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Marissa Mayer on career growth and how a revenue guarantee almost killed Google (triplebyte.com)
251 points by Harj 15 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 221 comments

I was also at Google when the AOL deal was signed and remember the decision and outcome quite differently. It was definitely a high risk deal, deliberately so, but in no way was it only "the best-case scenario had us breaking even". Nor was it the case that "all of our models were wrong". The product manager in charge of ads at the time had a clear understanding of exactly how the deal could be hugely profitable for Google because of the value of extra advertisers attracted to the Google platform thanks to the added AOL inventory. It was by no means a sure thing, but it was a likely outcome. Fortunately the decision makers believed him, they took the risk, and it paid off enormously.

That's what I've heard from other early Googlers who were there at the time. It was a calculated risk. If the deal went badly, it would bankrupt the company, but the best estimates from existing revenue numbers and likely ad inventory increases had it being hugely profitable for Google. Their internal numbers supported that but few people outside the company believed it, hence the need for a guaranteed revenue clause. It certainly wasn't a shot-in-the-dark, though.

Execs rewriting corporate history after the fact. Go figure.

Seeing as this happened 20 years ago and she was quoting from memory, I think we can give her the benefit of the doubt. It could have also been that her view at the time was different than OP's/the person who made the deal & she recalls her opinion as "how it was".

Such things in-fact happened to me (even tho I'm a bit younger than Mayer & my career started a few years later than hers), human memory is really unreliable & a lot of times you remember your feelings & translate those to facts upon recollection even when that wasn't quite the case.

As if only evil CEO can remember things differently.

"This CEO rewrites history! My friend's memory is more trustworthy!"

And unless the people who were at Google at the time were in the meetings, they are merely speculating.

I was at Netscape and was actually in meetings that marca, and others were not in, and it's funny to hear what they say happened, when they weren't in the room, nor were they consulted. Even the people at the top can be guilty of speculation.

Speculation, and creating a corporate mythology. It’s deliberate.

Can you speak at all to what sort of modeling work is done around this sort of major partnership? I'm really curious how many people are involved in that sort of exercise at that level and how clean the data is, what sorts of data are used, etc.

I do this kind of work! I don’t know at Google, but typically there will be some amount of third-party due diligence for deals over a certain size / risk profile. Some companies have an internal strategic deals group; which I would assume Google likely does (but probably didn’t back then).

If both companies’ data needs to be combined an analyzed, they usually bring in an outside deals consulting firm. Those teams tend to be very small due to the sensitive nature of the discussions involved — usually 2 or 3 people (backed by a large shared support staff and tooling) over the course of a few weeks.

Often the data used is a combination of proprietary data from both companies, commercially sourced data or proprietary data platforms built by the consulting companies. Deals are a big, sensitive, relationship-driven business.

  It's often one guy with a spreadsheet, and 1-2 people to review the spreadsheet and a few business people to validate assumptions.  The modeling is easy, getting the assumptions right is hard.                                
  To be honest, if you're skilled very simple models that you can do in your head or in a few minutes usually give you a perfectly good answer.  The more complex exhaustive models are usually there to make sure you didn't overlook something or 20 small inputs all cross multiplied to throw your answer off.                             
    Getting the answer exactly right also doesn't matter, if you make $90m in profit off a deal or $100m your going to do it.  What you are most concerned about is making sure that you don't lose money and what factors would push you to do that.

What does that type of deal look like?

AOL had ad inventory and Google had to get enough eye balls?

Inventory is slots to put ads. AOL had the eyeballs, Google had the platform to turn eyeballs into money, better than AOL was doing by itself. Google provided a guaranteed rate (cpm? cpc?) so that AOL would have confidence it wasn't bait and switch.

See also the Yahoo/Bing deal which didn't work out as well. Microsoft didn't end up actually hitting the targets, and convinced Yahoo to take less; and Yahoo also didn't reduce employee count anywhere near plan on searchy/advertising stuff, so they missed targets on revenue and cost and user experience.

"guaranteed rate (cpm? cpc?)"

It was guaranteed revenue IIUC, something like "If you do not make at least $150M from this deal, Google will pay you the difference." That makes the deal a no-brainer for AOL, but puts Google on the hook for any shortfall, which could have potentially ended up bankrupting the company.

I couldn't find a great description of the deal terms. I did find mention that at least some of the guarantee needed to be paid up front. I suspect the guaranteed payment was contingent on some level of traffic though -- if AOL had turned off the placement, or lost a huge amount of users, then they probably couldn't keep the money.

Cost per mille or cost for 1000 clicks -its an old-school advertising term

CPM = Cost per mill (cost per 1000 views)

CPC = Cost per Click (cost per 1 click)

These terms are widely used today.

Marissa described possibly the most thorough and analytical job search process I've heard from anyone, when she was talking about how she joined Google. I really liked her reflection on this in hindsight on how being overly analytical is dangerous and it's something I try to remind myself of when I'm in danger of overthinking a decision:

"I think this is a common thing that very analytical people trip themselves up with. They look at things as if there’s a right answer and a wrong answer when, the truth is, there’s often just good choices, and maybe a great choice in there."

Too much focus on utility functions, not enough focus on novelty functions, even though it's been proven that utility functions decline in usefulness as a search space expands. Given an infinite search space, a utility function can only find local optima, there is no global optima. In such situations, a novelty function that finds a path from one happy local optima to another happy local optima is a better bet than using a utility function.

The above paragraph is rational, and yet people who consider themselves hyper rational often ignore the truth of this. And the irony is that some of them do this for an emotional reason: they want the security that comes from believing that there is an absolute right answer. They are irrationally rational.

This feels like an opinion on how to live life dressed up in mathematical language.

Do you have some resources on novelty functions? Google, like usual recently, is useless at finding something I haven't found before.

This is a good book on the subject: "Why Greatness Cannot Be Planned: The Myth of the Objective" https://www.amazon.com/Why-Greatness-Cannot-Planned-Objectiv...

Much obliged, that book looks interesting.

How would you prove that?

Here's a simple counterexample to what I understand your theorem to say: consider an infinite search space: 𝕽∞ and a utility function: 1-|x|. There's a single global optimum at (0, ...), and the gradient of the utility function would find it quickly.

You missed the point that there is no global optimum. The GP’s novelty function is optimized for novelty, that’s all.

Counter example: R^1 with a random function. There is no algorithm that can find a global maximum other than checking every point in R^1, of which there is an uncountable number.

Not all cost surfaces are equally likely to occur in real problems... Also depends on the constraints, linear assignment (i.e. one job to one worker with a big matrix of cost for job to worker and you minimize the sum) has a polynomial complexity solution.

We are not talking about real problems here. Reality is so far from linear, so path dependent, so temporally dependent that by the time you gather 10 data points to try and match some function to the function is already outdated and error prone.

This is infinitely truer for when you try and find absolute maxima and minima and not just local ones.

Sure, some functions have no global maximum. But the comment I replied to claimed a theorem that every utility function on infinite search space has no global maximum, which isn't true.

All models are wrong, some are useful. GP presents an interesting way of framing real life decision making processes. That it happens to not be 100% accurate in all aspects is mostly trivia.

>given an infinite search space

There's no such thing.

I understand the point you're making, but these gross assumptions aren't how the world works. Reminds me of econ models with ridiculous assumptions that don't pan out when reality is a constraint.

Doesn't matter. A 50 dimensional search space with 1000 possible values in each dimension has ~10^1700 possible states. That's a number you can't search exhaustively in the age of the universe even if you turned the whole thing into one computer. And this is not a large problem, you run into similar ones in the average gear wheel design.

The point of simplified models is to organize thoughts.

The only perfect model of reality is reality itself. Assumptions are fine if they're reasonable

> Assumptions are fine if they're reasonable

I would assume so...

This is an interesting line of thinking, certainly valueable in some sense.

It is also a very good example of exactly what the previous post refers to: overthinking stuff.


What an interesting perspective with a great paradoxical conclusion.

Well done.

As someone who feels they're from the outside looking in (left college to work, still ended up in the technology but without a traditional college education) one of the most frustrating things is watch folks who I perceive as traditionally trained CS and similar folks ... is their desire to go hyper analytical ... and then REALLY commit to the result as the best choice above all others because of whatever analysis they made.

Now granted there are time to hunker down and commit but sometimes all that data doesn't really tell you anything and you're still facing an unknown no matter how much work you do, and it might be worth thinking about it after taking a few steps down that road / experience. It's not uncommon to come across a variable(s) that plays a far stronger role than any other, only AFTER you tried doing something.

For hyper analytical folks the data on hand is the hammer for every nail it seems sometimes.

Even without unknowns people elevating rationality to something that would in consequence just be horrible for everyone. Shouldn't be too hard to see if you follow through with the consideration.

Hard data also suggest how often the allegedly rational result suddenly became wrong. The rational conclusion here should be to decrease hubris then, shouldn't it? Nope...

And this is already a stereotype for softies...

Life is simply a game with non-perfect knowledge. It's not chess or go, it's more like Dota or poker.

I wonder if they recognize that luck plays a significant role. Right place, right time sometimes matters more than anything you can predict or control.

> "I think this is a common thing that very analytical people trip themselves up with. They look at things as if there’s a right answer and a wrong answer when, the truth is, there’s often just good choices, and maybe a great choice in there."

This absolutely drives me crazy in design/engineering decisions. Very commonly there are a lot of good solutions and one great one, and the good ones are good enough. Yet all the brilliant intellectuals want to find the VERY BEST METHOD EVER instead of just getting stuff done.

> Yet all the brilliant intellectuals want to find the VERY BEST METHOD EVER instead of just getting stuff done.

For many mathematical, CS problems, it _does_ help to think very hard to find the very best solution to the problem, sometimes irrationally hard. I do agree that we operate in a real world, and the facts of running a business mean that you can't be spending all your time trying to figure out the best.

However, it was only by thinking very, very deeply about these problems have many of the technological improvements been possible. MapReduce, AI, ML, Cloud Computing... all started as ideas in companies where people dedicate quite a bit of thought into how to solve some basic problems.

I'll be honest: I am glad that I can reap the fruits of the labor of all these smart people, that they have enabled me to change the way computing is done, to make it easier for anyone to get started and to generate value very quickly, using the building blocks which they created after thinking about and working about this for so long.

Do an anesthesiology residency. I love how, when residents with engineering backgrounds as undergrads run up against the immutable fact of 5 minutes of hypoxia = brain death, they quickly abandon their old way of thinking in which finding the optimal solution is paramount in favor of whatever works, however kludgy.

This used to drive me nuts too. Now I just look at it as an opportunity to outmaneuver folks who are too wedded to making their solution ‘perfect.’ (Whatever that means.)

Sheryl Sandberg described a similarly thorough weighing of her decision to join Google.

Mayer: "I had a long analytical evening with a friend of mine where we looked at all the job offers I had received. We created a giant matrix with one row per job offer and one column per value. We compared everything from the basics like cash and stock to where I'd be living, happiness factor, and trajectory factor—all of these different elements. And so we went to work analyzing this problem."

Sandberg: "After a while I had a few offers and I had to make a decision, so what did I do? I am MBA trained, so I made a spreadsheet. I listed my jobs in the columns and my criteria in the rows, and compared the companies and the missions and the roles."

It's a fun bit of trivia that Sandberg put the criteria in the rows, which enables sorting the criteria - a nice way to see the upsides and downsides of each choice.

I don't think this is a rare thing to do. I've done it and so have co-workers. A simple pro/con chart is really all you need.

Sorry to weigh in this way, but yes it's a rare thing to do. Most people don't have multiple offers sitting on the table. It's a privilege.

It's rare, that's all.

I'm referring to comparing your existing job to a new one. Everyone does this and it can't be rare.

You have to look at quality of work, work life balance, the area, commute time, cost of living, salary, 401k match, benefits, chance of advancement, company culture, job safety, bonus amount, job security...etc. For a lot of people the choice is a no-brainer, but there are comparable and even worse jobs out there.

I apologise for the seemingly privledged attitude, but I'm assuming most on HN are Software Developers, Engineers, Mathematicians, and Scientists which generally have options and change jobs on occasion. Every single person who changed has done a pro/con comparison. Even if it was a no-brainier, the comparison would've taken place subconsciously.

You shouldn’t apologise for a personal attack, whether on the internet or in person. Anyone who says you’re privileged is your enemy, at worst, and completely indifferent to your welfare at best.

The issue is that almost all the factors you mentioned- quality of work, work-life balance, chance of advancement, company culture... - are all aspects you can only have the vaguest of ideas about before you start in a new company. And a mistaken evaluation of even a single one of them can change completely the score of the offer.

Not 100% true. It depends on the industry, but I have a pretty good idea of the good and bad of many of our competitors. You're right that some of those factors are fuzzy.

I guess that’s more a factor of graduating from Stanford at that location at that point in time than it is of their personal ability to receive multiple offers (not completely unrelated of course).

> Most people don't have multiple offers sitting on the table.

Maybe not (although I don't think that's vanishingly rare).

But don't most people do something like this when deciding what they want to do next even if there aren't any active offers on the table at all?

"I had a long analytical evening with a friend of mine where we looked at all the job offers I had received. We created a giant matrix with one row per job offer and one column per value"

I think this is a luxury problem. How many people have competing job offers that are even close to each other in attractiveness?

Doesn't putting the criteria in rows disallow (easy) sorting? Spreadsheets are designed to sort by column.

Agreed. I think for most people here the risk is the indecision rather than the wrong decision. For a lot of people there's a deathly fear of ending up under a bridge, and while that's undoubtably true for many people unfortunately, I'd wager most people here have a lot more runway than they'd think even.

It's funny, this is the nugget of wisdom that stood out to me as well. I waste so much time in my daily life trying to make the "perfect" decision, when choosing something good and moving on would be a much better use of my time.

A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week. - George S. Patton

I think about this quote a lot. It's so easy to get trapped in analysis paralysis which is really just procrastinating a decision. Like most things, there is a balance. Notice he says 'good' plan, not any plan.

The trick is training yourself to separate out the shit plans from the good plans. Otherwise, you’re violently crossing the Isonzo river for the 9th time and violently dying.

So, don’t be McClellan, but don’t be Cadorna either.

But that's an entirely analytical way of thinking about it! You're looking at the decision process and asking if the marginal return on investing another unit of time in it, in terms of the improvement of the goodness of the selected outcome, is greater than the return on using that unit of time in some other way.

The very term "overthinking" implies that there's a right amount of thinking for any decision, so your real problem is working out how much thinking to do.

Go for the girl or the boy.. as made famous in good will hunting

I've said something similar when mentoring engineering managers about how to let go of certain decision making. 90% of the decisions a team makes will have very little impact on the success of the project, but the other 10% do. You only learn from experience which decisions are the 90% and which decisions are the 10%.

It's how leaders need to operate to survive if they want to avoid micromanaging, honestly.

This reminds me of Jacob Falkovich's approach to picking a girlfriend:


I'm going to reveal myself as entirely too geeky here, but my primary complaint about this approach is that it relies on a linear scale for evaluating utility, when much research suggests that utility curves are frequently logarithmic. (Example: Going from earning $20k to $100k per year is a huge difference with substantial implications for financial security, but $1m to $1.08m has a substantially lower impact.)

One could argue this article looks at a restricted range where the log behaves more lineary, but if we're going to apply mathematical modeling to our life choices, ... :-)

Yes, I agree - it was nice to hear her iterate that. I have learnt the exact same thing in my two decades as an adult: it doesn't matter really in the end what decision you make, it's how you make it work (and you do have to work at it).

Seem like one of those in group type biases. Where the more similar something is the more we obsesses over the differences. Presumably because we can relate to a lot more of the information.

Somewhat ironically being irrational can actually be a good way to make unknown, but largely equal, decisions. Because at least you picked something with conviction, rather than having analyzed the situation incorrectly.

Of course for a lot of us good choices aren't the problem so much as the downside. I remember someone made a calculator online for how many time one would most likely see their parents before they died.

"I realized that, while I had a very deep understanding of artificial intelligence, I did not yet have some of the basics down. I knew how a database worked. I knew how an operating system worked. I knew how a compiler worked. But I hadn't taken classes on those topics, so I went back for my master's and took the rest of the AI offerings as well as a lot of programming basics. That way, I could actually go and market myself as a software engineer and say, “I've written a compiler. I've written an operating system. I've written a database. I know how they work"

I am confused. Is she talking about foundation CS courses like OS & database systems OR AI courses?

Keep in mind that she is a queen of self promotion. When she was talking about 140 hour work weeks she conveniently left out the fact she was paying someone else to do her domestic work [0]. Or that most of her days involved meetings, lunches and dinners.

I am reminded of the story of Henry IV who stood barefoot in the snow for three days. And through the grace of God not getting frost bite. We have come so far when we no longer believe you need God for acts like this.

[0] https://www.businessinsider.com.au/marissa-mayer-who-just-ba...

>When she was talking about 140 hour work weeks she conveniently left out the fact she was paying someone else to do her domestic work [0]

This is such an odd post. Who expects someone working 140 hour weeks to do all of their own house work? Sure, they're working 20 hours a day but they ordered chinese takeout and drop off their laundry!

Then, you link to child care as an example of "her domestic work"? Who complains about someone leaving their kid in daycare?

This is such an odd post. Who expects someone to work 140 hours a week?

>Who complains about someone leaving their kid in daycare?

The mothers in Yahoo who can't work from home any more and can't afford the $300 a day daycare in SF.

I think this is a bad comment.

Someone asked a technical question, and you managed to turn the topic into accusations against Marissa Mayer (and ones that at least invoke sexism).

There's a time and a place for criticism, but it's not every time someone asks a question about her.

Got to be honest, if someone told me they worked 80 hour workweeks, I'd assume they paid someone to do their housework. That's just comparative advantage at play. In fact, I wouldn't expect them to even bring up their housework. I honestly don't think that's dishonest.

Are there a lot of successful people who don't outsource their domestic work? It is a norm to be expected, not something you "have to disclose".

>It is a norm to be expected, not something you "have to disclose".

Because it might be something worth mentioning before you start telling people to plan their bathroom breaks.

>Could you work 130 hours in a week?” The answer is yes, if you’re strategic about when you sleep, when you shower, and how often you go to the bathroom. [0]

Adding "Oh and by the by I have a nanny, gardener, chef and maid too." makes the advice seem a lot less relevant.

[0] https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-marissa-mayer-interv...

> When she was talking about 140 hour work weeks she conveniently left out the fact she was paying someone else to do her domestic work

HER domestic work? There is absolutely no reason why she should or would mention this other than your sexist expectations.

Do you expect male CEOs to mention they pay someone to do their laundry and are abdicating their "domestic responsibilities"? Seriously?!

> Do you expect male CEOs to mention they pay someone to do their laundry and are abdicating their "domestic responsibilities"?

Um, yes, if they're bragging about how much time they spend working? It indicates that their ability to put in that much time comes from a position of privilege (i.e., having the money to pay other people to perform tasks most people would have to take care of themselves), and hence isn't a reasonable expectation to project onto people not in that same position.

I would be far more willing to believe this if it happened in a discussion of Elon Musk or Jack Dorsey.

But I do not remember this point ever being made in discussions of those workaholics. Until a woman came along.

Also: the same user calls Mayer (and Holmes) „attention whores“ downthread. I rest my case.


That was completely uncalled for. I think you ought to review the guidelines for participation.


> Be civil. Don't say things you wouldn't say face-to-face. Don't be snarky. Comments should get more civil and substantive, not less, as a topic gets more divisive.

> When disagreeing, please reply to the argument instead of calling names.

> Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize. Assume good faith.

I liked the part were you called me sexist for making the complaint the mothers in Yahoo made against her when she cut their rights to work remotely.

You of course would know this if you read the link I provided, instead of the first line of my post.

> she cut their rights to work remotely

Do you have a citation that mothers at Yahoo complained? Or that mothers at Yahoo were non-trivially worse off than other companies in their situation at that time?

disclaimer: ex yahoo

Yes, the link 'antt posted goes into it by the third sentence.

"This upset many employees – mothers in particular."

As for other companies, well, my employer existed at that time, had and still has a work-from-home culture that's more friendly towards mothers, and is routinely highly rated in most innovative company beauty pageants. The link from the link also details basically every other company in 2013 having a non-trivially better situation with flexible WFH policies.

You can't justify sexism with "hey look she did something bad for mothers". The merits of the article have nothing to do with what's wrong with your comment.

You can't justify 140 hour work weeks with accusations of sexism.

At some point you need to face the fact that you are a useful idiot to the lizard class by only seeing sexism, even when women are being worked to death by other women.

I think you misread an emphasis where there was none.

Coming home from a 140 hour work week it’s nice if you don’t have to also do cleaning, cooking and other maintenance at home.

And to be fair, if you work that much you should probably have the money to pay someone to take care of that for you.

> Coming home from a 140 hour work week

There is no "coming home" if you work 140hrs per week (or 130, as MM claimed to have done in Google for years). I doubt it is sustainable by anybody (4hrs of sleep per night are simply not enough for anybody- assuming you can go from "work" to "sleep" and vice-versa in 0 time, excluding showering, dressing, teeth-brushing, eating and going to the loo-, you become unable to perform any intellectual job on that schedule). I suspect these figures come only from an extremely loose definition of "work" and are further inflated like the proverbial fish of fishermen's tales.

Probably the only hard limit to these claims is the fact that there are 168 hours in a week, otherwise it would be a contest between this CEO claiming he worked 190 and the other replying she worked 300.

My reaction to the post you’re replying to was different to yours, and you’ve helped me notice a subtle bias I had there. Thank you!

She majored in Symbolic Systems as an undergrad: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symbolic_Systems

As I understand it, foundational CS classes are not a requirement for that degree. Although I do know people who majored in Symbolic Systems and completed such courses in undergrad, I assume they were electives rather than requirements.

She's talking about foundation CS courses. She talk 7 (!) AI courses in Undergrad but apparently missed out on core CS courses.

In Masters she got to cover those off. I think her majoring in Symbolic Systems not CS meant she missed out on compilers, DBs, etc..

Because she didn't study CS.

A university here has a cognitive science degree. Many people doing it and then a masters in CS to get at least a bit more practical with all the AI stuff they learned.

I did a CS undergrad and skipped compilers, O.S., DBs, and many others cause I just took as many crosslisted math/CS electives as possible (at least a theorems or math heavy course like automata if I couldn’t do better), then the minimum CS requirements to graduate

Also keep in mind this is AI circa 1996. Some changes since then

You quoted her saying both, no? "I went back for my master's and took the rest of the AI offerings as well as a lot of programming basics."

> I've written a compiler. I've written an operating system. I've written a database.

Yeah... I did both a Bachelor's and Master's degree in CS, and I've never written a complete working compiler, OS or database - I've written and tested "toy" versions of such, but that claim seems to be a bit hyperbolic. Maybe she did do all of those things, but none of those were coursework.

The rest of the sentence says “...and a lot of the basics”, so she did both, took all 13 AI classes and CS classes on databases and compilers etc.

Hope that helps.

Considering how Mayer absolutely cratered Yahoo I'd take her advice with a grain of salt. Quarterly operating profit dropped by more than 50% during her tenure and she was the driving force behind the acquisition of dozens of worthless companies leading to the write-off of billions of dollars in goodwill value.

"When management with a reputation for brilliance tackles a business with a reputation for bad economics, it is the reputation of the business that remains intact." -- Warren Buffett.

Yahoo is in a business that has fantastic economics. Try again.

Why do you say this?

Did Marissa Mayer have any accomplishments at either Google or Yahoo? It looks like she just /was/ there, but she didn't make any significant decisions which can be undoubtedly attributed to her.

"Our final question: Why isn't everyone happy all the time? I don't know. Overall, I'm a pretty happy person, and one of my theories in life is that people fundamentally want to be happy. So, if you ever find a moment when you aren't happy, you should just wait. Something is likely to change in the scenario. Someone else will change what they're doing, or you'll get motivated to change what you're doing, so the situation will change overall for the better."

Sort of in a slump and I don't have anything smart to say but this made me feel a little better. I feel like I have far more ability than my company utilizes but I cannot quit because I need this job. I don't have the balls to start a company because I don't have a great idea. I just write code. So I will wait. Something will give eventually.

You will wait forever dude. Don't take advice from someone who won the lottery. Try taking action if you can and put yourself in areas (or companies) where the chance to encounter good ideas and possibly build upon them yourself is greater. It is incrediblely different to work with motivated people who love what they do vs folks who just clock in and clock out.

I would say being patient is what she is talking about here, but are there other jobs that would be more fulfilling for you? Happy to chat and help. It gets better!

Was it really necessary to put in the phrase - "..bought with my babysitting money" ? Does she mean her job as a babysitter or is it just an adjective ? How much did babysitting pay that you could afford a computer with that stuff ?

I'm more interested in an explanation of what went wrong when she was running Yahoo!.

M.M. One of the worst CEO. Just lucky to be on right side of the fence

I liked this phrase:

> And one of the reasons I was a good product manager was because I had been an engineer.

She seems like a lucky Elizabeth Holmes type.

Elizabeth Holmes is facing fraud charges.

Marissa Mayer was an accomplished engineer and then a senior executive at Google through its transition from startup to behemoth, then took on the impossible task of rescuing Yahoo when no comparably experienced man wanted to step up to the plate, and facilitated a solid outcome for shareholders [1].

Reasonable people can debate the merits of her performance and impact at both companies, but these kinds of one-line dismissals of her entire career from armchair quarterbacks are disgraceful.

[1] https://www.businessinsider.com/yahoo-market-cap-over-time-2...

> Marissa Mayer was an accomplished engineer and then a senior executive at Google through its transition from startup to behemoth

She was a product manager not an engineer. Her greatest accomplishment according to her was keeping the home page simple by only including the search bar. She also made the right decision to invest heavily in google maps.

You also left out the part where she slept with the founder during her time at Google, which undoubtedly gave her a leg up for promotions.

> then took on the impossible task of rescuing Yahoo when no comparably experienced man wanted to step up to the plate

She took it because she struck a sweat deal with board. In exchange for forgoing her google shares, she was able to reap 300 million in 4 years despite having an abysmal performance. Give any experience man that type of deal and I assure you there will be many that step up.

> She was a product manager not an engineer

This is false.

She completed a master's in computer science and had built machine learning systems in her studies and internships in the late 90s. She was in the first 20 employees at Google and started out as an engineer, building the first version of what would become Adwords.

Then she went into product management and engineering management. Perhaps she wasn't a good enough engineer; I don't know or care really. She was hired for her engineering talent, made a solid contribution as an engineer, then made an even bigger contribution as a product manager then as an executive - all for one of the most successful and internally-competitive companies of our generation.

You don't achieve that by accident or by dating the boss.

Your comment is pure armchair quarterbacking. People who have actually built or managed hugely successful companies don't make those kinds of dismissals.

> This is false.

She might have built the first version of adwords, but she was a product manager for most of her time at Google. So my statement is not false, but true.

> Your comment is pure armchair quarterbacking. People who have actually built or managed hugely successful companies don't make those kinds of dismissals.

Says the person that is throwing personal insults in violation of hacker news rules. I prefer not to stoop to your level.

As much as you don't like it, sleeping with your boss no matter you are male or female does have an effect on one's career. Dismissing them just because you have an naive view of the world is your choice.

There are reason why people that do that tends to get fired in other companies. For example,


Seriously, it's nice to hear you're concerned about the site guidelines.

The main concern behind my comments is that in the dismissals of Mayer (the original one I replied to and the two of yours) we've had comments that are uncivil and against the guidelines, by (1) likening her to an alleged criminal, (2) ignoring/diminishing her science/engineering qualifications/experience, (3) dismissing the entirety of her career achievements as being due to her being a woman and/or dating the boss, and (4) pinning all blame on her for the failure of Yahoo and indeed dismissing her tenure there as a outright failure.

Fair enough, (4) is worthy of discussion.

Everything else is sexist and/or disrespectful.

As for being personally insulting, I took care to criticise your actions, not you as a person.

These comments you've written are offensive and of poor quality, and I do encourage you to do some soul-searching about what motivates you to make them.

(Edited to clarify that not all civility breaches were in all of the comments upthread).

> (1) likening her to an alleged criminal

> (3) dismissing the entirety of her career achievements as being due to her being a woman

> (4) pinning all the blame on her

I did no such thing. I would greatly appreciate it if you didn’t put words in my mouth. I made sure to point out that sleeping with your boss whether you are male or female is inappropriate. I have 0 opinion on whether she is female or male. That has not been the point of the argument.

And no, I do not think of her as a criminal. Those are your own words, not mine.

As for the failure of yahoo, I only pointed out she stepped up because of the deal she got. I have not blamed her for the downfall. Those are your words again.

I think you are having an overreaction to my comments. I don’t need some soul searching as you suggest. Rather you need to learn to calm yourself down and argue less with your emotions. Most of these arguments you claim I am expressing are of your own skewed perspective.

I have no interest in arguing with someone that thinks of himself as better than others. You are entitled to idolise her as you wish, but people can have different opinions of her. You took a counter argument and drew a whole picture of my character based on that. The one with a problem is you. Since you asked me to souls search. I would kindly ask you to stare at the mirror. Have a good day.

Yeah pretty much, I don't see much going on with many of these high status women (and men) other than their network. Especially when their actual performance doesn't speak volumes.

To be fair I don't see much going on with all the high status men either.

I'm reminded of the chimps who outperformed the stock markets: https://www.ft.com/content/abd15744-9793-11e2-b7ef-00144feab... of course replacing the cocaine bill with grapes dramatically lowers your running costs.


Was it necessary to bring up gender ?

Damn, check your biases.

I feel the same way about many CEOs.

Cool but you chose to say "high status women" instead of "CEOs".

terrible and baseless generalization

I'm always irked by hns attitude towards women leaders. There so many comments trying to discredit her or trying to shame her for self promotion. In general, there's always a sexist undertone, and I feel like the anonymity of hn brings the sexism of the tech community to the surface.

In regards to Marissa, I personally believe that the Glass Cliff is real. It's inspiring that she was integral in creating one of the most valuable company in the valley. Likewise, I find it impressive that she was able to climb the political ladder of a generally sexist industry.

> I'm always irked by hns attitude towards women leaders. There so many comments trying to discredit her or trying to shame her for self promotion.

HN demonstrably shows the same attitude towards male leaders as well. Elon Musk is the poster child of this.

This has nothing to do with the gender of the leader, but rather an aversion to self-promotion, hyping, or any other exaggeration of the self or one's accomplishments.

Nobody has ever accused Musk of outsourcing his dry cleaning when discussion his workload.

According to the HN comment search below, nobody has ever accused Mayer of that either, so what is the point of your comment?

>In regards to Marissa, I personally believe that the Glass Cliff is real

The glass cliff didn't make her buy Tumblr for 1.1 billion dollars only for it to be essentially worthless a few years later.

I also think people are a bit harsh on what situation Yahoo was in. They were still profitable, had a ton of users, and plenty of cash in the bank. Sure, it was being left behind but there was plenty of juice there to do something to become relevant again. In the five years she was CEO there's not really anything you can point to as a success. It raises the question of how important she was to the string of successful products that she headed at Google.

It raises the question of how much runaway success is due to pure luck, rather than repeatable execution.

This has nothing to do with her being a woman (other that that's the only notable thing about her hence she gets a lot of press over it). When was the last time you saw HN say something nice about Terry Semel? She was the final failed CEO of a failing tech company and she executed some really awful policies along the way. That matched with her outsized support from the press explains 100% of the ire toward her you see here.

I don't think I've ever seen anything but glowing praise for Lisa Su on hacker news.

Then again, HN seems to discuss her less than Marissa Mayer. Why is that? She's far more successful. When I think great women leaders in tech, she's the first I think of. Anti-hardware bias maybe? Or maybe it's a valley bias. After all, she came out of MIT rather than Stanford and lives in Austin rather than San Francisco. I don't know, what do you think?

Maybe she's just more private, or less attractive and fashionable? However, when I read comments about her on HN they were enthusiastic.

The cult of personality around Marissa is just confusing to me.

At one point she was seen from the outside as the 3rd most powerful/influential person at Google, after the two founders and even ahead of Schmidt, I remember articles praising her decision of leaving the Google front-page almost empty with only two buttons on it (I think this was around 2008-2010). Then she went to Yahoo and drove it into the ground and as such I'm surprised that people still take her business-related pieces of advice that seriously.

It is a question of perspective. She was the head of a sinking ship, yes. But did she cause the sinking, or did she recoup the most returns possible for the investors before it sank?

I wasn't there. I don't know the inside story. I'm not going to take sides. But neither am I going to assume that she has poor business skills just because she headed up a shutdown effort.

> But did she cause the sinking

A captain that demands changing colors of the sinking ship on a whim may not be the cause of the sinking but certainly isn't addressing the sinking.


For months, the team had settled on blue and gray. If users were going to read emails on their phones all day long, the thinking went, it was best to choose the most subtly contrasting hues. But now, Mayer explained, she wanted to change the colors to various shades of purple, which she believed better suited Yahoo’s brand.

According to one senior executive, Sharma’s body language changed the moment Mayer issued her request. He looked deflated. Altering the color of such an intricate product would require that members of his team spend all night adjusting colors in thousands of places. He slumped off and prepared to tell his staff the bad news.

I don’t know, but I can change the colors of all our products from one single place in the code. If you have to do it in multiple places something is probably wrong.

Excecutives change their minds on a whim, you are much better off anticipating that.

Does your codebase date from 1995? Because some of Yahoo's does. Time to send Jerry a nastygram about not adequately preparing the codebase for arbitrary color changes 25 years ago?

Picking a sinking ship to head a shutdown effort is not exactly a life calling for such influential people I would imagine though.

Well, Mark Cuban has a TV show, and we would not be talking about that if it weren’t for Yahoo.

Mark Cuban has a TV show?

Shark Tank

Wholeheartedly agree, and I think it comes down to "signalling by association". For sure she is a workaholic and that gets you far, but to me it seems like she is filling the gap of providing confirmation to insecure overachievers after she - being one herself - made mistakes and reflected on them. Mistakes that could have been avoided had you taken out the ego in the first place.

In contrast to my hypothesis: If you like her, feel free to share your thoughts or prove me wrong. What is special about her?

Marissa is one of the smartest people I have ever been around. Most of my knowledge comes from running in neighboring circles at Stanford. The (then) girl just had an amazing ability to remember things, get things, and analyze them. She also has outstanding social intelligence, and a bit of a reality distortion field.

Of course she chose the rocketship in 1999 while the rest of us fumbled around in the dot com bust. She always had the knack of picking the right place to be at the right time, and the talent (or ability to bs) that she could get noticed when she needed to.

The yahoo thing was the worst misstep I've seen her take, but she got paid $200 million to take the risk, and I'm working for peanuts. So who is the smart one?

Edited to add: There is exactly zero chance she remembers me. But everyone I hung around remembers her. She has a very strange ability to be remembered.

I've known Marissa since Stanford too, and you're wrong. I'm not sure if you're lying or what, but you're wrong.

Edit: Before you pile on, I'm rich too. Not as rich as her but rich enough not to take issue with her for that reason. The reason people remember Marissa is she was pretty. End of story.

Apparently our experiences in her orbit were pretty different.

That doesn't mean I'm lying, and I don't think you are either.

I have no idea what your experience is, and I have absolutely no reason to lie. I doubt Marissa could pick me out of a police lineup if her life depended on it.

But I watched her kick ass at Stanford--both socially and intellectually--and it takes more than a pretty face to do that.

If you went to Stanford in that era, then you know that Symbolic Systems was basically "Computer Science Lite."

Which she crushed, and then she moved on and crushed the master's level courses.

And then got a job at Google. Of all the dot-com companies hiring on campus at the time throwing million dollar opportunities at new graduates, she picks the unicorn.

At some point it isn't luck anymore.

Anyway, I'll agree to disagree here. The post I originally responded to was a question about what is so special about her.

I only know what I saw when I could observe her. That my observations differ from yours is OK with me.

So she completed a second-rate major and luckily joined the fastest-growing company in US history ... that makes her smart and capable? Like OP, I know several people who knew her at Stanford (I didn't go there) and she was regarded with uniform disdain by everyone who was technically sharp.

I know several people who worked with her at Google, and she was fairly disliked there. She got frozen out and would have been eventually run out of the company had Yahoo not foolishly come calling. I WAS at Yahoo with her and I can verify that she did a terrible job there. Random decision making, company-wide initiatives that whipsawed from quarter to quarter, billion-dollar impulse acquisitions that almost immediately got written down. And let's not forget Polyvore - the 200m indulgence that she paid to her former assistant against the recommendations of the M&A team; that was just straight cronyism and corporate malfeasance.

True, Yahoo would have been a challenge for any CEO. But there were rational strategies that could have yielded some success. Marissa, on the other hand, went in the opposite direction and recklessly destroyed billions in shareholder value while pocketing hundreds of millions herself. Read the Kara Swisher articles on her at Recode. They were spot on. I heard a Business School professor on MSNBC argue that Marissa Mayer was the single most overpaid CEO in history. As a Yahoo employee who got to observe her tenure up close, I can't disagree. She's a terrible example for women in tech.

TIL Jess Lee was Mayer's assistant

Oh right, protege not assistant. She was an APM at Google.


Fine. It's not luck after college. Then how do you explain her string of failures at Yahoo? It starts being luck again at age 35?

It's perfectly possible she was just promoted above her level of competence (Peter Principle in action). She may have been fantastically effective and successful at her job at Google (I don't know either way), but when trying her hand at the CEO job, it turned out it didn't match her skills. Not to mention Yahoo! wasn't exactly in great shape when she took the job; IMO the board screwed up (possibly intentionally): they needed someone with experience bringing a company back from the brink of failure, not someone who'd never been a CEO before.

Life is complicated. Being very smart is no guarantee of success. I’ve never claimed that she was infallible or perfect.

Even Gary Kasparov, Genoa Auriemma, and the Golden State Warriors fall off their perch eventually. It doesn’t mean they aren’t damn good at what they do.

I think it's very likely nobody is "lying" (why would they?) and still get conflicting opinions. It's not always easy to get a faithful picture of somebody's character (especially not if that someone wants you to get a certain view of them).

I've had people I've casually (sometimes in a business context) interacted with on several occasions & gotten a very positive impression, only to late be told a lot of negatives from people who knew them better.

One guy in particular was praised by my boss (also his ex-boss at the time), confirming my positive impression & years later a coworker of mine who worked under that person had a very negative view of them...

There are several possibilities but I think the most likely is a combination of 1. people act differently in different contexts 2. the same person can be good at one position/time and bad at another 3. people are not always honest with you & especially if they're good at it can come across the way they wish.

She seems to care a lot about what school you went to and what gpa you got and idolize steve jobs at the same time.

I wrote this somewhere else in this thread, but I like her because she's one of the few (current) 'well known' women in tech that's successful and stylish. She's exactly the kind of representation I need and want.

She's not successful, she's wealthy. There's a difference. She got a lottery ticket at Google and cashed in, then proceeded to run Yahoo into the ground. She's widely considered a failure in tech and business circles, and for good reason (I was with her at Yahoo and can testify to her strategic incompetence). If Marissa is the role model you want - stylish but incompetent - then I feel bad for you. Much like Elizabeth Holmes (another destroyer of billions), Marissa should be considered an anti-hero for women in business.

Don't feel bad for me, I'm twenty-something years old and having Marissa as my tech woman icon is just some fun. I'm sorry you don't like her, but the choices for role models as a woman in tech are limited. (And yeah I know about Hopper and Hamilton and Borg, the difference is that Mayer is a current kinda-household name and in Vogue, literally.)

Also don't lump Marissa in with Elizabeth Holmes, Holmes could never be iconic with that hair.

Maybe you'd find more role models if you didn't segregate by gender (that's sexist, after all). If you can only look up to people who share your genitalia then I think that's pretty limiting.

I don't think I'm asking for too much by wanting a woman in tech to look up to ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ it's not sexist dude, I just want some representation in my role models.

I mean, apart from everything else in this thread, Marissa Mayer doesn't really seem to have done much: a good management role in Google, tanking a former internet giant and getting a lot of money for it, and setting up a company that doesn't seem to have produced anything so far.

Even if you look for women role model in tech, is it possible there aren't any more successful ones?

DELETED: Unnecessary ad hominem.

It certainly seems like her looks and stylishness are major factors in her popularity (especially when compared to a more accomplished woman like Lisa Su), but you think that is a good thing?

Absolutely - as I said elsewhere in this thread, I hate the typical tech uniform of jeans, t-shirts, and hoodies, but felt I wouldn't get taken seriously if I looked 'pretty'. Marissa made that ok for me.

I find someone like Susan Fowler much more inspirational, in just about every respect. (Not that I have anything against Marissa Mayer per se.)



> The cult of personality ~~around Marissa~~ is just confusing ~~to me~~.

Lest we forget Elizabeth Holmes, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs and for those old enough to remember Bill Gates in the 90s.

If you're lucky you die before you start making terrible decisions. A quote from Napoleon that he supposedly said while in exile "Had I been hit by a canon ball on my entry into Moscow I would have been remembered as the greatest statesman and general the world had ever seen".

Bill Gates was actually very technical, so at least he had that going for him. Completely agree with the rest.

He was, he also was acting like the founder of a tiny startup while being the CEO of the largest company in the world.

Elizabeth Holmes is the only appropriate comparison here. Those others were worshipped because they actually created value. Marissa never did that. In fact, like Holmes, she destroyed quite a bit of it.


Really, are you arguing that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs did nothing but spin? Their companies are worth hundreds of billions of dollars decades later. If you think that's just an illusion then I hope you're smart enough to have someone else manage your money ... and possibly everything else in your life.

Gates broke the law and nearly destroyed his company. Had he been less well politically connected the appeal would have gone another way and we would have had at least three Microsofts today.

Like I said, 'value' is a dangerous proposition to measure anyone by.

I think Bill Gates was brilliant leading Microsoft. I hated about everything Microsoft did, I hated their software, and to this day I hate their history of crushing alternatives/competitors that were much higher quality than whatever Microsoft was selling. They are a much better company today, but in the past Microsoft was really a bully of a company.

None of this speaks against Bill Gates being a genius making Microsoft as powerful and successful as it was and still is though, to the contrary. You may not have liked his style (I didn't), but he did a lot of things right. It's why 90% of business are more or less chained to the Windows platform to this day.

Lol. Ifs, buts, shoulda-beens, almost-weres. I'm sure most successes flirt with failure at some point. So what? There's no arguing that both men created immense value. It's totally appropriate that they're lauded for it.

I don't know why you're trying to be such a spoilsport about it. Don't begrudge smart, hardworking people their success, it makes you look like a bitter wingnut. I mean, really: Microsoft and Apple are shams? That's the hill you want to defend?

There are no ifs and buts. Microsoft wasn't destroyed as a monopoly by the skin of its teeth. Much to the detriment of posterity.

Here's hoping the next president starts treating digital monopolies like regular ones.

So Bill Gates proved his incompetence by growing a company to the point of becoming a monopoly, at risk of dismemberment by the antitrust?

Forget it, he's obviously a wingnut.

I guess sociopaths can do no wrong except live too long.

But it would be the opposite for Bill Gates wouldn't it?

I like her because she's one of the very very few 'famous' women in tech who's not Alexa or Siri (https://www.fastcompany.com/40547212/people-were-asked-to-na...).

Running companies and being featured in Vogue? Iconic.

Do some reading for f*'s sake. Take a look at this article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Hamilton_(scientist)

Marissa is a fake computer scientist. There are real female computer scientists out there, and very good ones at that.

The woman with a masters in computer science is a fake computer scientist?

Sigh. Regurgitating stuff you read is very different from being someone who actually knows how to build things. I don't think Marissa even pretends to know how to code at this point. I think in the past she did pretend to, which was sort of a problem.

> I don't think Marissa even pretends to know how to code at this point. I think in the past she did pretend to, which was sort of a problem.

I don't know what your problem is with her but holy shit I'm pretty sure she can code.

Prove it.

She has a masters in CS and was google employee #20, how about you prove she can't. You got some beef with her too, huh?

Don't tell me to do some reading for f*'s sake, I know about Margaret Hamilton and Grace Hopper. Mayer is current, successful, and stylish. I like her. I'm trying to explain to you why there might be a 'cult of personality' around her.

Why is being stylish so important in this context? If she were not stylish or conventionally attractive, does that detract from your opinion of her?

Being stylish is super important (to me) because not only is she a woman in tech - she's a stylish woman in tech. I hate the typical tech uniform of jeans, t-shirts, and hoodies, but felt I wouldn't get taken seriously if I looked 'pretty'. Marissa made that ok for me.

If she wore the typical tech uniform it wouldn't detract anything for me, but she wouldn't be iconic to me.


lol. Yahoo was killing it before she showed up?

She isn't that good at all and never have been. WSJ and Barron's complained about her for the longest time possible now.. There are very critical articles of her in serious business press and magazines. Sexism is bad. But granting free pass to every bad CEO when she is a woman just because of her sex isn't smart. These people are CEOs, getting paid millions, destroying businesses and sometimes lives. It is important to keep them to the same scrutiny regardless of their sex.

Firing bottom performers every quarter. Banning remote work. Spending $7m on fashion show she attended with friends.

If this was a man he would have basically no right to criticize any other business especially successful one like Google. She looks absolutely ridicilous in this position. It's like F-grade student giving lectures to straight A's student. Do these people have shame at all?

And examples like this, or even worse like infamous Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos, should remind us that we shouldn't give free pass to CEOs just because they are women. CEOs have the highest rate of sociopaths, no matter the gender.

She pissed off most of the staff. She introduced a weird iteration of "fire the bottom performers every year". She bailed out Dan Loeb (who had hired her but changed his mind after she refused to do almost anything she promised). She didn't get a particularly good price in the eventual sale. She got paid hundreds of millions for nothing (her pay alone was ~5% of the eventual sale price...one person). Terrible acquisitions. Terrible hires. She also appears to have rubbed almost everyone she met up the wrong way (I know people who met her and got a bad impression, imo she came across very poorly to investors and was preoccupied with perception/spin...I believe she gave an interview a few years ago in which she even blamed Carl Ichan...truly odd).

Most people are, I think, quite forgiving when it comes to failing in these situations. The issue often is that some people, most in my experience, have no idea how to behave when things go wrong (and, given enough time, something will always go wrong).

The moment she read from a children book in a all hands meeting (https://www.businessinsider.fr/us/marissa-mayer-childrens-bo...) would have had me quitting on the spot. I can't think of many things more disrespectful.

From everything I know about Marisa Meyer's tenure at Yahoo!, it seems like she was truly terrible. What I'm curious about, though: what was her tenure like at Google? How did she move up so fast and get such a high profile job so quickly?

> In Silicon Valley, it is widely known that Mr. Page had dated Marissa Mayer, one of the company’s first engineers who later became chief executive of Yahoo.


Yahoo was already dying when she joined. Fundamentally the ‘portal’ model was already doomed and there was little she could do to fix it other than buy a social network like tumblr.

Yahoo and aol both had levels of technical debt that are hard to imagine from outside of the company.

OK, then why didn't Yahoo just hire me to run the company? Same outcome but my salary would have been MUCH lower :)

In all seriousness, just because Yahoo was in a downspin doesn't mean that leadership can't save the company. Look at John Chen and Blackberry

Or they needed someone with experience to do a controlled descent with minimum casualties instead of a fiery crash.

How was Marissa Mayer that person, though?

I'm guessing better than GP anyway. Or call it a smokescreen if you will, distracting people by making loud decisions while the board got ready for winding down everything. I mean I'm guessing - we'll never know for sure unless someone from Yahoo's leadership comes forward and lays it all out.

Likely an understanding that she would unwind the company gracefully without touching the shiney glass case full of $BABA and a trust that should would execute that understanding faithfully.

Ehh, Yahoo had to gamble big on Marissa. They lost I guess, but it was the correct decision at the time. I think people are forgetting the terrible CEOs prior to that, and the horrible decision not to sell to Microsoft.

Remember the Obama style "Hope" posters with her face on them?

>Yahoo was already dying when she joined.

She joined it.... that is something she decided to do.

Tumblr wasn't a bad acquisition. I would also challenge that she ruined Yahoo. Yahoo was already on a downward trajectory with an existential identity crisis. At worst, she couldn't change the direction.

I wonder what Yahoo would look like now if Jerry had accepted the Microsoft acquisition. Yahoo was already in troubled waters at the time, in hindsight it looks like a missed opportunity.

Probably completely non-existent and shut down. Both Ballmer and Gates have commented that it would’ve been a monumental mistake

But that's part of doing business. The shareholders and employees (many of whom are also shareholders) might be in a lot better shape had the deal gone through. I'm skeptical that those people are better off with the Verizon deal.

Microsoft got some search tech out of them later.... that's all that would be left I imagine.

>Tumblr wasn't a bad acquisition.

I would like to see your justification for this. Because Yahoo paid 1.1 billion dollars for it and they wrote down pretty much all of the value within a few years. It looks especially bad when compared with Facebook buying Instagram around the same time for about the same price.

You seem like you're more aware of the outcomes of the purchase so I will acquiesce to you, but $1 billion for Tumblr doesn't strike me as particularly egregious. Maybe that's because culturally Tumblr punches above its weight? I don't know.

According to some conspiracy theorists her job was to destroy Yahoo! She did that well. I don't know if it's true or not, but they sure sound convincing.

They seemed to be more than capable of that prior to Mayer turning up.

Check out the term "glass cliff," if you want an explanation of why some folks perceive her as a failure despite her successes.

Folks probably perceive that because she was a high profile CEO that ran her company into the ground. Yes Yahoo! was not doing great before her but if you get paid tens of millions of dollars to do a job I would say it’s not unfair to be judged unsuccessful when you fail. She’s still rich after all. Do we also need to unquestionably agree she is excellent?

Also she killed remote work at Yahoo! and practiced great hypocrisy by simultaneously building a private daycare for her kids next to her office.

She is no hero and it’s ok to point that out.

if you get paid tens of millions of dollars to do a job

What do you know about her job description?

> despite her successes

Only going by what I've read she was never extremely successful at Google, only hired early and managed to stay, but never incredibly impactful. Honest question because I likely only know half the story what are her real successes at Google?

She was very successful at Google. Her taste drove much of Google's early design aesthetic. Why is the landing page mostly blank? In large part because Marissa insisted.

"There will be no banner ads on the Google homepage or web search results pages. There will not be crazy, flashy, graphical doodads flying and popping up all over the Google site. Ever."

She said that in 2005. And a clean design was quite revolutionary at the time--yahoo and all the other internet portals were cluttered and sticky.

She isn't solely responsible for this aesthetic of course, but it really was her driving much of the theory.

See also, eg, https://daringfireball.net/2008/03/kahney_jackass (the original citation has fallen off the net, unfortunately) where Marissa is cited as being the driving force behind most product look and feel.

I remember Larry saying that in reality for a long time the homepage was spare because Sergey's HTML sucked (or vice versa).

I worked on a project that fell under her umbrella. I have seen up close some of the things she gets blamed for. She was demanding, a workaholic and stubborn in some of her choices. E.g. there was this one change that she —through her PM— insisted on, without any knobs, even if we pretty much knew that a vocal minority were going to be unhappy.

On the other hand, she did pick good people to lead the project, even if I wasn't enthusiastic about every single decision taken by her or them. Because she worked so much, it was easy to get feedback from her, too. :-) I also appreciated that she gave props to our team at a public event when we least expected it.

Overall, she wasn't a perfect leader, but she wasn't as bad or just lucky as some claim.


She said that after the announcement of a partnership with AOL. But I believe it to be very, very unlikely that she was the main force to avoid this change. Since it was a characteristic that had come from the creation of the site. But maybe make the other products have a similarity. Or rather, always remember the central page of google was her responsibility.

Let's just call a spade a spade. She was put in place by activist investors who wanted to make a quick buck on the significant Alibaba stake that was held by Yahoo. The goal was never to save Yahoo.

Said activists made a good return and sold their stake, and Mayer pretty much ran the company in the ground while being compensated well for it. Nothing wrong with that in a capitalist world, however, that's all it is.

Anyone with half a brain could have done that, myself included.


This is fairly subjective, since we do not know what would have happened without them. It’s easy to speculate, but if you find a way to accurately benchmark C-level performance, there is a whole lot of investors that want to talk with you.

Funny how you meantime exactly two CXOs. And that those „useless“ two happen to be women, while something like less than 20% of tech leadership is.

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