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Tech Talent Tuesday - Ruth Porat

Elana Hershman Dec 19, 2023

Having served as the CFO of Alphabet and its subsidiary, Google, since 2015, British–American business executive Ruth Porat has certainly made her mark in the tech world. In fact, in 2020, she was recognized by both Forbes and Fortune as one of the most powerful women in the world (sitting at 16th and 7th place, respectively).

Early Life and Educational Background

Born in 1957 to a Jewish family in Sale, Cheshire, England, Ruth was raised in an environment defined by resilience and determination. Her family history was shaped by remarkable stories of bravery, notably her father's escape from Vienna during Kristallnacht and subsequent service in the British Army, as well as her mother's roots in Mandatory Palestine. Ruth's early years were split between Cambridge, Massachusetts, where her father was a research fellow in Harvard University's physics department, and Palo Alto, California, where her father spent 26 years working at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. These early life experiences laid the foundation for Ruth's future, instilling in her a deep sense of resilience and a drive to succeed.

Indeed, Ruth was extremely successful academically, earning a B.A. in economics and international relations from Stanford University, an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics, and an M.B.A. from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. These distinctions laid the groundwork for her illustrious career. 

Career Trajectory at Morgan Stanley

Ruth commenced her professional journey at Morgan Stanley in 1987, steadily climbing the ranks through strategic roles that eventually led her to the coveted position of Chief Financial Officer, a role she held from 2010 to 2015. Prior to assuming the CFO role, Ruth served as the vice chairman of investment banking between September 2003 and December 2009. During this time, she also acted as the global head of the Financial Institutions Group from September 2006 to December 2009. 

Notably, Ruth's innovative thinking and financial acumen steered the company through tumultuous times. She played a critical role during the dot-com meltdown in 2000, being credited with orchestrating European debt financing that bolstered Amazon during that crisis. Later, during the 2008 financial crisis, she provided crucial guidance to governmental bodies, leading the Morgan Stanley team advising the U.S. Department of the Treasury concerning Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. She also collaborated with the New York Federal Reserve Bank on matters involving AIG.

Her remarkable achievements earned her many accolades, with Institutional Investor recognizing her as the "Best Financial Institutions CFO" in 2014, solidifying her position as an influential figure in the financial realm. Her career trajectory was even studied in depth in the McKinsey & Company report titled "How Remarkable Women Lead," underscoring her exceptional contributions and leadership style.

Google and Alphabet

Ruth's arrival at Google in 2015 as CFO of Alphabet Inc. marked a transformative phase for the tech giant. Renowned for her adeptness in restructuring and implementing stringent financial frameworks, Ruth's impact was credited with fortifying Google's competitive edge and market position. Being the company's longest-serving CFO, Ruth steered Google through significant growth phases, navigated the challenges posed by a global pandemic, and adeptly managed economic uncertainties. Her exceptional financial acumen earned her recognition as the "Best Internet CFO" by Institutional Investor in 2018. 

In a groundbreaking move, Alphabet announced in July 2023 that Ruth would step into the role of president and chief investment officer, overseeing Alphabet and Google's "Other Bets" portfolio. Ruth's promotion has put her in charge of supervising the risky hardware and services ventures within the company's portfolio. Her new responsibilities span internal and external focuses, encompassing investments in infrastructure, real estate, data centers, India's expansion efforts, and engagements with policymakers to highlight technology's significance.

Charitable Work and Positive Social Impact

Beyond boardrooms, Ruth is committed to bettering the world. Her support for increased taxes on the wealthy and her advocacy for addressing significant societal issues, such as sexual harassment, demonstrate a commitment to driving positive change beyond financial landscapes. 

From her formative years to her current role as an influential figure in Alphabet and Google, Ruth’s financial expertise has set a high benchmark for aspiring leaders in the tech and finance domains.

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