Classmates would eat his lunch, but he was too genial to ever complain even to his parents. That shy boy at St John's School, Chandigarh's Gurdeep Singh Pall, has now gone on to become the corporate vice-president of Microsoft's video-calling service firm Skype.
His parents - Brigadier GS Pall (retd) and wife Tajender Kaur - who reside here in simple house in Sector 33D, list hard work and dedication besides shyness as Gurdeep's key traits. The doting mother shares an anecdote, "A teacher had once told me, when he was just four years old, that if handled properly he will do very well in life. I can never forget those words." Kaur also had a brief stint as a teacher at St John's, before turning into fulltime homemaker.
Gurdeep and his elder brother, Gurpreet Singh Pall, who is also with Microsoft as director (global strategic planning) studied for around three years at St John's. As their father was later posted at Dehradun, the family shifted in 1977, and the brothers studied there for a while. Upon another shift, they completed their schooling from La Martiniere, Kolkata.
"Gurdeep was born at our parents' house in Sector 10 in 1966. He was a dedicated student and voracious reader, always good in studies. Once a classmate snatched his lunch but he could not complain us; he was that shy," recalls Kaur. He did his computer engineering from BITS-Ranchi, and then MTech from University of Oregan, US, joining Microsoft 1990. The elder brother also joined Microsoft around the same time.
"We are reconstructing the Sector-10 house. Both of them want to live where they were born," adds Brig Pall. Gurdeep was last in Chandigarh in May. "I was not keeping well. When he came to know about it, he took the next day's flight and reached Chandigarh," recalls Kaur. "He has got everything in the world but time. But we are very happy that he would be an inspiration for others."
As for his new assignment, Brig Pall says, "It was decided last week. He did not tell us but our elder son told us. He only informed us when he joined. He is very particular about these things, a thorough professional!"
Know the man: Gurdeep Singh Pall
At 46, Gurdeep Singh Pall has been named by Microsoft as corporate VP for Skype, as well as its Lync communications product, engineering and operations worldwide. Earlier he was heading the information platform and experience team in Microsoft's new applications and services division. Before that, he was CVP of the Office Lync and Speech group.
According to the Microsoft website, Pall has more than 20 patents (in process or approved) in networking and collaboration areas. He is also a trustee at Ashesi University, Ghana.
The first Sikh to reach the top management of Microsoft, Pall joined the company in January 1990 as a software design engineer. He has worked on many breakthrough products in his tenure, starting with LAN Manager Remote Access Service. He was part of the Windows NT development team and led design and implementation of core networking technologies.
Named one of the '15 Innovators and Influencers Who Will Make A Difference' in 2008 by a leading publication, Pall co-authored 'Institutional Memory Goes Digital', published by Harvard Business Review and subsequently presented at the World Economic Forum 2009.
He married Seema Pall in April 2000 at Chandigarh, and they have two sons. They worked together at Microsoft, though she has left the job now. Seema is from Bikaner, Rajasthan.