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If you Google “Susan Wojcicki,” the search-giant’s SVP of Advertising, you’ll see that one of tech’s most influential leaders keeps a markedly low profile, one focused more on how to monetize that search than what appears when querying her name. Just ranked by Forbes as the 30th most powerful woman in the world, Susan Wojcicki may not be a household name – yet. But as the head of all of Google’s ad products, each of us is impacted by the extraordinary scale and scope of her work dozens of times a day whether it be when picking up our myriad of mobile devices, watching the latest cat-turned-viral sensation on YouTube, or even deciding what high-tech eyewear of the future we’ll be sporting.
Google’s advertising revenue also has been impacted in a big way under Wojcicki’s leadership having grown to a staggering $43 billion as of last year.With the company’s stock price recently surpassing the $900 mark for the first time in their history, up nearly 50% over the past year, their dominance of the digital advertising landscape clearly continues.
And Wojcicki has witnessed Google’s astonishing ascent from a unique vantage point. In the late ‘90’s, Wojcicki rented her garage as the early headquarters for the business brainchild of two Stanford students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Google’s early landlord also quickly became the company’s 18th employee. Her relationship to the company’s founders hit even closer to home when Wojcicki’s sister Anne, now CEO of 23andMe, married co-founder Brin.
I recently sat down with the ever-humble mother of 4 at the Forbes Women’s Summit to discuss her journey to becoming one of the most powerful businesswomen in the world – this year marks Wojcicki’s third time appearing on the Forbes Power Women’s list. “There were definitely a lot of tough lessons,” she recounted when describing the most formative leadership lessons learned throughout Google’s meteoric ascent. “Not to give up and also to have a vision of where you want to go” were the most critical learnings for the most powerful woman in advertising.
And thanks to Wojcicki’s innovative vision, her bold moves the search giant have paid off big time. With the acquisition of companies such DoubleClick, Admeld and AdMob, she’s pioneered, with incredible success, new ways to monetize consumer engagement across the web ways that have forever changed the industry – all while adding value to Google’s hundreds of millions users worldwide, not to mention the company’s bottom line.
Yet like any disruptive leader, not all of her bets struck Silicon Valley gold. “I have had a lot of setbacks that I have learned from” Wojcicki candidly described, citing Google’s initial challenges in the video arena as her “most visible.” “At the time, we were competing with YouTube. We realized that although we had a lot of really good ideas and we had done a lot of things well, YouTube was winning,” a reality that eventually prompted their $1.6 billion YouTube acquisition.
Wojcicki walked away from that “pretty big purchase” with a perhaps even more valuable lesson in steering the company toward future success. “When you realize that that you need to make change in strategy or that something’s not working, a lot of times a reaction is to fight it.” According to Wojcicki, “What you need to do is embrace it. You need to accept it. And the sooner you do that, the sooner you can actually get on the right path.”
What was the best leadership advice the 30th most powerful woman in the world has received? “I think a lot of times people give you feedback, and we tend to want to deny it and think that, ‘Oh, they’re criticizing me,’ shared Wojcicki. “But what I’ve realized is that especially as you get more senior in the organization…you really need to step back and not make it personal and be willing to hear the feedback.”
Wojcicki’s remarkable humility and warmth belie a woman of such extraordinary accomplishments not to mention the stereotypes so often associated with being a “power woman” today. What’s more, while Wojcicki is most often tapped for her first-hand insights on Google’s extraordinary growth, it was both affirming and refreshing to hear such an accomplished leader so candidly reflect on her own personal growth. Too often, we spend more time celebrating success rather than the very real challenges and more importantly, the subsequent learnings that were an inherent part of the journey getting there.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published by Forbes , here, and is licenced as Public Domain under Creative Commons. See Creative Commons - Attribution Licence.