IIT-B celebrates alumnus’ rise to Twitter CEO

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Waves of excitement swept Mumbai, particularly IIT-B, soon after Twitter Inc. announced Dr Parag Agrawal as its new CEO, a hardcore ‘Amchi Mumbaikar’ replacing Jack Dorsey, reports Quaid Najmi

Waves of excitement swept Mumbai, particularly IIT-B, soon after giant microblogging service provider, Twitter Inc. announced Dr Parag Agrawal as its new CEO, a hardcore ‘Amchi Mumbaikar’ replacing the founder-CEO Jack Dorsey.

The proclamation was greeted with pride at his alma mater, the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B), at Powai, where he studied between 2001-2005 and graduated in B. Tech from the department of Computer Science & Engineering.

IIT-B Director Prof. Subhasis Chaudhari said that the significance of any university is often judged by the collective achievements of its alumni and the glory they bring to their alma mater, and Agrawal “is one such alumnus that IIT is proud of”.

“The education and ambience that IIT-B provided to Agrawal, not too long ago, helped in bringing out the best in him. Building on top of it with hard work and dedication, he has reached the top. Our congratulations to him and we hope that IITB can continue to produce such achievers,” Prof Chaudhari said in a warm tribute.

A beaming Prof Supratim Biswas, his teacher at IIT-B’s Computer Science & Engineering Department, who taught him a couple of subjects, recalls Agrawal being the topper of the course in 2005 and bagging a coveted Silver Medal.

“He was extremely well-organised, very bright, well-behaved and focussed in life. He was the typical topper-type material and had all the qualities of an achiever,” he recalled.

He pointed out how IIT-B gets toppers from all over India and to excel them requires “special calibre”, which Agrawal displayed. “No wonder he has got this huge honour at such a young age.”

Born in Mumbai to a Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) officer and a schoolteacher, Agrawal studied at the Atomic Energy Central School No. 4, at Anushakti Nagar in north-east Mumbai, where his schoolmate was famed playback singer Shreya Ghoshal.

After cracking the IIT-JEE in 2000, he graduated from the IIT-B, and later proceeded to the US where he obtained his doctorate in Computer Science from Stanford University in 2011.

In between, in 2001, he bagged the gold medal at the International Physics Olympiad in Turkey, one of the many feathers in his cap.

After collaborative stints with Microsoft Research, Yahoo! Research, AT & T Labs for research in large-scale data management, in Oct. 2011 Agrawal joined Twitter Inc. as a distinguished software engineer and exactly six years later was appointed as the Chief Technology Officer in October 2017.

At Twitter Inc., Agrawal is responsible for its technical strategy, overseeing machine learning and AI across the consumer, revenue and science teams in the company.

Since 2011, he has led efforts on scaling Twitter Ads systems, and re-accelerating user growth by improving home timeline relevance.

Significantly, just 24 months ago in December 2019, ex-CEO Dorsey had deployed Agrawal as in-charge of Project Bluesky – “an independent team of open source architects, engineers and designers to develop an open and decentralised standard for social media that would help better control abusive and misleading information on its platform.”

November 29 marked a milestone for Agrawal as Dorsey announced his quitting from Twitter and passed him the powerful ‘handle’.

On his special memories associated with IITB, Agrawal says: “Working with friends to build shared storage and streaming services over the Hostel intranet and spending time near Vihar Lake behind Hostel 4 with close friends”.

And his unique Mantra for Success: “The whole can be much greater than the sum of parts.”

Agrawal is married to Vineeta, a general partner with a California-based VC firm Andreessen Horowitz and they have a son.

Musk praises Agrawal

Soon after Parag Agrawal, an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, became Chief Technology Officer (CEO) of Twitter, Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk took to the micro blogging site to praise Indian talent in the US.

Musk said that the US benefits greatly from India’s talent. Musk noted while reverting to a tweet by Stripe CEO Patrick Collison.

“Google, Microsoft, Adobe, IBM, Palo Alto Networks and now Twitter run by CEOs who grew up in India. Wonderful to watch the amazing success of Indians in the technology world and a good reminder of the opportunity America offers to immigrants. (Congrats, Parag Agrawal),” Collison wrote. Musk then tweeted, “USA benefits greatly from Indian talent!”

Netizens slam new Parag

Parag Agrawal, the new Indian-origin CEO of Twitter replacing Jack Dorsey, was trolled on Tuesday on his own platform for an 11-year-old tweet that carried racist remarks.

In 2010, when he was not even an employee of Twitter, Agrawal quoted a comedian mocking racism and Islamophobia in America.

“If they are not gonna make a distinction between Muslims and extremists, then why should I distinguish between white people and racists,” Agrawal said in the tweet posted on October 26, 2010.

Questioning this, Republican Ken Buck, who represents Colorado’s Fourth Congressional District, asked how users could trust Twitter’s new CEO to treat everyone equally.

However, Agrawal was quick to clarify his comments to a user. “I was quoting Asif Mandvi from The Daily Show. The article you are reading seems too deep for my current mental state,” he posted.

Agrawal also posted about Facebook and noted that the social media giant is simply a waste of time. “Facebook is like a jail. You sit around, waste time, have a profile picture, write on walls and get poked by guys you don’t know (via gizmodo),” he wrote.

Agrawal had earlier tweeted: “Facebook is seriously messed up. The https settings revert back to http when you use any app that doesn’t do https.”

Meanwhile, Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Monday tweeted: “Wishing you the very best ahead @jack, and congrats @paraga and @btaylor – excited for Twitter’s future!”

“Wishing you the very best ahead @jack, and congrats @paraga and @btaylor – excited for Twitter’s future,” Pichai said in a tweet.

Agrawal will take over from Dorsey as the CEO in 2022. Agrawal joins a select group of CEOs of Indian origin heading technology companies in the US.

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