Danielle Tiedt (BBA ’96) describes her complex job in three simple words: It’s never boring.
As YouTube’s chief marketing officer since 2012, Tiedt has worked to transform the site from a simple video hosting hub into a global economic powerhouse—and one of the most valuable brands on the planet.
“Really, the most fun thing for me is being at the forefront of change,” Tiedt says. “When I started at YouTube, we were trying to prove that we weren’t just a platform for dogs on skateboards. Now, we’re so much more.”
During her tenure, she’s introduced new services like YouTube Shorts and a kid-friendly YouTube app. She’s also helped launch and grow multiple premium subscription services, including YouTube Premium, YouTube TV, and most recently, NFL Sunday Ticket.
She’s undoubtedly proud of her role in YouTube’s growth over the past decade—and arguably even prouder of staying true to the company’s stated mission to “give everyone a voice and show them the world.”
“I came to YouTube for the mission,” Tiedt says. “I really believed in YouTube’s potential to make the world a better place and I still do. The challenge though is how to give everyone a voice and do that in a safe and responsible way. Things were much easier when fewer people were online, but it’s much more complicated now.”
However, Tiedt will tell you she’s never been one to shy away from a challenge. With a dynamic team at her side and a strong business education guiding her decision making, she’s well equipped to lead YouTube forward amidst a rapidly evolving digital environment.
Because when growth and change are guided by a steady hand, the possibilities for good are limitless. So while users may have initially come to YouTube for the skateboarding dogs, Tiedt hopes they’ll stay for the power to change the world.
Chasing a dream from Madison to Microsoft
Ask Tiedt what first drew her to the intersection of business and technology and she’ll tell you it was the free soda. During a family trip to Seattle in the early 1990s, the self-described “farm kid from Iowa” got the chance to job shadow her aunt at Microsoft.
There, she saw a company and culture—complete with perks like complimentary soda and an employee soccer field—unlike anything she’d ever seen before.
“For me, that was really life changing,” Tiedt says. “I was like, wow, I definitely need to work there. That’s why I care so much about job shadowing. I believe a lot in the importance of seeing yourself do something you otherwise might not have normally done.”
She knew getting to Microsoft would require a world-class education. As someone who’s always based her decisions on data, she was drawn to the Wisconsin School of Business’ high ranking for undergraduate education—while also being attracted to a less quantifiable but equally important factor: the unique appeal of Madison.
“The city felt so big and cosmopolitan,” says Tiedt. “And it really felt like the opportunities there were endless.”
After landing at WSB, Tiedt studied marketing while remaining focused on her goal of working at Microsoft. Shortly after graduation, the dream came true when she secured a coveted internship with the company, which led to a permanent product manager position—and a chance to finally cash in on those employee perks.
Adding to her excitement was the rapid pace of technological evolution at the time. Over the next 15 years of her career at Microsoft, she’d experience some of the most radical changes to personal computing the world had ever seen.
“I really lived through the internet revolution and the mobile revolution,” she says. “Microsoft was like my second college. I got to tackle so many hard challenges and really see what it took to transform a company to meet the expectations of what consumers wanted at the time.”
The role of a lifetime
That experience came in handy when she made the transition to another company on the cusp of a user-driven technological revolution: YouTube. With the proliferation of smartphones and other technology—plus a growing demand for streaming content—video creation and consumption were skyrocketing. It quickly became clear that the Google-owned company needed someone to bring the quirky video platform into the mainstream and showcase how essential YouTube creators and their videos are to both viewers and advertisers.
These days, creators use their YouTube channels to host everything from live videos and podcasts to both short-form and long-form storytelling and shopping. Much of Tiedt’s job as CMO involves working directly with these creators, responding to their needs and concerns, promoting YouTube’s features, and implementing even more new services to support them—all at a pace as rapid as the latest viral craze.
“We’re in a very fast-moving industry, so we have to figure things out quickly,” she says. “With marketing campaigns at most companies, you can talk about things in terms of months, but we’re trying to get from concept to launch in a matter of days.”
And there’s a lot at stake. In many cases, creators aren’t just creators—they’re creative entrepreneurs building businesses through YouTube. Through advertising and subscription revenue, content creation has become big business and every decision Tiedt makes can impact creators’ bottom lines.
“The hard thing about a platform like YouTube is you could literally invest in everything and have it not be enough,” she says. “So, you’re constantly trying to figure out the biggest opportunities for growth at any given moment.”
Building positive change
While metrics are important, Tiedt’s vision for YouTube goes beyond just increasing views, likes, and profits.
When she looks to the future, she envisions a platform that’s truly a force for good when it comes to tackling the world’s most challenging issues: a creative ecosystem where, in addition to finding information about how to change a flat tire or learn a new dance, users can find trusted and vetted information on everything from health literacy to climate change.
“I think the next 10 years are really about how we ensure that YouTube has all the information that people need to make positive change in the world,” she says. “There isn’t all the content we need there today, but we’re trying to make sure that we have the right tools and information in place to educate the world. I think that work is never done, especially as the world gets bigger and more complex.”
While others might shy away from the challenge, it’s an opportunity that Tiedt relishes. Because if her diverse career in technology and business has taught her anything, it’s that seemingly big hurdles are scalable with the right people in place, all buying into a shared vision.
“I get most excited when YouTube faces a really hard problem and we have to try to solve it,” Tiedt says. “I truly believe I have the best team on the planet, and working with passionate people trying to make the world a better place, that’s what keeps me going and drives me to be better every single day.”
YouTube by the Numbers
See Danielle Tiedt in action in WSB’s Trusted to Lead brand campaign.