handled the situation.

“I want to tell you how sorry I am for this and accept the responsibility of working to restore your trust,” he wrote.

Also in 2020, Pichai was at the forefront of Google’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under his leadership, Google launched initiatives to help search users find accurate and useful information about the coronavirus.

And like many big tech companies, Alphabet hired quickly at the start of the pandemic. Alphabet hired nearly 37,000 new workers in the 12 months to October 2022.

But from the end of 2022, Pichai has had to oversee a period of cost cutting within the company.

This culminated in job losses in January 2023, when Google’s layoffs affected 12,000 employees, or 6% of its global workforce. Pichai said he took “full responsibility for the decisions that led us here.”

More than 1,400 Google employees wrote an open letter to Pichai about how the layoffs were handled.

“Don’t be mean,” it read, a reference to the company’s original motto.

Googlers also criticized Pichai’s big salary in the face of job cuts, accusing him of “destroying morale and culture” at Google.

Google also laid off hundreds of additional employees in its core engineering division and hardware team in early 2024.

Pichai also faced European regulatory issues. French regulators fined Google around $270 million in March 2024, accusing the company of using news articles to train its Gemini AI model.

businessinsider

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