- Vineeta Agrawal, Anjali Pichai, Anupama Nadella and Reni Narayen not only have stellar academic and professional credentials of their own but are also devoted homemakers.
It would be an understatement to say that Parag Agrawal’s recent appointment as CEO of Twitter created a buzz among Indians here and back home. At 37, Agrawal is the youngest executive to helm a giant global corporation.
Expectedly, the news set social media on fire with congratulatory messages and expressions of pride in how people of Indian origin were now leading some of the largest tech companies in the world. Twitter was inundated with photos and mentions of other Indian American CEOs, notably, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Google’s Sunder Pichai and IBM’s Shantanu Narayen.
In true desi style, people wanted to know more and began searching for details about Agrawal’s personal life, mostly about his wife, Vineeta Agrawal, a physician-scientist. It is not surprising that the flood of congratulatory posts and the curious requests sent to “bhabhi,” prompted her to make her Twitter and Instagram account private.
The curiosity around Vineeta Agrawal and her distinguished career prompts the million-dollar question: What does it take to be a spouse of a high-profile CEO? What does being a partner of a high-powered tech executive entail? To bring their accomplishments and contributions to the forefront, we spotlight the women behind these men. Here’s a look at spouses of three Indian American CEOs, who not only have stellar academic and professional credentials of their own but are also devoted homemakers.
So who is Vineeta Agrawal? The wife of Twitter’s CEO is an accomplished woman in her own right. Born and raised in Mumbai, Vineeta, 35, came to the U.S. for higher studies. Currently, she is a general partner at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, where she “leads investments for the firm’s bio fund across therapeutics, diagnostics, and digital health, with a focus on companies that are leveraging unique datasets to improve drug development and patient care delivery,” according to her profile in Urban Woman Magazine. Additionally, she serves on the board of BigHat Biosciences.
Previously, she was also the director of product management at Flatiron Health, where she led the development of national-scale databases that integrated clinical and genomic data for research and drug development in oncology. She studied the genetic basis of common disease at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT and was a computational researcher at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, an early data scientist at Boston-based health tech startup Kyruus, and a management consultant for biotech, pharmaceutical, and medical device clients at McKinsey & Company in New York.
She is, in fact, more educated than her husband. As per her LinkedIn profile, Vineeta completed her bachelor’s degree from Stanford University. She then got her MD from Harvard Medical School, following which she completed Ph.D. in Biophysics. She completed her clinical residency at Stanford and is board certified in internal medicine, and continues to see patients at Stanford as an adjunct clinical professor in the Division of Primary Care and Population Health.
Vineeta and Parag Agrawal were married in January 2016, after getting engaged a year before. They have a son, Ansh, who was born in November 2018.
Apart from her impressive academic and professional credentials, Vineeta is also a socially- conscious activist. In September this year, she hiked the White Mountains in New Hampshire as part of Timmerman Traverse, an initiative run by Life Science Cares. On a fundraising page, Vineeta said she’s participating “because I feel strongly that our neighbors shouldn’t have to go without basic needs and access to opportunity.” She added a “personal note” as well. “I ‘grew up’ academically in the Boston area, and want to give back to both this community as well as others like Philadelphia and the Bay Area, where I believe the life sciences industry can and should do more to help those around us.”
Anjali Pichai is the wife of Sundar Pichai, the chief executive officer of Alphabet Inc., and Google. She currently works as a Business Operations Manager at the software company Intuit, according to her Linkedin profile. She previously worked as a business analyst at Accenture.
The 50-year-old was born and raised in Kota, Rajasthan. After completing schooling there, she went to the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, to study chemical engineering. It was there that she met her future husband. They were both undergraduate engineering students and took classes together.
In a 2017 speech at his alma mater, Pichai recalled how he used to walk over to the girl’s dorm to visit Anjali. He explained that he would have to ask someone at the front desk to let her know that he had arrived. “A woman would walk into the common area and announce loudly, ‘Anjali, Sundar is here,’ he said. “It wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience.”
The couple got engaged in their senior year. But after college, things started getting tough. Pichai left for the U.S. for further studies, while Anjali stayed back in India. There was a time when due to financial constraints, Pichai was unable to call Anjali for six months. They eventually got married and Anjali joined her husband in the U.S.
Anjali Pichai has played a significant role in her husband’s rise at Google. According to the IBTimes, Anjali convinced Pichai to stay with the company as he fielded offers from various tech companies. He had previously been approached for top jobs at Yahoo and Twitter. In 2014, Sundar was also considered the frontrunner to become the next CEO of Microsoft.
The couple is married for over 25 years and is proud parents of two children — Kavya and Kiran.
The Pichais reportedly live a fairly modest lifestyle, except when it comes to their house. They live in Los Altos, California. Anjali and Sundar Pichai teamed up with architect Robert Swatt to design their own modern home. According to the Los Altos Crier, the house sits on more than three acres of land and includes nearly 10,000 square feet, featuring an infinity pool, a garage of more than 800 square feet, a gym, a wine cellar and separate apartments for the nannies. The Pichai’s bought the property in 2014 for a reported $6 million.
Anupama and Satya Nadella have been married for 27 years. The couple has three kids — Zain, Divya and Tara. Their oldest son, Zain, 30, is severely handicapped with cerebral palsy. In several posts, talks and in his 2015 book, “Hit Refresh,” the Microsoft CEO has described his wife as “an amazing woman, mother and partner.” In a 2017 LinkedIn post, he wrote that empathy for others runs deep in his wife, who he lovingly calls Anu. He credits her for teaching him to infuse empathy into his everyday actions. He said that Anu inspires him with her willingness to share more about her journey as a mom in the hope that it can help others.
The two have a romantic immigration story, as reported by many news outlets, including Business Insider. After getting married in December 1992, Nadella couldn’t bring his new bride to the U.S. immediately as he had a green card. “But when immigration authorities rejected Anupama’s visa application due to a long waitlist, Nadella gave up his green card and got an H-1B visa instead,” to ease the immigration process for his wife, the Business Insider said in a profile on Anupama.
After Anu moved to the U.S. they lived in a rented apartment near the Microsoft campus in the Seattle area. When the young couple was building careers as an engineer and an architect, respectively, they were also expecting their first child. They got busy decorating the nursery in their rented apartment near the Microsoft campus. But fate had other plans.
Anu had to undergo an emergency cesarean section. She delivered a baby boy who was barely three pounds and didn’t cry. Zain was transported from the hospital in Bellevue across Lake Washington to Seattle Children’s Hospital with its state-of-the-art Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Over the course of the next couple of years, they learned that the utero asphyxiation had caused damage to Zain, and that he would require a wheelchair and be reliant on his parents because of severe cerebral palsy, news reports said, citing excerpts from Nadella’s book.
While Nadella was “devastated,” he wrote in his book that Anu’s “reaction to Zain’s birth was different.” He said his wife never asked why them. Instead, she always thought about what it meant for Zain and how they could best care for him, he wrote. “Watching her in those first few days, weeks and beyond taught me a lot.” Over time, Nadella said Anu helped him understand that nothing had happened to either of them, but it was Zain who was suffering. As his parents, it was up to them to do everything they could to improve his life.
Anu is closely involved with Seattle Children’s Hospital which has played a huge part of Zain’s and their lives. She co-chairs the hospital’s “It Starts With Yes,” campaign, an effort to raise $1 billion to improve children’s health. On the campaign website, she wrote about her own experiences as a parent. “Parenting was a learned art for me,” she said. “Yet I knew instinctively that the more I put into the well-being of my children, the better their long-term health would be.”
Earlier in May this year, the Nadellas pledged $15 million to the Seattle Children’s Hospital to help children suffering from neurological conditions. Last year, Anu donated Rs. 2 Crore to the Prime Minister’s fund for India’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
Together with her husband, she has established the Anu and Satya Nadella Scholarships at his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, for students who are pursuing degrees in computer science, data science and information technology, as part of an initiative to create new opportunities for students from Milwaukee’s marginalized and underserved communities.
Reni Narayen is the wife of Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen. The couple lives in Palo Alto, California, and has two sons, Shravan and Arjun Narayen. The two met at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) in the mid-1980s. Reni has a doctorate in clinical psychology.
In an interview with the Times of India, Narayan talked about his struggling phase in BGSU but the thing that he most adores was meeting his future wife there. The two have established the Reni & Shantanu Narayen Scholarship for BGSU students studying with the Department of Computer Science. There isn’t a lot of information on Rani; neither does she seem to be on social media. A civic and philanthropic leader, she is regularly seen in Bay Area events.