San Francisco – when jack dorseyAfter Twitter’s executive chairman, then Twitter, inspired the company to build out its machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities in 2014, he turned to Parag Agarwal, an engineer.
When Mr. Dorsey later became Twitter’s chief executive and needed help improving the company’s infrastructure, he also tapped Mr. Agarwal.
And when Mr. Dorsey envisions the future for Twitter in 2019, he will based on the concept of decentralization And technologies like blockchain, he again pulled Mr. Agarwal for help.
On Monday, Mr. Dorsey completed the handover when he stepped down as chief executive And Mr. Agarwal, 37, was named the new leader of Twitter.
Mr. Agarwal, chief technology officer since 2017, has been little known to the public, even as some Twitter insiders say they were surprised by his appointment. But behind the scenes, the India-born engineer has been a confidant of Twitter veteran and Mr Dorsey, who has been involved in many of the company’s biggest strategic initiatives. This bewildered Mr. Dorsey about his successor, saying that a tweet That the board had made a “harsh” search for a new chief executive and had “unanimously” endorsed Mr. Agarwal.
“He has been my pick for a while because of how deeply he understands the company and its needs,” wrote Mr. Dorsey, 45.
In his message to employees on Monday, Mr. Agarwal emphasized his knowledge of the company and his relationship with its employees.
“I joined this company 10 years ago when there were less than 1,000 employees,” Mr. Agarwal wrote in the company’s email. tweeted, “I have walked in your shoes, I have seen the ups and downs, the challenges and the obstacles, the victories and the mistakes. But then and now, above all, I appreciate the incredible impact of Twitter, our continued progress and the exciting opportunities that lie ahead of us. I see
Mr Agarwal has become the latest India-born executive to take over a major US technology company. Executives of South Asian descent are now at the helm of companies including Microsoft, Google and ibm, many of them are the successors of the founders of the companies. For some in Silicon Valley, Mr. Agarwal’s rise was the definition of the American dream.
Patrick Collison, chief executive officer of Stripe, said in a statement, “The amazing success of Indians in the world of technology and a good reminder of the opportunities America offers to immigrants.” Tweet Congratulations to Mr. Agarwal on Monday.
Yet as the new head of Twitter, Mr. Agarwal has his work cut out for him. The company, which is based in San Francisco, faces challenges, such as placating active investors and pacifying an agitated Congress about its power, divisiveness and ability to censor free speech. Mr. Agarwal has also been accused of overshadowing Mr. Dorsey’s vision for decentralizing Twitter so that its users can ultimately control what is acceptable on the service itself.
Still, some tech observers said Mr. Agarwal’s appointment made sense because he was Mr. Dorsey’s “spiritual successor”: both calm, humble, deeply technical and enthusiastic about the Internet where power and control are given back to users. Is .
“He certainly takes a bigger picture of what Twitter should be in the world and how it should work,” said Mike Masnick, founder of the technology news site. techdirt, who has advised Twitter on decentralization efforts, said of Mr. Agarwal.
Born in Mumbai, Mr. Agarwal studied computer science and engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, an elite technical university. In 2005, he moved to the United States and enrolled at Stanford University to pursue a doctorate in computer science. There, he joined a research group focused on databases, which allow computers to store and mine vast amounts of digital information.
Even among Stanford students, Mr. Agarwal stood out for his strong understanding of mathematics and the theory that underpins computer science, said Jennifer Widom, who led the research lab and served as their thesis advisor. did.
“Having both of those skills – math and theory – can go a long way for you,” she said in a phone interview. “If you are good at theory, you have analytical, reasoning, decision making abilities.”
Mr. Agarwal’s focus on the database made him a natural fit for Twitter, which must combine data coming in from millions of people around the world. He joined the company in 2011 before completing his PhD. and became a key member of the engineering team overseeing the company’s advertising technologies.
“I kept pestering him to go ahead and finish his thesis,” said Dr. Widom.
The advertising team was the first inside Twitter to make extensive use of so-called machine learning, mathematical systems that can learn specialized skills by analyzing data. Using these techniques, Mr. Agarwal and his colleagues developed ways to target ads to specific users, which helped increase Twitter’s revenue and their profile.
He then became a member of a team of top engineers known as the Twitter Architecture Group, or TAG, who reviewed and improved the company’s projects that were under development.
“He was on the shortlist of top engineers,” said Krishna Gade, who met Mr. Agarwal for the first time during an interview on Twitter. “Still, he had a great influence on the engineering direction of the company.” Mr Gade left Twitter in 2014.
when Mr. Dorsey Returns to Twitter as Chief Executive In 2015, Mr. Agarwal was one of his lieutenants who helped refocus the company’s efforts on a “timeline,” which feeds tweets into a user’s Twitter app. In 2017, Twitter promoted Mr. Agarwal to the position of Chief Technology Officer.
“I’d call him pragmatic,” said Kevin Kwensen, who at the time oversaw Twitter’s machine learning efforts. “As one of the early engineers, he built strong internal connections over the past decade.”
Even as Chief Technology Officer, Mr. Agarwal has kept a low profile. He worked behind the scenes to rebuild Twitter’s technical infrastructure, which had been cobbled together over the years. This led to engineering problems and prevented the company from introducing new products and services as quickly. Mr Agarwal helped Twitter use cloud computing services from Google and Amazon, streamlining its operations.
In 2019, Mr Dorsey said Twitter would fund an independent research initiative to create a decentralized social media, allowing users to make their own moderation decisions and apply their own algorithms to promote content. He tapped Mr. Agarwal to oversee Twitter’s contribution to the project, better known as BlueSky.
“We believe that empowering more individuals and third parties can help solve problems for communities and help more people,” Mr. Agarwal said in an interview about BlueSky in June. “Many people want to be part of the solution and now the only way for them is to figure out how to make Twitter work or figure out how to prioritize their community by a company like ours. That’s what’s behind the algorithmic choice. There is some thinking and reasoning.”
Mr Agarwal said at the time that Twitter was eager to move beyond the question of whether to remove or abandon its service, and to consider how the algorithms pick up the content.
“Our role has shifted from ‘we host a bunch of content’ to ‘we guide people to what interests them,'” he said. “We’re thinking about, ‘How does one get attention and in what context?’ What you host or what you don’t, that’s a problem from 10 years ago.”
Mr. Aggarwal also managed Twitter’s effort to incorporate cryptocurrencies into the platform, allowing users to send suggestions in cryptocurrencies. like bitcoin, And he has supported Twitter’s efforts to be transparent about its algorithmic mistakes, urging the company to go public with its findings that its use of a photo-cropping algorithm was biased.
Mr. Agarwal’s emphasis on product development appealed to insiders who believed Twitter was moving too slowly to introduce new products, said a person familiar with the succession process. He said his appointment could also help Twitter mirror the success of other companies that have used engineering leaders to oversee turnaround efforts.
Mr. Agarwal will receive an annual salary of $1 million, plus bonuses, as well as restricted stock units and $12.5 million worth of performance-based stock units. company filing on Monday.
“Pollen has been behind every important decision that helped transform this company,” Mr Dorsey said in his tweet. “My trust in him as our CEO is very deep.”