Meet Sarah Ali, the PM Director behind your favorite YouTube products
Sep 21, 2023 – minute read
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.
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.”
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?”
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.
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. ”
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.
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.
AI will help more people enter the creator space by breaking down barriers of the skills needed to create.”
Creators are the backbone of YouTube. Without our amazing creators, we couldn’t exist. I realized that to be successful, focusing on our creators, including newer creators, and their communities had to be the top priority for the work my teams do. From finding Shorts an audience to finding new ways for creators to connect with their communities, that’s what we do everyday while also making sure the viewer experience is a great one. As a manager, I’ve been able to be successful by building a strong team culture of collaboration. Great ideas can come from anyone on the team and making sure there’s a sense of psychological safety for anyone to feel empowered to share their ideas is key.
AI will help more people enter the creator space by breaking down barriers of the skills needed to create. One example is our announcement of Dream Screen where creators will be able to input text and get an image or a video back that can be used as the background of their Short. We will see more and more of this trend with AI where if you can imagine it, you can create it. We’re just at the start of AI transforming the creator space.
Today, there are far more women in leadership roles across engineering and product management than there was 10 years ago. I’ve had the opportunity to have brilliant female mentors along the way and also to mentor other women coming up. I have seen such a shift in the amount of representation that’s really inspiring and I hope to see even more over the years as more young girls are exposed to STEM education and career paths.