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Parag Agrawal: From Engineer to Twitter CEO, IIT-B Alumni's Success Story in Silicon Valley

Parag Agrawal, the new CEO of Twitter, assumed position on Monday

Parag Agrawal, the new CEO of Twitter, assumed position on Monday

Parag Agrawal, the former chief technical officer of Twitter, handled issues like a large-scale password security issue to the racism row over a picture-cropping algorithm

Twitter has a new CEO now, Parag Agrawal, who has taken over the microblogging platform after former chief Jack Dorsey stepped down, passing the baton on to the IIT-Bombay graduate who has been in the company for over a decade now. The move of choosing a low-profile technologist to lead one of the leading platforms in the world came as a surprise to many. However, according to Dorsey himself, “Parag (Agrawal) has been behind every critical decision that helped turn this company around.” Not only that, Agrawal has been around when the company was nothing like it is today, and had fewer than a thousand employees. At the end of last year, the company had a workforce of 5,500, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Parag Agrawal, who joined as CEO on Monday, started from scratch at Twitter 10 years ago in October 2011. Before that, the Stanford PhD holder worked at Microsoft, AT&T and Yahoo. He joined Twitter as an engineer primarily focussing on the company’s ad products.  He slowly worked his way up from there, receiving the maiden title of ‘Distinguished Engineer’ at the company. Six years later in October 2017, Agrawal was named as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Twitter. During this time, he focussed on dealing with the larger issues that Twitter was facing — ranging from a large-scale password security issue to the racism row over a picture-cropping algorithm which was allegedly biased.

The 37-year-old has not been in the public eye, though. At Twitter, he has worked on machine learning, revenue and consumer engineering and helping with audience growth — but from a distance. This, however, will change immediately as he assumes the role as CEO.

As the chief technical officer, Agrawal’s biggest project probably has been overseeing of Bleusky, the decentralised platform which was announced in December 2019. Bleusky, a pet project of Jack Dorsey, is likely to be Twitter’s first attempt to access the metaverse, intending to be an “open and decentralised standard for social media”. Twitter’s newly founded crypto team also reported directly to Parag Agrawal, according to reports.

But now, the new CEO of Twitter has even more things to address. Agrawal now has to to look beyond the technical details of the company. Instead, he has to deal with the social and political issues Twitter and social media are struggling with. The platform already lags far behind its rival companies like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. According to AP, Twitter has just over 200 million daily active users, a common industry metric.

Agrawal promised to show the world Twitter’s full potential. In a reply to Dorsey’s resignation email where he named Agrawal the CEO, the latter wrote, “The world is watching us right now, even more than they have before. Lots of People are going to have lots of different views and opinions about today’s news. It is because they care about Twitter and future, and it’s a signal that the work we do here mater. Let’s show the world Twitter’s full potential.”

Parag Agrawal has joined a host of Indian-origin CEOs of large tech companies of the Silicon Valley, including Sundar Pichai of Google’s parent company Alphabet, Satya Nadella of Microsoft, Shantanu Narayen of Adobe and Arvind Krishna of IBM. Twitter’s shares, which saw a consistent dip over the past few days, rose by up to 10 per cent at the news of Jack Dorsey stepping down as its CEO.

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first published:November 30, 2021, 12:15 IST