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How a Stanford PhD helped this Indian-born exec become Twitter’s new CEO

twitter's new ceo
Parag Agrawal, who took over on November 29 as the new head of Twitter, shot from relative obscurity as the platform's technology expert to becoming the latest India-born talent to lead a US tech giant. Source: Justin Tallis/AFP

Parag Agrawal, a Stanford PhD in Computer Science graduate from Mumbai, is now Twitter’s new CEO.  Jack Dorsey, the social media platform’s co-founder stepped down as the company’s chief executive on Monday after this year’s Thanksgiving weekend. Although Dorsey will remain a member of Twitter’s board until next year, news of this resignation has long been expected. 

The move comes after heavy criticisms of his interests (which include running other important tech companies) and travelling the world. Stepping up to the plate is Agrawal, who is joining the small list of people of South Asian descent to head major US-based tech companies.

PhD in Computer Science

Jack Dorsey has been heavily criticised for his external interests. Source: Jim Watson/AFP

In Silicon Valley, Agrawal’s ascent is the true definition of the American dream, along the likes of Sundar Pichai (Alphabet’s CEO) and Satya Nadella (Microsoft’s CEO). Below, we go through the educational timeline of Twitter’s new CEO and how his Stanford PhD in Computer Science helped him succeed in the aggressive American tech industry.

Agrawal’s early life 

Agrawal was born in Mumbai, India, to a senior official in the Indian Department of Atomic Energy and a retired school teacher. There, he attended the Atomic Energy Central School and went on to get his undergraduate degree in computer science at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.

A Stanford PhD in Computer Science 

He then completed a PhD in Computer Science at Stanford University between 2005 to 2012. During his studies, Agrawal joined Microsoft for a small four-month research role before moving on to research positions at Yahoo and AT&T. 

New beginnings at Twitter

In 2011, this PhD in Computer Science candidate joined Twitter just as Dorsey returned as CEO. It was reported that Agrawal worked on increasing the relevance of users’ tweets on their timelines and audience growth and received the title “distinguished engineer” according to Forbes. 

Then, in 2018, he was named CTO of Twitter after seven years in the company. He’s also been involved in Bluesky, a project funded by Twitter that has a mission to decentralise the social media standard. 

Dorsey stated in his resignation letter that Agrawal has been unanimously appointed by the company’s board as Twitter’s new CEO saying: “My trust in him (Agrawal) as our CEO is bone-deep.”. 

PhD in Computer Science

Agrawal worked on increasing the relevance of users’ Tweets on their timelines and audience growth and received the title “distinguished engineer” according to Forbes. Source: Kirill Kudryavstev/AFP

Now, the company’s shareholders will look to Twitter’s new CEO to pave a smoother way into building up the company’s revenue and engagement metrics. However, there’s no doubt that Agrawal’s PhD in Computer Science from Stanford was there to lend him a helping hand. 

Twitter’s new CEO is known for his focus on artificial intelligence (AI) as he increased the speed of new technology deployment at his company. He also sought to increase the use of machine learning across the company’s systems. 

As a company veteran, there’s no surprise as to why Dorsey fully endorses Twitter’s new CEO to replace him. “He’s been my choice for some time given how deeply he understands the company and its needs,” he wrote in a resignation letter on Twitter.

Did you know: Twitter’s new CEO and PhD in Computer Science graduate is married to Vineeta Agarwala (a general partner at a16z — a venture capital firm) who is also a physician and clinical professor at Stanford Medicine. They have a young son who also happens to have a Twitter account.