ALD21: Dr Marian Croak, Engineer

Dr Marian Croak

Dr Marian Croak is the developer of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and the technology behind “text to donate”. She holds over two hundred patents, of which 125 relate to VOIP.

In the early days of the internet, Croak realised just how revolutionary it would be. She also realised that it was inefficient for her employers, AT&T, to run both a traditional phone network alongside a new digital network for the internet when the internet could be used for both. She and her team experimented with “packetizing” voice, converting the sound into a digital signal that could be carried over the internet.

Croak struggled to convince colleagues that this was an important step forward, as many of them considered the internet to be a fad that would soon fall out of fashion. But she was eventually successful and now VOIP is used on a daily basis by millions to conduct phone calls over the internet.

The use of SMS messages as a way to donate to crisis appeals, or “text to donate”, was also her idea. In 2010, this invention helped to raise $32 million for survivors of the earthquake in Haiti. The “text to donate” technology is also used as “text your vote” for American TV shows such as American Idol.

Croak started her professional career in 1982, working in data services at Bell Laboratories, which was acquired by AT&T in 1984. She joined Google in 2014 and today she is the vice president of engineering for access strategy and emerging markets, where she leads several projects to improve internet technology all over the world.

She has received several awards and serves as a board member for many non-profit organisations. It was announced in 2021 that, together with ophthalmologist Patricia Bath, she will become one of the first two black women to be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

You can follow her work here:


Further reading

Posted in Ada Lovelace Day 2021.