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The Google Guy

November 5, 2014
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###Amitabh Kumar “Amit” Singhal is senior vice president and software engineer at Google Inc., a Google Fellow, and the head of Google’s core ranking team. Born in Jhansi, a city in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India, Amit received a Bachelor of Engineering degree in computer science from IIT Roorkee in 1989. He continued his computer science education in the United States, and received an M.S. degree from University of Minnesota Duluth in 1991. In 2000, he joined Google. He now runs Google’s core search quality department. He and his team are responsible for the Google search algorithms. According to New York Times, Mr. Singhal is the master of what Google calls its ranking algorithm.

The fact that we have copied the aforementioned information from wikipedia would explain the gargantuan nature of the role played by this man. Google has redefined the reach of humans. It is not just a company. It is an extremely critical invention by some of the smartest people on earth for the greater good of humans. Mr. Singhal is one of the people who have made it possible. It is an honor for Watch Out! News Agency, to present to you the the words of one of the greatest IITR alumni of all time; one of the guys who made Google a verb. In conversation with Mr. Amit Singhal:

###WONA: Sir, first of all it’s truly an honor for all of us to have you back here. How does it feel to be back in Roorkee?

It feels really good. It’s been a really long time. I haven’t been back in pretty much, the entire 25 years. The campus has changed quite a bit. It’s a pleasure.

###WONA: 25 years! What all changes do you observe in the campus from then and now?

Well, there are a lot more buildings that I don’t recognize. It’s kinda hard to walk because there’s a new building cropping up somewhere. It’s not the campus I remembered. The other key change I am noticing is that there’s far too much security and gates. Trust me, we didn’t have any of that.

###WONA: You must have had a lot of memories of this place. Can you mention one that stands out?

Oh, one time I got busted ragging some of the freshmen. That was a bad idea, by the way. (Laughs) My humble message to the students of IIT Roorkee: No one should do anything unfair to the freshmen. I got busted and seriously it wasn’t a very happy experience.

###WONA: From UoR to Minnesota to Cornell and finally Google. What changes have you observed in yourself? Is there something that has remained constant?

Clearly, one thing that comes with time is experience. You learn a lot. But the key to that is you should be open to learn. So to grow, and I feel that I have grown tremendously, as a professional and as a human being, you have to be open to new ideas. Keep your mind open and learn all the time no matter how old you are- that is pretty much what I have done my entire life. It gives a valuable insight into how people perceive things and how people behave. To sum up, I would just say that I want to learn all the time. In some sense, learning has been constant for me.

###WONA: How did you spend your free-time here in Roorkee?

I was noticing this last evening. In my time, at 11pm, the campus would be buzzing with people. The Chai shop would be open and me along with my friends, would all have been sitting out there. It was a surprise for me to see that the whole place was dead last night at 11. We used to hang out. I used to play a lot of billiards in the students club. And I also did a lot of things that I won’t say on record (laughs). We were out continuously.

###WONA: Did you date anyone here on Campus?

No. I did not.

The interviewers at this point felt proud that they are on the same page with Mr. Singhal on this particular issue.

###WONA: After 25 glorious years, which includes rewriting the algorithm that has now redefined lives of billions of people and becoming one of the smartest people in tech on this planet, what keeps you moving?

Look, you have to realize that we are here on earth for a limited period of time. And sooner or later, we all have to leave this inherited place for the better. All of us have an important purpose in life. You have got to really love what you do. And honestly, I tremendously love what I do. This just keeps me moving. I work with an exceptional team for a company that really has had a huge positive impact on earth. It’s a dream job. And I have a beautiful family. A beautiful family combined with my dream job gives me a beautiful journey, which is on going.

###WONA: Sir, you are an inspiration for all of us here in IIT R. We were curious to know: From where do you draw your inspiration?

My inspirations change over time as I have gotten older. Earlier on and even now, I draw inspiration from scientists who had played great roles in solving the problems of the world. I wanted to be like one of them. It was my dream. Albert Einstein and my advisor at Cornell, Gerard Salton, who pretty much invented the field of ‘search’ were my inspiration. At the same time, now I am hugely inspired by people who do something for the word who are completely selfless and make this world a better place to live, like Mother Teresa and Malala Yousafzai.

###WONA: One lesson in life that you’d like to share with the students of IITR?

Of course. There are so many lessons I have learnt over the course of time! I don’t even know where to start. Maybe if you can get me to talk for an hour or so, all of them would eventually come out. However, there’s one of the simple things that I have learnt: Whenever you stand on a fork, make a decision and never look back. And I can give a hundred anecdotes from my life when I have done that. Make a decision and never look back because a wise man once said, there are no right decisions; you make decisions right.

###WONA: What is the one thing you still miss about Roorkee?

The carefree time I spent here with friends who only had friendship to offer each other. Nothing more and nothing less. It’s been a long time. You see, at that time here, there was nothing anyone could take from someone else and nothing someone could give back. It was just pure joy, love, bliss: it was just friendship. Even after 25 years I am extremely happy to come back and see all these people. With some of them I have spent endless hours doing nothing and those were joyous moments that I cherish.