Prabhakar Raghavan Is Not Google’s CEO – He Just Runs The Place


Actually I have.

We use Duplex to call businesses.

So do you have robots that make calls and get information from people? I hope you reveal that this is a robot on the other end.

“This is the Google Duplex robot. We were surprised if you changed your time.” And there was a little dialogue. “How about Saturday?” We got that, and we made millions of updates.

Have you been back to the office yet?

I have, but not on a regular basis. We have these open pods that we put on our lawns. I’ve been to a couple of those. I think society needs to go through a step of slowly building trust. That goes in and starts, especially when infections rise in some parts of the world or new varieties are discovered. But I think, later on, we’ll build up too.

Some people think the post-Covid-wide culture that exploits the employee with lots of cafes and massages on campus and dry cleaning is irreversible. Is it all over?

I wouldn’t call it a culture that makes employees happy. I think we want our campuses to be living centers where employees want to come back. So hopefully we don’t stop.

How long have you been with Larry Page now?

He goes out, usually at board meetings. Other than that, there was an amazing email in which he got involved and made some more explicit comments on a part of the product. If he said anything, it was deep insight. And you’re like, “Oh my God, what did he say? I have to think about it very carefully! ”

Tell me about your relationship with Sundar Pichai, your boss. You have the same background, having gone to the same institute in India. How do you work together?

I don’t know if having to come from the same backgrounds would help. We have similarities, and we have our differences. I have more of a technical background, he has a business background than I do. And so I sometimes get caught up in model details. He was very deliberate, always showing things from many different angles. I try to be as thoughtful as he is.

Before he became CEO of Alphabet, he was CEO of Google. I know you’re not in charge of managing YouTube or Google Cloud, but you’re a kind of CEO at Google right now. Isn’t it?

I wouldn’t claim to be such a thing.

Now, you have search, ads, commerce, maps. It used to be all on Google.

I think the way I interpret it is that Google is growing a lot more than ever.

Back in your previous career you worked for IBM. Even if IBM was dominant in the ’80s, it was nowhere near the impact that big tech companies have today. Do you think tech companies have such valuations and such power over people?

You put it as the power of the people. I think more in terms of power. Sure I wake up every day thinking of RESPONSIBILITIES of people.

But as you know, there is still a lot of skepticism today. If a company like Google has a technological breakthrough, people question it.

Some of that curiosity, even analysis, is understandable. It’s only up to us to expect shame and wonder at what we do, so that people don’t worry about things they don’t understand. Increasing understanding will definitely benefit everyone. We did very well. And it’s up to us to help educate the public on how weird it is.


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