Sarah Ali has never been one to be intimidated by a big problem. In fact, she’s spent nearly twenty years chasing and conquering what she calls “huge opportunities” at every company she’s worked at. At YouTube, she leads teams across YouTube Shorts,YouTube Community, and YouTube Creation experiences, including today’s generative AI Dream Screen and YouTube Create announcements. We sat down with Sarah to talk about how AI is transforming the creation space, the most dramatic shifts in the creator ecosystem, and being a female leader in tech.
Before your current role, you founded and led YouTube’s Living Room products, led a team at Microsoft and even worked on aerospace robotics. What do your roles at all of these companies have in common?
What was exciting about all of these roles is that they all included big problems and huge opportunities to build great experiences for users by understanding how people use and would want to use our product. I’d say the theme in my career is working on two sided ecosystems, where there are multiple types of users to think about. Right now in my current role at YouTube, it is the viewer and the creator and the question to solve is: “how do you make great experiences and outcomes for both?”
Your career in tech has spanned almost two decades with the past 11 years spent at YouTube on the front lines of the creator ecosystem. What are the most dramatic shifts you’ve witnessed in the creator space?
If you go back to the early days of YouTube, what was so revolutionary was that YouTube gave anyone the opportunity to create content and grow a following without the traditional gatekeepers. It’s easy to take this for granted now but that was not the norm. Then, there was a shift from the web to mobile and to YouTube on TV screens. And now, short-form video is lowering the barrier to creation so more people can participate and generative AI is going to make it easier for anyone to express their ideas. The creation space is a really exciting place to be right now with so much innovation happening.
As the Senior Director of Product Management for Shorts, Community, and Creation, what does your day-to-day entail, including the most challenging and the most rewarding aspects of the job?
I manage a team of awesome product leaders and managers who look after every facet of the product strategy and experience across the core YouTube Shorts experiences, YouTube Creation experiences including YouTube Create and Generative AI, and YouTube Community products. This team does fantastic work and I couldn’t be more proud. In my role, I really have a front row seat and direct line to identifying what’s working well, which features need to be improved, and help develop the visions for the future. My day is often filled with team meetings, product reviews and collaborating with leaders across many areas of expertise to make decisions related to the products we are building. The most rewarding part of my job is undoubtedly getting to help creators be even more successful and helping them be their most creative. The most challenging part is that as much as we want to equip users and creators with endless new experiences and tools, we can’t create them all at once.
In one line, what’s your goal every day you wake up and go to work at YouTube?
The goal I really set out to achieve daily is to make YouTube the best place for everyone to participate and be their most creative.