One of the most prominent women in tech — and one of Google’s earliest employees — is leaving the company.
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, who has led the world’s largest video site for the last nine years, is stepping down from her role. She’ll be replaced by Neal Mohan, her longtime lieutenant.
In a letter sent to YouTube’s employees, Wojcicki said she was leaving in order to “start a new chapter focused on my family, health and personal projects I’m passionate about.”
During her tenure, YouTube became increasingly important to the business for Google, which bought the site in 2006, and Alphabet, the holding company that houses both of them: In 2022, YouTube generated $29.2 billion in ad sales — more than 10 percent of Alphabet’s total revenue.
Wojcicki’s departure also has meaningful symbolism for Google and tech in general. For years, she has been one of the very few women to operate a huge tech business. And she was an integral part of Google’s founding — she famously rented out her Silicon Valley garage to co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 1998, and joined the company as its 16th employee a year later.
“Susan has a unique place in Google history and has made the most incredible contribution to products used by people everywhere,” Page and Brin said in a statement. “We’re so grateful for all she’s done over the last 25 years.”
Wojcicki started at Google running marketing, helped build its online ad business, and at one point ran the company’s video service that was trying to compete with YouTube. She ended up arguing that Google should buy the site instead.
During her tenure as YouTube’s leader, she made a point of increasing its accessibility to advertisers, while simultaneously trying to wrangle an enormous and unruly group of video creators that powered the site.
That periodically led to criticism from video makers, who said YouTube’s rule changes and moderation decisions made it hard for them to make a living, and outsiders, who said the company wasn’t taking a firm enough hand to discourage hate speech and other unpleasant content. “We managed to upset everybody,” Wojcicki told me in a 2019 interview.
Wojcicki has spent years working closely with Mohan, her successor. The two of them first worked together building Google’s display advertising business, and Mohan has been Wojcicki’s No. 2 at YouTube since 2015.
“Susan has built an exceptional team and has in Neal a successor who is ready to hit the ground running and lead YouTube through its next decade of success,” Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said in a statement.
Below is the full text of Wojcicki’s letter to her employees:
Subject: A personal update
Twenty-five years ago I made the decision to join a couple of Stanford graduate students who were building a new search engine. Their names were Larry and Sergey. I saw the potential of what they were building, which was incredibly exciting, and although the company had only a few users and no revenue, I decided to join the team.
It would be one of the best decisions of my life.
Over the years, I’ve worn many hats and done so many things: managed marketing, co-created Google Image Search, led Google’s first Video and Book search, as well as early parts of AdSense’s creation, worked on the YouTube and DoubleClick acquisitions, served as SVP of Ads, and for the last nine years, the CEO of YouTube. I took on each challenge that came my way because it had a mission that benefited so many people’s lives around the world: finding information, telling stories and supporting creators, artists and small businesses. I’m so proud of everything we’ve achieved. It’s been exhilarating, meaningful and all-consuming.
Today, after nearly 25 years here, I’ve decided to step back from my role as the head of YouTube and start a new chapter focused on my family, health and personal projects I’m passionate about.
The time is right for me, and I feel able to do this because we have an incredible leadership team in place at YouTube. When I joined YouTube nine years ago, one of my first priorities was bringing in an incredible leadership team. Neal Mohan was one of those leaders, and he’ll be the SVP and new head of YouTube. I’ve spent nearly 15 years of my career working with Neal, first when he came over to Google with the DoubleClick acquisition in 2007 and as his role grew to become SVP of Display and Video Ads. He became YouTube’s Chief Product Officer in 2015. Since then, he has set up a top-notch product and UX team, played pivotal roles in the launch of some of our biggest products, including YouTube TV, YouTube Music and Premium and Shorts, and has led our Trust and Safety team, ensuring that YouTube lives up to its responsibility as a global platform. He has a wonderful sense for our product, our business, our creator and user communities and our employees. Neal will be a terrific leader for YouTube.
With all we’re doing across Shorts, streaming and subscriptions, together with the promises of AI, YouTube’s most exciting opportunities are ahead, and Neal is the right person to lead us.
For all the YouTubers I’ve had the privilege to work with, you have done so much to make this platform better over the years. You created the largest creative economy the world has ever seen, enabled entirely new forms of art and storytelling, and supported millions of creators and artists to reach new audiences—all while investing in responsible growth so that this brilliant community of creators, artists, viewers and advertisers could not only co-exist but thrive together. Thank you!
As for me, in the short term, I plan to support Neal and help with the transition, which will include continuing to work with some YouTube teams, coaching team members, and meeting with creators. In the longer term, I’ve agreed with Sundar to take on an advisory role across Google and Alphabet. This will allow me to call on my different experiences over the years to offer counsel and guidance across Google and the portfolio of Alphabet companies. It’s an incredibly important time for Google—it reminds me of the early days—incredible product and technology innovation, huge opportunities, and a healthy disregard for the impossible.
And beyond that, I’ll still be around, so I’ll have a chance to thank the thousands of people from all across the company and the world who I’ve worked with and learned from. But for now, I want to thank Sundar for his leadership, support and vision over the years. I also want to thank Larry and Sergey for inviting me on what has truly been the adventure of a lifetime. I always dreamed of working for a company with a mission that could change the world for the better. Thanks to you and your vision, I got the chance to live that dream. It has been an absolute privilege to be a part of it, and I’m excited for what’s next.
Thank you for everything,