Anjali Sud grew up in Flint, Michigan, as the oldest of three. She dreamed of becoming a playwright and cast her brother and sister in plays they performed in their basement for an audience of two: their parents.
“I was really shy as a kid. Acting, dancing and singing were a really nice outlet for me,” Sud said during Yahoo Finance’s Breakout Breakfast series on Wednesday.
And while she has a penchant for the performing arts, she ultimately pursued a more practical career. Sud grew up in an immigrant household and saw firsthand the impact she could have as a business leader.
Her father started and still runs a plastics recycling plant in Flint. “He raised me with this idea that businesses can help create jobs and have a positive force of influence on your local community,” she said.
Now, at 34 years old, Sud is the CEO of Vimeo, the world’s largest online ad-free video platform. She’s also the youngest chief executive of any IAC (IAC) brand. Joining the company three years ago as VP of global marketing, Sud rose through the ranks and landed the top job in July.
Her achievements aren’t going unnoticed. Sud made The Hollywood Reporter’s 2017 Next Gen list, which spotlights 35 executives 35 and under who “will soon run Hollywood.” Yahoo Finance first announced the news on Wednesday morning.
“I had always hoped to one day be in a position like this. I couldn’t have imagined 10 years ago or even 3 years ago that I would be where I am today,” Sud remarked. “It’s been a series of strategic choices and fortuitous events, and a lot of hard work and support from my team.”
Sud started her Vimeo career as head of marketing, but quickly identified a void that she could fill.
“I saw an opportunity to champion the creator-side of the platform. So, I just started doing it. That really opened up a path for me to do that formally. It was a major catalyst for why I’m sitting where I am today,” she said.
“You just have to give yourself permission and not wait for formal permission to do it.”
“One of the things that I’ve tried to do in my career is look for opportunities even if they’re not formally given to me — to drive results and grow the business,” she said.
Of course, Sud said in addition to helping the company’s bottom line, individuals have to know their worth and be aggressive about compensation.
“First and foremost, become indispensable. Think about what your boss and what your boss’s boss is trying to solve for. And help them solve it. Become so integral that you have a lot of leverage. And then when you have that, don’t be afraid to use it. But you have to pair the ambition and the boldness with substance,” she said.
Transitioning to CEO
While Sud has always advocated for herself, she said she never explicitly pitched herself for the CEO role during the company’s yearlong search.
“I never raised my hand or threw my hat in the ring for the position, which, by the way, I think others should. You should never be afraid to throw your hat in the ring. But I did pitch myself implicitly,” she said.
During internal meetings, Sud focused on creators and articulated her vision with confidence. In doing so, she convinced others that Vimeo’s real differentiator would be in empowering content creators.
Recognizing your strengths— and running with them
While Sud has always possessed a deep interest in startups, she didn’t want to build one. However, having studied at UPenn’s Wharton School of Business and Harvard Business School, she was always surrounded by classmates hatching the next big thing.
“My dad was an entrepreneur and I wanted to be one, too. But, at some point, you have to be honest about where your skillset lies. And for me, it wasn’t starting my own thing. I don’t think I would be great at that — or maybe i just haven’t found the idea that I’m crazy passionate about,” she said.
Sud said her natural gift is scaling and growing an idea, and she recognized that early on.
“[The lesson here] is to be self-aware about your intrinsic motivations and strengths. The earlier you can realize that, the better.”
And, while her ambitions may have changed from the days she dreamed of writing a Broadway show, Sud finds herself gravitating toward building businesses for creatives.
“At Vimeo, I’m able to marry my creativity with the business side. It’s such a wonderful balance of two things that I’m really passionate about,” she said.
Watch our full interview here: finance.yahoo.com/live/breakoutbreakfast
Melody Hahm is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.