You could have knocked me over with a feather. Marissa Mayer, Google's employee #20, one of Google's public faces, and VP in charge of Google's Maps, among other projects,, is now Yahoo's CEO. Good for her and good for Yahoo!
I think this will be a good move for both her and the long beleaguered Yahoo.
First, for Yahoo:
1) Innovative Leadership: Mayer wasn't just Google's first woman engineer and developer. She's the person who's largely responsible for Google's best known and well-regarded looks: such as the unadorned Google search page. Mayer isn't just another suit, she's an innovative ideas person and Yahoo is a company that has been sadly lacking in ideas for the last few years.
2) Respectable Leadership: When the last CEO, Scott Thompson, resigned after it was revealed that he had lied on his resume, Yahoo had become a joke. One CEO after another had come, cut jobs, made bad deals, and then been kicked out the door. Mayer is well-known and respected in the industry. She's not the "improve the bottom line for the next quarter by firing staffers" kind of executive that Yahoo has had in recent years.
3) Re-creation: Yahoo has been declining for years. It needs a sharp leader who can build excitement around its moribund brand. But, it needs more than just a fresh coat of paint. It needs to be rebuilt from the inside out to create an exciting brand again and I think Mayer can do that.
This can't be done by a back to the future approach with search or its failed partnership with Microsoft's Bing. Yahoo needs to do something new and like most top Google staffers Mayer can think outside the box.
As for Mayer:
4) A company of her own: Mayer was widely respected both inside and outside of Google, but she had no way to break through Google's glass ceiling. She couldn't help to be aware of that when, after leading search she became vice president of the company's local efforts in late 2010, only to be superseded by Jeff Huberas, senior vice president of local and commerce. It was tine to move on.
5) The top spot: This move not only makes Mayer one of the few top women CEOs, along with HP's Meg Whitman, and IBM's Virginia Rometty, she's an even rarer kind of leader at a top technology company: She's a geek. With a B.S. in Symbolic Systems and an M.S. in Computer Science from Stanford University, specializing in artificial intelligence for both degrees, she's a techie's techie.
Maybe it's crazy of me, but I still think a tech CEO who can lead and code is a lot better than one with an MBA. Now, she'll get a chance to show what she can do with the top job.
Some people think this move is like what Microsoft seems to have done to Nokia when Stephen Elop, a former Microsoft executive became CEO of Nokia—and proceeded to tie its future to Microsoft while running it into the ground. Or, she'll just make Yahoo an arm of Google. You might call such a creation: Yahoogle
I don't see either happening. I think Mayer wants the top job to see if she can turn a former Internet giant around.
It won't be easy. Besides its long search decline, Yahoo recently made major security blunders and started a foolish patent lawsuit against Facebook Make no mistake about it, Yahoo is a company in a world of hurt.
All that said, I wouldn't bet against Mayer. Yahoo may yet rise phoneix-like from the ashes.
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