March 4, 2023 – Marian Croak, Inventor of Voice Over Internet Protocol, An Example of Black Excellence

Marian Croak Image

Marion Croak has over 200 patents to her name, including the technology behind Zoom. She is widely credited with the invention of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP), which enables people to use their internet connection and network for voice and multimedia communications. This is the technology behind Skype, video conferencing and text-to-give messaging.

She was born in 1955 in New York City. Her father built a chemistry set which inspired her to pursue STEM studies.  She graduated from Princeton and got her Ph.D. in Quantitative Analysis and Psychology from University of Southern California. She started at Bell Laboratories looking at how technology could positively impact human lives.

In 1982, this research was very novel. The earliest form of the internet would not come into being until the next year.  They were just trying to learn how to send voice and digital messages digitally rather than just using a standard phone line.  She invented the way to convert voice into digital signals that can be easily transmitted over the internet rather than phone lines – called Voice Over Internet Protocol or VOIP. 

At AT&T, she became Senior Vice President of Applications and Services Infrastructure and managed over 2,000 engineers and computer scientists responsible for over 500 programs impacting AT&T enterprises and consumer wireline and mobility services. Her responsibilities ranged from product realization and service planning to development and testing.

Ms. Croak joined Google in 2014 as vice-president of the engineering group. At Google, she is responsible for expanding what the Internet is capable of doing around the world and increasing the internet in the developing world.  For example, they developed a system to notify when flooding was occurring and notifying people in India. 

She created a new center of expertise on Responsible AI (Artificial Intelligence) within Google Research.  She also works on racial justice efforts at Google and continues her goal of encouraging women and young girls in engineering.

She has over 200 patents almost half of which are in VOIP and lay the foundations for the digital networks we use today.  In 2005, she received a patent for text-based donations to charity. This technology enables a network to identify a particular charity, provide the designating funding to the charity and then have the network service provider bill the original donor on its monthly bill.

VOIP is vital for remote work and conferencing as well as personal communication.  VOIP has an estimated market size of $30 billion in 2020 and is projected to grow to $95 billion by 2027. 

She is married to Denmark West, a former president of BET and Chief Investment Officer of the Connectivity Ventures Fund.

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