Like A Girl

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3 Lessons Learned from My Conversation With YouTube’s CEO

Last night, I had the privilege of chatting with CEO Susan Wojcicki. There are three lessons in this story that I want to share with you.

  1. Women empowerment is not solely in the hands of women. It’s in the hands of our brothers, fathers, boyfriends, husbands, and male friends, who hold an equal portion of work that is “Gender Equality.”
  2. When someone doubts your dream or thinks you are “too ambitious,” do not back down. Instead, use his or her doubts to drive your hunger, fuel your fire of ambition
  3. When women come together and LIFT one another up, truly beautiful things happen.

On May 24, the Commonwealth Club of Silicon Valley hosted an open discussion between Kimberly Bryant (founder of BlackGirlsCode) and Susan Wojcicki (CEO of YouTube). My mother had shown me the event days ago, but all the tickets were sold out. I thought nothing of it. A couple hours before the event, my brother surprised me with a pass to see her that evening! This leads us to the first lesson of the story: women empowerment lies in gender equality.

Gender Equality

My brother believed it was important for me to be in the same room as Susan. He didn’t know I would get the chance to ask my questions, speak with her, and gain personal advice. However, he did believe it was an opportunity for me because he understands the importance of my professional growth as a young woman. I wouldn’t have had a story to write, a memory to cherish, or even valuable insight from last night had it not been for him.

During her talk, Susan spoke about how many of the mentors she had in her life were men. The reality was that many of the top executives she was aspiring to be like were indeed all men. She gave us an example of a time when she had wanted to attend a prestigious meeting that she had not been invited to. She went to a male peer who held a senior position at the meeting and said that she deserved to be present. He agreed, and she attended. Now, I’m not implying everything is that simple and black and white, nor did Susan. However, the point is that men who mentored her, helped her get to where she is. They believed in her and in gender equality

“That’s what twenty-first-century feminism is about: the idea that when everybody is equal, we are all more free.” — Barack Obama

Susan also spoke about how this mentorship and encouragement starts at home. Many a time, young leaders have big dreams because someone encouraged them to dream big and that they could achieve their dreams.

My parents have always instilled this notion of having a “North Star,” on my brother and me. I don’t want to be happy with just getting a job at a tech company. I want to make a huge impact, I have big dreams. My North Star is bright and shimmering.

Which leads us to another point made by Susan last night. She was asked, “If you could give your 18-year-old self any advice, what would it be?”

She answered, “I would tell myself not to believe that others know what is better for me than I do. We often hesitate to trust ourselves and believe others will have the answers. Dream big and trust that you do have the answers you’re seeking for from others.”

This advice could not have spoken to me more, could not have plucked my ambitious chords I think it’s almost second nature as young adults to need reassurance that we are not messing up. When one steps into a new chapter in one’s life, doubt and questioning will always come up. When Susan said these words, they were actions I was already consciously trying to take every day–to trust that I am making the right decisions for my future and to dream big. My dreams are big, and so I asked ask her my question, which leads us to the second lesson in my story.

Doubt as a Driving Force

Susan had started her career in Marketing and is now the CEO of YouTube. Last week, I graduated from CAL and next month I start full-time at Twitter in Product Marketing. Hearing that her story began close to where I am right now gives me comfort that my dreams are in fact attainable. My question was about her journey from entry-level marketing to CEO, and what advice she could give me as I start out on the same path.

I had my question written down and my name scribbled at the end. The moderator- Kimberly Bryant repeats my question to Susan… and here lies the most important part of the night:

As Kimberly reads my question, she chuckles and says,” this is a little bit ambitious….”

Susan responded to her question stating that it was, in fact, great that my question was ambitious, and proceeded to explain her journey from marketing to CEO.

Now, Kimberley’s doubt and chuckle at my question initially gave me a split second of, “shit, maybe my question was dumb.” Then I heard Susan immediately fire back reassuring me that it was not. This goes back to Susan’s advice on dreaming big and trusting yourself. My dreams are big, people will doubt me, and I may fail. I probably will fail during attempts, but the goal won’t go away. I will use the doubt of others as reassurance as a drive and fuel for my hunger, and I will always remember Susan lifting me up with her response to Kimberley, which leads to the third and final lesson in my story.

Women Working Together

When women come together, beautiful things happen.

Both Kimberly Bryant and Susan Wojcicki are empowering and intelligent women who have paved the way for the future generation of female leaders. Together, they’ve fostered a conversation I and many others gained valuable insight from.

After the Q&A I was able to briefly speak with Susan. Thank you, for the advice, assurance, inspiration, and for cracking the glass ceiling in order for future women leaders to shatter that glass and #MakeItRain.

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Rabiah Damji is a recent UC Berkeley graduate of #MediaStudies, with an emphasis in #Marketing. She writes as a millennial voice on women empowerment, thought leadership, and personal experiences.

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