Susan Diane Wojcicki is a tech industry executive with a remarkable career under her belt, who needs little to no introduction. Most YouTube and Google users recognize her unusual name at the very least, but there’s so much more about her there is to know.
While her time spent as the CEO of YouTube will always resonate the strongest with the average internet dweller, her role as the marketing manager of Google is a story in itself.
Join us as we explore the illustrious life and career of one of the most prolific marketers to ever grace Google with her sharp mind and keen eye for acquisition opportunities.
Now a senior executive that’s made appearances on numerous lists recognizing successful figures, such as Forbes’ Power Women (2021) and America's Self-Made Women (2022), Susan Wojcicki wasn’t always the groundbreaking marketer and CEO that she is today.
A little-known fact about Wojcicki is that she was a door-to-door salesman selling "spice ropes" at the age of eleven. Naturally, no one expected her to buy out billion-dollar companies at that age. Still, this tiny tidbit about one of the most powerful women in the tech industry shows an early aptitude for digital digital marketing and business.
From the earliest age, Susan Wojcicki exuded entrepreneurial spirit and a go-getting attitude. There was no stopping her, as proven by her current track record in tech. She was also a writer for the school newspaper at Gunn High School in Palo Alto, California.
Susan Wojcicki’s Wealth of Education
As the daughter of an educator and a physics professor at Stanford University, it comes as no surprise that she went on to have an exceptional education that spanned multiple fields.
Her foray into computer science didn’t occur until the senior year of her humanities studies at Harvard University. She studied history and literature and graduated with honors in 1990. Wojcicki’s next step was to get a Ph.D. in economics and pursue a career in academia, a plan partially foiled by her newfound love for computer science. While she received a Master of Science in economics from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1993, academia was no longer her biggest passion.
In addition to the already impressive lineup of universities she attended, Susan Wojcicki received a Master of Business Administration from the UCLA Anderson School of Management in 1998.
With this incredible wealth of knowledge at her disposal, she went on to work for some of the biggest companies in the US that are at least as prominent as YouTube.
Google Moves into Wojcicki’s Life
In September 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin incorporated Google. Their first office space? Susan Wojcicki's parents' garage in Menlo Park.
It was there that the search engine you most likely used to arrive at this page was developed. She rented the garage out to them, but they didn’t stick around long. They would move to more presentable headquarters shortly after.
At the time, Wojcicki worked in marketing at Intel Corporation in Santa Clara, California. She was also a management consultant at Bain & Company and R.B. Webber & Company. With such impressive experience in marketing and business management, it’s no wonder that Larry Page and Sergey Brin recognized her potential and decided they needed people of her caliber at Google.
Step up From Intel
A year later, in 1999, Wojcicki took her career to a whole new level and joined a company that was at the very forefront of technological development. While the Intel Corporation is no small stepping stone, Google was a definite step-up career-wise. She officially became employee number sixteen at Google.
Her role as a marketing manager was to find ways to monetize Google’s search engine. It didn’t take her long to start generating revenue for Google, a trend that would carry on throughout her career at the tech giant. In 2000, Wojcicki had her first big win for the company with the launch of AdWords, clickable text advertisements that could appear on Google’s result pages.
In 2003, she became product manager for AdSense, Google’s seminal advertising tool that earned her the Google Founders' Award. It was a well-earned recognition for the significant breakthroughs she enabled. During that same year, she oversaw the acquisition of Applied Semantics, another fine addition to Google.
Wojcicki was subsequently promoted to the position of Google's Senior Vice President of Advertising & Commerce, responsible for overseeing marketing and analytics tools such as AdWords, AdSense, DoubleClick (acquired for $3.1 billion in 2007) and Google Analytics. In 2009, she proceeded to add the mobile advertising network AdMob to the lineup.
As if all of that weren’t enough, she was also directly involved in a multitude of other projects. Along with Huican Zhu, Susan Wojcicki co-developed and launched Google Image Search. In addition to that, she took part in creating the famous Google logo with designer Ruth Kedar.
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Wojcicki Oversees the Acquisition of YouTube
Wojcicki’s first contact with video sharing was in connection with the launch of Google Video in 2005. At the time, YouTube was an equally new venture, albeit a far more successful one. Wojcicki recognized the potential of YouTube and advocated for its acquisition. This was, perhaps, the greatest moment of her whole career.
In 2006, the deal came through, and Google purchased YouTube for $1.65 billion. It retained the previous logo and branding, despite YouTube now being a Google subsidiary.
Wojcicki was subsequently elevated to senior vice president at Google in 2010, and in four years, in 2014, became the CEO of YouTube.
Susan Wojcicki Puts YouTube in the Spotlight
There is much to be said about YouTube’s rapid expansion after Susan Wojcicki took over as the CEO.
In just one year, YouTube reached 2 billion logged-in users a month and they were watching one billion hours a day. Under her leadership, YouTube expanded localization to include over one hundred countries worldwide, across eighty languages. across eighty languages.
For all her breathtaking achievements, Wojcicki was known as "the most important person in advertising" and made it to the Time’s list of 100 most influential people in 2015.
Time also declared her "the most powerful woman on the Internet," a title that aligns well with Wojcicki’s personal goals. She is a mother of five, and a great proponent of paid parental leave. Throughout her incredible career, she managed to maintain an impressive work-life balance and advocated for others to pursue it, too.
Since Wojcicki took over as CEO of YouTube, the percentage of female employees has risen from 24 to nearly 30 percent in the company. It is a direct result of her advocating for more girls in computer science, countering gender discrimination at technology companies, and promoting coding in schools.
Such a thought-provoking rise to stardom wasn’t without hitches. YouTube, and Susan Wojcicki, by association, were at the center of censorship issues and stringent demonetization policies. There was even a change.org petition asking for the dismissal of Wojcicki due to “harboring hostile environment towards content creators.”
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In reality, Wojcicki's changes were in response to government regulations and laws that would make YouTube legally responsible for the content it promotes. Article 13, as written in the European Union Copyright Directive, would make YouTube directly liable for copyrighted content, for example.
There were broader issues than that at play, including YouTube videos supporting terrorist groups and having to find a way to deal with sensitive content, without harming innocent content creators.
While not everyone is pleased with how she handled this fight, the fact is that in her time, the number of content creators grew exponentially, as did ways for them to make money. By 2021, YouTube will have paid its creators and media groups $30 billion.
However you feel about Wojcicki’s legacy and the changes that YouTube’s undergone in her time as CEO, it is fair to say that the business has never been better.
YouTube is here to stay, and the community is stronger than ever, and not in small part due to Susan Wojcicki.