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Susan Wojcicki ’98

 

 
You facilitated the purchase of YouTube in 2006. Looking back, is YouTube today what you thought it would be eight years ago?

Eight years ago, we weren’t exactly sure where online video was going, but we knew it would be big. We knew that people all over the world wanted to upload videos, and that people all over the world wanted to watch them.

What I don’t think we anticipated were all the creative ways that people would use the platform. For example, you can learn almost anything on YouTube — like how to do a card trick or how to paddleboard. We had no idea video gaming videos would be such a huge trend. People use YouTube to share first hand accounts of current events — like the unrest in Egypt, Venezuela and, most recently Ukraine. The White House uses it to reach out to Americans about things like health care enrollment. And, YouTube channels like Khan Academy have educated children all around the world. Those are just some of the examples of how we’ve seen people use YouTube.

I’ve also been amazed to see how the world comes together to share experiences through video. A recent example of this is Pharrell’s “Happy,” a song that’s been covered by people and choirs and music groups all over the world. Even my daughter’s kindergarten class made a “Happy” cover video and posted it to YouTube.

How do your views on work life balance translate into the employee culture at YouTube?

My view is that your career is a marathon, not a race, and that means you need to pace yourself. For me, pacing myself means balancing time between work and family. I try to always have dinner with my family, and on the weekends I save email responses for Sunday night (unless there’s something urgent, of course). As a result, my team doesn’t feel like they have to respond to my emails at all hours of the night or throughout their weekend. This gives them a chance to pace themselves too.

While at Anderson, how did you discern amongst the plethora of knowledge available and decide what was important for you to learn?

I came into Anderson with a masters in economics and two years in strategic consulting, so I thought that I knew a lot about business already. I almost didn’t go to business school because I thought I knew all I needed to know. Instead, I very quickly realized that there was a lot I didn’t know I didn’t know.

I took courses in areas that I didn’t have experience in — like operations, HR, taxation and real estate. These are things that have turned out to be really useful for me in both my personal and professional life. Business school was a great opportunity to get a foundation that I’ve built upon throughout my career.

I also gained a deeper appreciation for areas that I had already been exposed to, like marketing. Through hearing from people in the industry, learning case studies and doing simulations, I realized that I knew a lot of things superficially and started to understand them at a much deeper level.

The prevalence of short-form video — predominantly on YouTube — has skyrocketed just as we’ve seen the rising generation’s shrinking attention spans. Do you think the rise of short-form content is symptomatic of a cultural shift in the way we consume information, or has YouTube sparked a cultural shift?

Online video is a new medium that’s not constrained by the traditional 30 or 60 minute TV slot. It’s less about shorter attention spans and more about the freedom and creativity to create content of any length. It’s unleashed this whole new genre of creators who are exploring all different forms of video content. Michelle Phan, for example, creates makeup tutorials and more than 6 million subscribers to her channel. A channel called Epic Rap Battles creates fictional “rap battles” between well-known historical and pop culture figures and has nearly 10 million subscribers. And many of my friends post videos to YouTube too. Online video enables anyone to share their ideas, talent and creativity with the world — in any length — and YouTube has definitely been a leader in enabling and supporting that cultural shift.