Editor’s Note: Jeff Yang is a columnist for The Wall Street Journal Online and contributes frequently to radio shows, including Public Radio International’s “The Takeaway” and WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show.” He is the co-author of “I Am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action” and editor of the graphic novel anthologies “Secret Identities” and “Shattered.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
Sundar Pichai, who was born in India and immigrated to the United States, has been named as Google's new CEO
Jeff Yang: Immigrants are crucial to the success of the tech world, but GOP presidential candidates criticize immigrants
When Google announced this week that it is reorganizing itself under a new parent company called Alphabet, reactions were fast and furious, ranging from shock at the unexpected move to amusement at the quizzically goofy name to praise for the strategic clarity the change might bring to a company whose founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, have been notoriously prone to distraction.
But perhaps the most interesting outcome from the shakeup is the promotion of Sundar Pichai as Google’s new CEO, a move that, based on Pichai’s swift ascent at the company, had been more a matter of “when,” not “if.”
Page and Brin will oversee Alphabet, giving Pichai complete latitude in running Google, currently the sixth largest tech company in the world, and arguably the one most omnipresent in our digital lives.
Pichai, born in Chennai, India, and a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology, is just the latest in a growing number of other top tech CEOs who share a common ancestry in India and status as immigrants to the United States.
Striking it rich in tech
This list includes Satya Nadella, who in 2011 took the reins of the world’s fifth largest tech company, Microsoft; Sanjay Mehrotra, co-founder and CEO of memory chip mammoth SanDisk; and Shantanu Narayen, CEO of graphics software giant Adobe.
Their rise has challenged the long-held (and always false) notion that Asian-Americans have the ability to execute but not to lead — that cultural deficits, language gaps or lack of self-confidence are an insurmountable handicap for Asians, especially immigrant Asians, seeking to break into the C-suite.
That this shattering of the glass ceiling has occurred first and foremost in technology isn’t entirely surprising: Though the tech world has a long way to go to address other diversity concerns (namely, the painfully low percentage of women, blacks and Hispanics both in rank-and-file engineering roles and in leadership positions), the industry has been at the forefront