Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai has some straightforward life advice for students at his alma mater: loosen up and have some fun.
The India-born Mr. Pichai, speaking Thursday at the elite Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur outside Kolkata, told university students who asked how they could emulate his success to pursue their passions, take risks, and be creative.
That is unconventional advice in a country where parents often pressure their children from a young age to study hard so they can secure steady employment.
“Academics is important but it is not as important as it’s made out to be,” Mr. Pichai said, adding that during his time studying metallurgical engineering at the school more than two decades ago he stayed up late, slept through the occasional class — and may even have earned a C in one course.
“I worked hard but we did have our share of fun as well,” he said.
The soft-spoken, congenial Chennai native told several students they should strive to “be well rounded,” follow their interests and have unique experiences.
“It’s a long road,” he said, “setbacks actually don’t matter.”
Mr. Pichai, who after graduating from the school in 1993 studied at Stanford University and the Wharton School of Business in the U.S., joined the search giant in 2004 and was appointed chief executive in 2015.
Mr. Pichai told students that India has the potential to be a “global player in the digital economy,” with more and more people getting online for the first time, especially on inexpensive smartphones.
But he noted that only a small portion of India’s population has yet to connect to the web, especially women in rural areas.
Near the end of his hour-long town hall, an earnest student asked Mr. Pichai for advice on how he could make the most of his four years on campus. Mr. Pichai’s response was simple: “I wouldn’t overthink it.”
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