The career rise of Susan Wojcicki, who rented her garage to Google's founders in 1998 and is now the CEO of YouTube

AP Photo/Reed SaxonYouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki.

Most landlords only hope their renters pay on time, keep a tidy space, and don’t disturb the neighbours.

But Susan Wojcicki’s renters – Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin – ended up offering up a bit more: the chance to become employee No. 16 in 1998 at a young search-engine startup called Google.

Of course, it’s taken more than this incredible circumstance for Wojcicki to rise in the ranks at Google. From expanding the company’s ad business to persuading its founders to purchase an up-and-coming video-sharing service called YouTube, Wojcicki has played a vital role in Google’s becoming one of the world’s most valuable companies.

Here’s a glimpse at Wojcicki’s life and her rise at Google from employee No. 16 to YouTube’s CEO:

Susan Wojcicki (pronounced whoa-jit-ski), 51, is a Silicon Valley native.


Source: Forbes

Wojcicki grew up on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, California, where her father, Stanley Wojcicki, was chair of the physics department.


Source: USA Today

Wojcicki’s mother, Esther Wojcicki, has taught journalism for more than two decades at Palo Alto High School, where she has mentored notable students like Steve Jobs’ daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs and the actor James Franco.

Joi ItoEsther Wojcicki.

Source: Business Insider, SF Gate

Wojcicki is the oldest of three sisters. Her youngest sister, Anne Wojcicki, is the cofounder and CEO of the genetics company, 23andMe. Anne Wojcicki would go on to marry — and later divorce — Google cofounder Sergey Brin.

GettyFrom left: Anne, Janet, and Susan Wojcicki

Wojcicki attended Harvard University, where she studied history and literature. Years later, she said that an introductory computer-science course she took her senior year “changed how I think about everything.”

GettyHarvard University.

Source: Business Insider,Mercury News

Wojcicki went on to receive a master’s degree in economics in 1993 from the University of California at Santa Cruz — where she met her soon-to-be-husband, Dennis Troper — and an MBA from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.

Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Source: USA Today, UCSC Magazine

Upon completing her MBA in 1998, Wojcicki returned to the Bay Area. She got married in August to Troper, and the couple settled down in Menlo Park. Wojcicki took up a job in marketing at computer-chip maker Intel.

Scott Olson/Getty ImagesDennis Troper and Susan Wojcicki.

Source: Palo Alto Weekly, New York Times

The couple paid $US600,000 to buy a four-bedroom, 2,000-square foot house, at 232 Santa Margarita Ave. To help pay the mortgage, Wojcicki rented the garage to two Stanford doctoral students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who were working on their new search-engine company, called Google.

GettyThe house Wojcicki bought.

Source: USA Today

Wojcicki charged the two $US1,700 a month to rent her garage space. In a 2013 commencement speech, Wojcicki recalled “late nights together in the garage eating pizza and M&Ms, where (Brin and Page) talked to me about how their technology could change the world.”

GettyLarry Page, left, and Sergey Brin.

Source: USA Today, Fast Company

One day while working at Intel, Wojcicki was halted in her work because Google was down, and she wasn’t able to locate an important piece of info. That’s when Wojcicki realised how dependent she had become on “the site developed by those two dudes in my garage,” and she decided she wanted to be a part of it.

REUTERS/Mike Blake

Source: New York Times

In 1999, Wojcicki joined the Google team as the its 16th employee. She was named the company’s first marketing manager, and was given a “shoestring” budget for heading up Google’s marketing efforts.


Source: Mercury News

Wojcicki was already four months pregnant when she joined Google, and became the company’s first employee to go on maternity leave. Joining a 15-person startup while pregnant “was a bit of a leap,” she told Glamour in a 2014 interview. “But sometimes you have to do the right thing for you right now.”

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Source: Glamour

One of Wojcicki’s earliest projects was to liven up the Google logo for holidays and special events. Her first doodle was an alien landing on Google, and now Google Doodle drawings appear daily on the homepage.

Business Insider

Source: USA Today

In 2003, Wojcicki came up with an idea that drastically increased Google’s advertising potential: She suggested that Google’s ad offerings be available not only within search, but on websites and blogs across the internet. The product became known as AdSense, and allowed Google to bring in over $US100 billion in ad revenue in 2018.

Source: USA Today, Statista

Wojcicki took charge of Google’s free video-sharing platform, called Google Videos, when it launched in 2005. The first video she uploaded was “a purple Muppet singing a nonsense song,” and her kids’ strong reaction to the video helped her to realise the power of user-generated content and its ability to attract visitors.

Stephen Lam/Reuters

Source: Business Insider

Yet around that time, another free video-sharing website called YouTube was generating buzz, and beating out Google’s product by making user-uploaded content immediately available to watch. Wojcicki credits a video on YouTube, showing two boys in China lip-synching to the Backstreet Boys, for convincing her Google should buy the platform.

nitroxunit/YouTubeThe video that Susan Wojcicki says helped to realise Google should purchase YouTube.

Source: Business Insider

In 2006, Wojcicki “worked up some spreadsheets” to justify the purchase of YouTube to Google’s cofounders, and Google bought YouTube that year for $US1.65 billion.


Source: Business Insider

In October 2010, Wojcicki was promoted from vice president to senior vice president overseeing ad products. At the time, there were only eight SVPs at Google.

Source: Business Insider

By February 2014, Wojcicki replaced Google’s ninth employee, Salar Kamangar, as the CEO of YouTube.


Source: Business Insider

In her first year as YouTube’s CEO, Wojcicki went on maternity leave for the birth of her fifth child. The chief exec wrote an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal, arguing that the US should become a leader in maternity-leave benefits. “Support for motherhood shouldn’t be a matter of luck; it should be a matter of course,” she wrote.


Source: Wall Street Journal

Wojcicki revealed in 2016 that she and her husband maintain strict rules for separating work and personal life. She unplugs for a few hours at night and won’t check her email in order to increase her productivity. “If you are working 24/7, you’re not going to have any interesting ideas,” Wojcicki told the Wall Street Journal.

Mateusz Wlodarczyk / Getty

Source: Wall Street Journal

Wojcicki and her husband have five children, whom the YouTube CEO imposes screen time limits on to help them focus on the “present.” She’ll sometimes take away their phones, especially on vacation, and restricts how much they use YouTube.

Stephen Lam/Reuters

Source: Business Insider

Over the years, Wojcicki has been an outspoken proponent of closing the gender gap in the tech industry. “Tech is an incredible force that will change our world in ways we can’t anticipate,” Wojcicki told Forbes in a 2018 interview. “If that force is only 20% to 30% women, that is a problem.”


In 2017, she wrote an article in Vanity Fair titled “How to Break Up the Silicon Valley Boys’ Club.”

Later that year, Wojcicki wrote an op-ed article for Fortune where she described having to explain to her daughter that there are no biological reasons that fewer women are in tech.

Source: Forbes

Wojcicki has oversaw the release of major products, including YouTube Gaming, YouTube Music, YouTube Premium, and YouTube TV. Under Wojcicki’s leadership, YouTube has grown to 1.8 billion monthly users — just shy of Facebook’s 2 billion users. It has also become the most popular social network among teenagers.


Source: Business Insider,Pew Research Centre

Wojcicki currently sits seventh on Forbes’ “Most Powerful Women” list. Her net worth is estimated to be nearly $US500 million.


Source: Forbes

Nick Bastone contributed to an earlier version of this post.

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