Who's Who of Professional Women


Pei Cao

Channeling her longstanding love of mathematics and engineering, Pei Cao, PhD, has led a career as an influential and well-known technologist and engineering leader. She has worked for multiple information technology giants, including Google and Facebook, and currently shines as the vice president of engineering at YouTube Inc.

Dr. Cao was hired at YouTube as an engineering director and principal software engineer in 2012. She excelled in these roles for seven years before becoming the senior engineering director and a distinguished software engineer in 2019, later rising to her current position in 2022. Across her broad and extensive experience in computer science, computer systems, search engines, and social media, Dr. Cao has led software engineering teams ranging in size from 20 members to 500 and has been at the forefront of multiple industry-scale innovations. She prides herself on her ability to consistently deliver and achieve critical business objectives.

Dr. Cao laid the foundation for her esteemed, decades-spanning career in technology at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, graduating in 1990 with a Bachelor of Science in computer science. In a quick follow-up, she immigrated to the United States and matriculated at Princeton University in New Jersey. After earning her Doctor of Philosophy in computer science in 1995, she launched her career as an assistant professor in computer science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she remained from 1996 to 1999. Dr. Cao founded and served as the chief technology officer for Tasmania Network Systems and subsequently garnered experience as a software architect for Cisco Systems, Inc., for five years after her company was acquired by Cisco. After building the world’s best-performing network appliances to improve internet access, Dr. Cao began her professional tenure with Google as a software engineer in 2004, transitioning to Facebook seven years later and working in the same role until 2012. For more than a decade, she has contributed to the social media and technology field as a pioneer and industry titan.

As an innovative professional, Dr. Cao has been granted multiple patents by the United States Patent and Trademark Office for technological and software advancements. She is a co-owner of patents for generating moving thumbnails for videos, bifurcated document relevance, and query phrasification, and has contributed to numerous articles in professional journals. Four of Dr. Cao’s papers were included among the “Top 1000 Most Cited Computer Science Articles” generated from the CiteSeer (now CiteSeerX) database in 2012: “Web Caching and Zipf-like Distributions: Evidence and Implications,” “Summary Cache: A Scalable Wide-Area Web Cache Sharing Protocol,” “Search and Replication in Unstructured Peer-to-Peer Networks” and “Cost-Aware Web Caching Algorithms.”

Dr. Cao has remained highly involved with her field, maintaining membership in the Association for Computing Machinery since 2013 and holding senior membership status with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers since 2020. Among the numerous honors she has received throughout her career, she was awarded the National Science Foundation’s Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers by President Bill Clinton in 1998. At the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ International Conference on Distributed Computing Systems, Dr. Cao’s article “Maintaining Strong Cache Consistency in the World-Wide Web” won the 1997 Outstanding Paper award. Beforehand, in 1995, she won the Best Paper award from the ACM SIGMETRICS Conference on Measurement and Modeling of Computer Systems for her piece “A Study of Integrated Prefetching and Caching Strategies,” before which her paper “The TickerTAIP Parallel RAID Architecture” won Outstanding Paper from the 20th International Symposium on Computer Architecture in 1993.

As she looks ahead, Dr. Cao expresses her hope to continue leveraging her skills, knowledge, and creativity to serve the public, the world, and the Lord. She has been part of multiple major advancements in technology, including designing a scalable system that enabled Google to search hundreds of billions of web documents and engineering the YouTube search function, the second-largest search engine in the world. Throughout her career as a technologist and computer scientist, Dr. Cao has learned to let her own curiosity lead the way while maintaining a permanent growth mindset. She believes that one is never too old to learn something new.


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