Early in his career, Jay Shetty sought to spread the wisdom he learned as a monk.
But, since no media outlet was willing to give him a chance, he created videos and uploaded them on YouTube himself. Those videos were the spark that set him on the path to achieve the goal of transforming one billion lives around the world.In this ON Purpose episode, Jay Shetty went back to those roots, sitting down with Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube, who oversees content and business operations, engineering, and product development.
From Humanities To Tech
Wojcicki hasn't always been a tech person. She studied history and literature, and never dreamed she would work in the field she is in now. She only crossed paths with tech in her senior year of college, when she took her first computer science class. As she told Jay Shetty, this was something that completely changed her life. As a creative person, Wojcicki saw technology as a tool to help her unfold her inventive skills even further. And strange as it may sound, her background in literature and history has been essential to her success in her current role as well.
Wojcicki told Jay Shetty, "We're dealing with a lot of storytellers, particularly on YouTube, who are covering a broad range of topics. And so having a background where you have understood and spent time training to interpret different meanings of books and literature and what it means has really helped me. And combining both the technology as well as the humanities and putting that together has been really helpful to me in my career."
After graduating, Wojcicki had difficulty finding a job. She spoke to a career counselor who advised her to reconsider working in the tech industry. The industry was still very new back then, and few people were part of it. But Wojcicki saw its potential and creative opportunities, so she followed her instincts.
From Google To YouTube
Wojcicki was at the end of her studies, with student loans to repay..
Although she managed to buy a small house, any extra income was welcome. So, when Larry Page and Sergey Brin were looking for a place to start their business, she happily rented them her garage. They moved in, and started Google.In 2006, she suggested Google buy YouTube. As she told Jay Shetty, at the time, people were reluctant to join the platform. Only a few could see its potential to make user-generated content successful. In her time at Google, Wojcicki witnessed the success of Google Video. This insight gave her enough confidence to bet on YouTube when nobody else would. Despite being low-quality in terms of the equipment used in the production process, the message was compelling and people loved the content.
A Day In Susan Wojcicki's Life
It may come as a surprise, but Wojcicki wakes up just early enough to get her children ready for school. After dropping them off, she spends time connecting with nature and breathing in fresh air. Finally, she focuses on exercise to boost her energy and mood.
Due to the pandemic, she adopted a hybrid working model, working some days from home and others in the office. What she does at work mainly entails overseeing the company's strategy. Wojcicki meets with her direct reports and takes time to understand what they are working on. She also reviews upcoming projects and strategizes the direction that YouTube is headed in.
After work, the CEO goes home and has dinner with her family. To wind down before bed, she likes to read. Wojcicki shared with Jay Shetty that she limits reading emails as much as possible in the evening to maintain a good work-life balance.
"You can really burn out in tech. You can overdo it, work really hard until you need a break," Wojcicki told Jay Shetty. Being constantly connected to the internet and having access to work email at your fingertips makes it challenging to ignore work at home.
Yet YouTube's CEO has succeeded in maintaining a healthy work-life balance over the years. She strictly separates work from family time, and dedicates her attention to her children and herself when she finishes her work day.
The Supportive CEO
When asked to describe her management style in one word, Wojcicki said, “Supportive.”. However, since this word can be subject to interpretation, Jay Shetty asked her to clarify what it looks like.Wojcicki explained, "I'd like to say I'm very supportive and helping the company get to what's the right future. And, of course, our hard decisions."
Moreover, she is supportive of her employees. As a CEO, it is easy to only want to hear the good things. But Wojcicki wants to know what happens inside the company so she can help her team navigate difficult times.
She told Jay Shetty, "I've really wanted to take an approach where people are open with me. [I want them to understand] we can talk about what's going well, but also what's not going well. And then I will work with them to fix it."
Wojcicki shared with Jay Shetty how she has developed a healthy work-life balance over time. She completely switches off during the weekends, allowing her to reset. This way, she can return to work with a clear mind and observe things from a fresh perspective. She also dedicated plenty of time to her family in the evenings. This is another opportunity for her to focus on her private life and switch off from being a CEO. In addition, she says she has found regular exercise and quality sleep are essential for longevity.
In explaining her reasoning for taking a break from thinking about work, she said, "When I come back to work, I actually have a better understanding of what needs to get done, and things that seemed really important suddenly don't seem as important two days later." She confessed to Jay Shetty that she also knows when to drop something, saying, “When I get really frustrated with something, I just stop doing it.”
If she and her team reach an impasse at work, they will cease what they were doing and try a different approach. They will work toward finding a new way to achieve their goal. Sometimes, they will even bring in colleagues from other teams to gain an outside perspective and rethink their method.
Learning From Embarrassment
As a child, Wojcicki admitted to Jay Shetty often feeling embarrassed by her mother, who was a teacher, and was never afraid to speak her mind. So, whenever there was a situation that her mother found unacceptable, she would speak up. However, for young Susan Wojcicki, this meant that she often felt embarrassed in front of others.
Yet, as an adult, she recognized the value of her mother's lesson. She understood that, especially in business, you must speak up when something goes wrong. She also learned that you shouldn't be afraid to speak your mind, even at the cost of being criticized by others. It is essential to stand by your values and do what is right.
Wojcicki's mother believed that by standing up for their rights, they could make the world a little bit better for others, too. She would say, "If you're wronged, and something happens to you, like you go to a place and it's not as advertised, or they charge you something different, and you don't say anything, then you're actually making it harder for the next person who comes along. That next person is going to also have that same negative experience. And so it's your duty and responsibility to speak up and to try to fix it."
With this mentality, the CEO's mother helped countless generations of learners. She taught journalism for over fifty years and always encouraged her students to challenge the status quo. She even wrote a book about parenting.
A Mother Herself
Wojcicki told Jay Shetty that her mother was an excellent example for educating her children. Her mother understood that each person is unique and allowed her children to follow their own path. She never asked them to fit into a specific mold.
Now, as a mother herself, YouTube's CEO is proud when her children pick up interests that she has little knowledge of. For example, she shared with Jay Shetty that one of her children became very interested in magic.
But Wojcicki is thrilled when she sees that her education style allows her children to find their paths.
"I actually am really thankful when my kids come up with some interest that I know nothing about. But I want to learn about, like, how do I get into that with them? How do I support them and go on that journey with them," Wojcicki explained to Jay Shetty.
Recipe For Success
Susan Wojcicki is an example of someone who took a leap and followed her intuition to achieve greatness. She joined Google before the company made any revenue, also while pregnant. Yet this calculated risk paid off in the long run.
She told Jay Shetty that her key to success is, among others, to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Getting enough sleep, exercising, and spending dedicated family time is crucial. These activities reduce stress and allow her to be more focused at the beginning of a new week.
She is also a leader who is not afraid to face criticism. As CEO, she makes important decisions regularly while bearing her team’s needs in mind. She has an open ear for her team and described her leadership style as supportive.Lastly, as a mother, Wojcicki empowers her children to find their path. She is willing to learn new things with them. As taught by her mother, Wojcicki understands the importance of critical thinking and taking well-established truths with a grain of salt.
More From Jay Shetty
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “How To Avoid Burnout In A Leadership Role & Learning To Celebrate The Small Wins” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.
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