Called the most powerful woman on the Internet by Time magazine, Susan Wojcicki has redefined how businesses and regular users interact with the Internet every day. After an early career at Intel, she became Google’s first marketing manager in 1999 and was instrumental in facilitating the company’s rapid growth and success before being appointed as the CEO of YouTube in 2014.
Her ingenuity, persistence, and consistency as a brilliant business person have brought her from a position as a regular marketing manager to who she is today: the CEO of an $80 billion dollar web giant. To date she has been repeatedly recognised as one of the world’s most powerful women and most prestigious business leaders.
Bringing Google to the World
Wojcicki’s first relationship with Google wasn’t as an employee, but rather as their landlady. After renting out her garage to them for some time, and also coming to rely on their search engine heavily at work, she left her job and joined the team as their first marketing manager. With a budget of zero dollars and a target market of “everybody”, she had her work cut out for her.
Not someone to be daunted by the impossible, Wojcicki came up with a stunningly innovative solution. She partnered with universities across the country to get them to incorporate Google search boxes into their websites, exposing millions of students and professors to the company’s service. This brilliant move was a major factor in how rapidly Google search was adopted by the public.
Beyond marketing, Wojcicki is also an accomplished computer scientist and manager. She was the driving force behind many of Google’s business applications, and ultimately much of the highly effective monetisation of the company’s services. As the senior vice president of Advertising and Commerce, she oversaw the Google Analytics, AdWords, Google Video, and AdSense. She lead the development of AdSense, and is responsible for the self-service model that the program is famous for, and which has made it the second largest source of revenue for the company.
Wojcicki was heading Google Videos in 2006 when it became clear that YouTube was going to be the platform of choice for user-generated video content. She didn’t believe in fighting an uphill battle, and opted to move forward rather than to continue push an unpopular product. Instead of continuing to try to compete, she proposed and spearheaded the $1.65 billion dollar acquisition of YouTube by Google that year. This and the $3.1 billion dollar acquisition of DoubleClick in 2007, which was also led by Wojcicki, are some of the largest and most important purchases that Google has made to date.
In 2014, she was appointed as the new CEO of YouTube, replacing her colleague Salar Kamangar. At this point the online video giant was valued at an impressive estimated $40 billion dollars. The choice has proven to be historic. Less than 3 years later YouTube’s estimated value has doubled to an incredible $80 billion dollars under her leadership.
Pushing for progress
Beyond realising her staggering business achievements, Wojcicki has also spoken out on behalf of women in the tech industry, and has worked to break down barriers for working mothers both at Google and in the business world in general. As a mother of 5, she stands as a prime example of how critical it can be to maintain working conditions and benefits that allow businesses to retain top level talent through major life changes.
In large part because of Wojcicki’s influence, Google offers 18 weeks of paid parental leave, which was increased from 12 in 2007. That increase alone halved the attrition rate among new mothers at the company, and other major businesses have taken notice. Microsoft and Netflix have both also extended parental leave in recent years, with Netflix now allowing up to a year for both mothers or fathers.
The key to success
When asked what made her success possible, Wojcicki responds that her persistence and willingness to come back to problems after a good night’s rest have set her apart. Despite her dedication to her work, she’s not a workaholic. On the contrary Wojcicki states that “If you’re working 24/7, you’re not going to have any interesting ideas.” Her carefully maintained work-life balance, innovative approach to her work, and determination to succeed combine to make her one of the most formidable players in the tech industry.
Though she’s only been a CEO for less than 3 years, she has already enjoyed enormous success in doubling the net worth of what was already an industry giant. Going forward she will continue to be someone to watch and to draw inspiration from for ambitious leaders everywhere.