On Monday the tech industry was hit with a bit of a bombshell when it was announced that Marissa Mayer would be abandoning her position as “VP of location and local services” at Google and moving on to start a new career as president and CEO of Yahoo. This seemed like a controversial decision to most given the current state of the company. At the moment Yahoo maintains an almost invisible presence on the web and have somehow managed to burn through three CEO’s in a year! None of which have been able to effectively motivate their engineers, undo damage, restore faith or come up with innovative ways to leverage their sprawling product portfolio. Marissa brings to the table the ability to address all of these issues. Her background in engineering is something that will no doubt get a lot of the engineers at Yahoo excited. As Google employee #20 Marissa was the company’s first female engineer and held key roles in high profile products such as Google Search, Gmail and Google Maps, not to mention a string of others. She has even been credited with the minimalistic design implementation of the now famous Google Search page. She’s also a whiz when it comes to interviews. Her infinitely likeable personality lead Marissa to become somewhat of a revered figurehead at Google, some might even say she was the “face” of the company back in the day. Her poise, charm and grace made her one of the more memorable interviewees at most of the high profile tech events. This should serve her well as she attempts to rebuild the relationship between the general public and the once iconic internet brand who has since fallen from grace. Ironically one of her more memorable recent interviews took place in 2010 at LeWebParis. During a fireside chat Techcrunch’s Michael Arrington was quoted as saying:
“Do you mind if we do some what-ifs, just for fun? Like, if you ran Yahoo, for example, what would you do?”
“Just theoretically. Would you cut back? Lay everyone off, like they’re doing? Would you try to expand in a certain area? I’m just curious.”
To which Marissa responded: “I think if I were Yahoo—I think, one, it’s a difficult job. But I do think Carol’s done a lot of smart things. The partnership on search was smart in many ways. We would’ve liked the partnership to have been with us. But that was smart. I also think that looking at other really interesting brands that are getting a lot of traction on the internet—those are smart acquisitions for them to make to really help broaden out their base, broaden out their platform and ultimately stay relevant.”
One can’t help but think that even back then Marissa had given some serious thought into what could be done to get Yahoo back on track…
Monday’s announcement came as a surprise to a lot of people in the tech industry but it was also notable for another reason. As it turns out, not only is Marissa Mayer the new president and CEO of Yahoo, she is also an expecting mother. She may even be the 1st EVER pregnant CEO of a publicly traded Fortune 500 company. As you can imagine the press is having a field day with this. Feminist movements around the country initially praised Marissa for her ability to shatter the “glass ceiling” and for being a role model to women everywhere that dream of “having it all”. However it seems as though some of them are now disappointed to hear that Marissa will not be taking her full maternity leave. Instead she has chosen to take a week or two off then work straight through. Although I think it’s absolutely her decision to make and not something that really needs to be discussed in the public arena, I still think it is “newsworthy”. It’s worth mentioning because it paints a picture of a forward thinking company that understands the dynamic of today’s modern career woman. Hiring a CEO that you know will be taking maternity leave almost immediately after you hire them is a nice show of faith. Proving that there are companies out there that are willing to help employees shatter the glass ceiling. There has been some speculation as to whether or not Marissa herself came up against that glass ceiling at Google and maybe the reason Yahoo was such an attractive option. On the surface it definitely seemed as though her career at Google had plateaued. It was looking very unlikely that she would be cracking the inner circle of the upper echelon. This might lead people to believe that her decision to leave Google was purely monetary, but at 37 years old and with a net worth of over 300 million dollars, she really doesn’t have to work another day in her life. This suggests to me that she craves a challenge. A challenge is exactly what she is going to get. With the exception of RIM, I can’t think of big tech company that faces more challenges than Yahoo. Over the years they have become somewhat schizophrenic. Bouncing back and forth between being a “web services company” and a “content company”. As it sits right now it is almost impossible to define exactly what kind of company Yahoo is. My guess is that Marissa has a clear vision of what exactly Yahoo should be doing to remain relevant and will quickly put together a support team to start moving the company in the right direction. Given the fact that Marissa’s background is in products and services, I would wager a guess that Yahoo will slowly move away from being a “content” company and focus their attention to “web services”. Time will tell I guess…One thing is for sure. Yahoo just became interesting again.
I have to hand it to her, with a new baby on the way and one of the biggest challenges of her career ahead it seems as though she will need to summon superhero-like powers in order to achieve the impossible. I believe that if anybody can help turn Yahoo into a hot property again it’s +Marissa Mayer. She’s talented, respected and has a proven track record. Her name adds instant credibility and is just what Yahoo needs to help change the public’s perception of the company.
Kudos to +Marissa Mayer for taking on such a monumental challenge. I look forward to the possibility of once again being excited about Yahoo.