The Modern CEO

This interview with YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki is illuminating:

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki was on vacation when Silicon Valley suddenly plunged into a bitter debate over sexism.

The now-infamous “Google memo,” written by engineer James Damore, argued against diversity initiatives at Google and said that female engineers were less capable of leading others.

That’s not what he said, but go on.

Wojcicki, who was part of the team at Google that decided to fire Damore, recalled talking about it over dinner with her children, to whom she had always tried to promote diversity and equality.

I grew up eating dinners in absolute silence while my mother listened to Gardeners’ Question Time. Compared to family mealtimes in the Wojcicki household, I think I got off lightly.

“The first question they had about it [was], ‘Is that true?’”

Were they asking about what Damore actually wrote, or the version you told them?

That really, really surprised me, because here I am — I’ve spent so much time, so much of my career, to try to overcome stereotypes, and then here was this letter that was somehow convincing my kids and many other women in the industry, and men in the industry, convincing them that they were less capable.

Either your kids can’t read, or you lied to them. Which is it?

That really upset me.

You’re a CEO, yet you get upset by someone writing an internal memo that gets leaked because it confuses your kids?

In response to the backlash to Damore’s firing by self-styled “free speech” advocates, Wojcicki said there’s an important difference between free speech on platforms like Google and YouTube, and free speech inside the companies’ offices.

That’s a handy confirmation that absolute obedience and conformity is a requirement of working in Google. I mean it’s pretty obvious, but rarely do you hear it stated so boldly.

In fact, James Damore did his first interview with a YouTube creator,” she said. “That’s fine to have on the platform. We have lots of rules, but we tolerate — we enable a broad, broad range of topics to be discussed, from all different points of view.”

But…

What did Ned Stark say? “Everything before the word “but” is horse shit.” A wise man, that Sean Bean:

“But it’s different if you’re within a company trying to promote more women,” she added.

Of course it’s different. It always is.

“Think about if you were a woman and James Damore was on your promotion committee, or to just see that the company was enabling this type of harmful stereotype to persist and perpetuate within the company.”

Alternatively, think about if you were a male programmer – or indeed an investor – and you were reading this interview. Wojcicki sounds less like a blue-chip CEO than a whining schoolgirl who can’t work the projector. It’s hard to believe she’s been at Google from the start, but she seems determined she’ll be there at the end.

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13 thoughts on “The Modern CEO

  1. YouTube is fantastic and very powerful medium, although the recently introduced censorship requirements including declining of advertising revenue must be off putting to some investors and users alike.

  2. Well she certainly wasn’t promoted to CEO on merit. I suspect her lack of self-awareness helps her to overlook that fact.

  3. “I grew up eating dinners in absolute silence while my mother listened to Gardeners’ Question Time.” Do I remember that GQT was broadcast at a time when every true gardener would be out in the garden?

    We never had the wireless on during meals except Sunday lunch: Round the Horne and The Navy Lark. Brilliant stuff.

    But back to the point: when a CEO starts romancing about her kiddy-winkies she’s peddling falsehoods. It’s that simple. She’s a lying liar lying.

  4. Do I remember that GQT was broadcast at a time when every true gardener would be out in the garden?

    Sunday lunchtimes, IIRC. We lived on the coast of West Wales. I’ll leave you to imagine how many Sundays per year a gardener could get any gardening done.

    But back to the point: when a CEO starts romancing about her kiddy-winkies she’s peddling falsehoods.

    Yes.

  5. Susan Wojcicki became a tech CEO the old fashioned way, by becoming Sergey Brin’s sister-in-law.

    Anyway…Damore’s memo didn’t say anything whatsoever about the women who had been hired by Google. It was offering a possible explanation for why other women hadn’t been hired by Google, that is, why their engineering force is still deplorably male.

  6. “Susan Wojcicki became a tech CEO the old fashioned way, by becoming Sergey Brin’s sister-in-law.”

    So what you’re saying is… she *really* earned it.

  7. “Wojcicki said there’s an important difference between free speech on platforms like Google and YouTube, and free speech inside the companies’ offices.”

    She’s working hard to remove that difference though.

  8. “t’s hard to believe she’s been at Google from the start, but she seems determined she’ll be there at the end.”

    She has largely been a passenger, Google setup in her fathers garage, they had to find some use for her, so they made her the marketing manager. Like most ‘women in tech’, she doesn’t do any of the actual tech.

  9. Susan is an amazing professional.

    Most people couldn’t piss off the youtube creators, viewers and advertisers with out at least achieving something.

    She has managed to burn the company and achieve squat.

  10. YouTube is fantastic and very powerful medium

    It is, but the current management are doing everything they can to wreck it.

  11. Susan Wojcicki became a tech CEO the old fashioned way, by becoming Sergey Brin’s sister-in-law.

    I suspected as much.

  12. Like most ‘women in tech’, she doesn’t do any of the actual tech.

    That’s certainly the case with the power-skirts who show up in the media. I’m sure there are a fair few beavering away somewhere, unconcerned about things like Damore’s email. The female engineers I work with in the oil business don’t bang on about gender issue, they just get on with the job.

  13. One thing that YouTube are going through is trying to rebrand themselves as the new Netflix because streaming of homemade videos doesn’t really work as a money maker. Of course, nor does Netflix. The money goes to the production companies.

    I have done a small video conversion application with Azure. It’s pretty good and for the requirement we had, it was very good. They didn’t want to just embed YouTube. It had to be private to the site, and Azure took a lot of pain away. And the cost was great – a few cents to stream each high quality video – but for ad-supported, I can’t see that working. And bear in mind, Azure isn’t making much profit either. Video just uses so much more bandwidth and processing than text does.

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