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How I became the CEO of Twitter - CV of Parag Agrawal.

Created on 08 Dec 2021

Wraps up in 5 Min

Read by 6.1k people

Updated on 18 Aug 2022

Khamma Ghani. I am Parag Agrawal. And this is the story of my life. 

I am Rajasthani by birth and a Marathi by upbringing. Which basically translates to - I was born in Ajmer. And it has been a decade since my family relocated to Mumbai.  

Even after relocating, I used to visit my grandparents in Ajmer all the time. I would have the famous daal baati, so completely dipped in ghee, the rabri ghewar, Ajmer’s kadi kachodi, and Jodhpur’s aloo bada. Just talking about it is making my mouth water. And oh, I cook well too! Too bad I’m too busy these days.🤷‍♂️ 

The Bachpan

I was raised like any other ordinary Indian child, in chattar patar, with siblings and cousins around. My father was an employee in BARC (Bhabha Atomic Research Centre), so we lived in the BARC colony & BARC had its own culture. 

In my school, the Atomic Energy Central, I was the typical first bencher you can think of. I remember children being so competitive but, at the same time, super helpful. My mother believes growing up at BARC contributed a lot in the making of who I am today.

And Bachpan ka Pyaar

As for my childhood, I absolutely loved Maths. I loved cricket. I loved cars. And I LOVED computers. Well, I still do. When I was a little boy, we would go on trips. I would pick up magazines and any material I could get my hands on, on these subjects and have a great time. 

Here is just a picture of me getting excited after the Indian cricket team’s victory. 

My parents never really considered being a topper a big deal. They were just happy that I did well in my studies. Not to brag or anything, but in my 12th board, I was among the top 10 students in the state. That did make my parents proud. 

Let’s Curriculum-Vitae it Up!

The year is 2000, and I appeared for JEE. And at the risk of sounding immodest, again, my AIR was 77.  Naturally, I got into IIT Bombay, the MIT (Massachusetts wala, not the local one) of India. Every young aspiring engineer I have ever met wanted to go to IITB. It was and is the dream of the mass. And I was there. It was my dream; the only difference is it came true. I completed my Bachelor’s in Computer Science and Engineering from there. It was indeed a zesty ride. 

Another picture of me in my college days. 

From Powai to California

I wanted to see the world beyond Mumbai. I wanted to be in a place that challenged me every moment. I wanted to grow with and learn from my peers. And there was this one university I was eyeing desperately. And so it happened! 

In 2005, after completing my engineering, I got into Stanford. That's right, STANFORD! I moved to the US and started on my journey to earn the “Dr.” in front of my name. And at the risk of sounding immodest, AGAIN, I kinda stood out in the Stanford class as well, for my Maths and computer science concepts. It felt good, and it felt special.  

On My Way to Twitter

I was so on with my doctorate, but I wondered what else I could do to enhance my skill set. I got an answer the following year. I got into Microsoft in the research department. I was there for 4 months, and it was fun while it lasted. 

The next year, I moved on to Yahoo! All big names in the game, huh? Yahoo held on to my interest a little longer than Microsoft.  I was there for a year and 4 months. But my ex, Microsoft, wanted me back!  The second try with Microsoft lasted as long as the first one, for 4 months, and I moved on to AT&T. 

Wait! Picture abhi baki hai mere dost.

Another 4 months, I finally got into Twitter, even before completing my PhD! Little did I know back then that I was in it for the long haul. It was 2011, and social media was on the wild rise. And I could completely sense the potential of growth in the future. 

I joined Twitter as a distinguished Software Engineer, and my team and I oversaw the company's advertising technologies. In-house, our team was among the first to make extensive use of machine learning and mathematical systems that can learn particular skills by analyzing data. 

And soon, we hit the jackpot! Using these techniques, we developed ways to target ads to particular users. It helped raise Twitter’s revenues substantially. When I joined, I was pretty good at handling large databases and gradually became better. I am guessing I did the right things because later, I was swapped on the Artificial Intelligence team. 

Dost hamare Founder hai! 

Meanwhile, I made acquaintance with Jack Dorsey, founder of our company. And we just clicked! He is a great friend and a prodigious mentor. I have learnt so much from him and built so much together.

In 2017, Jack promoted me to the CTO (Chief Technology Officer) of Twitter. And in 2019, Jack proposed the idea of decentralizing and incorporating the blockchain concept in Twitter to shift the power to its users.

Working on this concept also meant our burdens would be lessened. And I absolutely loved it. We worked together on it and still are. When I joined Twitter, there were fewer than 1000 employees, and today we are a team of handpicked 7870. Together we have achieved so much, and I think it is wonderful.

I hear people say I am Jack’s ‘spiritual successor.’  I guess that's because we have a lot in common. Jack is quiet, polite, and deeply technical, and I have heard people say that about me too. I think my mother, like any other Indian mother, would disagree, though.

CTO turned CEO

Now about the elephant in the room. A few days ago, Jack took the whole internet by surprise by announcing his resignation and my appointment as the CEO. I don't think there is any need to mention how honoured and humbled I feel. 

We have had our fair share of hardships. And I have got big shoes to fill in. In Twitter, some people know me well, some a little and some, not at all. So it wasn't much of a shock for me when in a poll on an anonymous app showed that about three-fourths of approximately 150 Twitter employees had their doubts about me. So I get it. I do. 

Twitter has been through enough of its leaderships riots, enough for a lifetime. And it’s finally time to stabilize it. It’s time to bring it home.To top it all up, new targets have been set to grow Twitter’s user base by 20% by 2023 and double its yearly revenue. It’s gonna be challenging.  

The Bottom Line

I am living the dream. And it all happened naturally. I just had my priorities sorted and kept working hard for them. As Baba Ranchhod Das said- Success ke piche mat bhago. Excellence ka piche karo. Success jhak maar ke tumhare piche aayegi. I mean, given my history, it does seem to work that way. And lastly, my family is the ones to whom I owe it all. 

Disclaimer: The content of this blog is a dramatic representation of the subject's life. This is not an autobiographical article.

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Mukherjee is an avid reader and loves to write as much as read. She is the youngest of all but handles chores like a 50-year-old woman. She takes a lot on her plate and somehow, eerily manages to get the job done. As Hazel Grace stated, she could read a good author's grocery list, and so would Miss Mukherjee. 

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