Communications Technology Meeting Societal Needs

Marian Croak was born and raised in New York City. When she was 5, she would follow engineers and plumbers around the house to see how they worked. Obviously very smart, she did undergraduate work at Princeton and received a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California in a combination of two fields: social psychology and quantitative analysis. These two fields define her career – using technology for the betterment of society.

She started her career at Bell Labs. As the internet was becoming more widespread she and a colleague advocated for the use of the internet for the transmission of voice communications. If feasible, this innovation would replace the need for transmission lines. At first, others thought her idea would never work. In fact, it was unreliable at the beginning. But the technology proved itself, and AT&T transitioned the use of the technology for its core services. It’s a wonder what the world would have done without this technology during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Croak has also championed the technology for societal needs. She developed a technology for text-based donations. This technology was especially useful in collecting money for Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti earthquake disasters.

She left Bell Labs to join Google to become the Vice President of Engineering. She has helped Google expand its business into parts of the world where internet access is just becoming a reality. She is also assisting Google as it addresses social justice issues. In addition, she is involved in efforts to encourage young women to pursue engineering degrees.

After five decades of existence, the National Inventors Hall of Fame finally selected two African American women to join the Hall. Dr. Croak and Dr. Patricia Bath were inducted in 2021. Dr. Croak was selected in part because of the more than 200 patents she holds. But she also developed a technology that has impacted nearly everyone.

Technology pioneers aren’t determined by their biology. But we do seem to forget or downplay the pioneering work of individuals based on their gender, race, ethnicity, or other biological factors. This series will focus on many pioneers who have been largely forgotten.

* * *

“If you let women in, imagine what the world will be. Maybe we can do much better, maybe we can collaborate more. Maybe there will be peace in the world.”- Marian Croak

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.