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Google’s Marissa Mayer Tapped as Yahoo’s Chief (nytimes.com)
1016 points by sahillavingia on July 16, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 343 comments

Wow. I am speechless. There is probably no better person on earth to light a user- and product-focused fire under Yahoo. But the risk, the risk for her is just stunning. Huge props to her for making the leap from what must be a very comfortable Google and for the board for finding a stunning candidate to lead the revival of Yahoo.

(Edit: my definition of risk is lost time and missed opportunity. She's not going to suffer in compensation or reputation.)

Actually, there is no risk at all (if you know what's behind the covers).

She is stagnating at Google. She had high ranking high influence positions at Google but over the years has been relegated to a position that has little visibility and control, mostly due to her non execution. This is a great opportunity for her to make some serious cash and be the "top dog" in a kennel of average dogs, rather than the opposite at Google.

Also, even if she crashes and burns at Yahoo, she will get many more opportunities simply due to the brand recognition she has due to her tenure at Google.

> mostly due to her non execution.

I remember long ago hearing her push the notion that all design and interface decisions must be tested. I remember thinking that is just a recipe for non-execution with the goal of never being "wrong".

Could you explain more what you mean by non-execution? I don't travel in circles where I have context for something like that and it sounds interesting.

I had a CEO once who used to say "execute" a lot. I didn't really know what it meant either but it felt exciting when he said it. Sometimes I say it myself in the shower, when there's no-one within earshot.

What, like "work harder or we'll execute the lot of you"?

It's typically used as a buzzword to describe "getting s$%t done that matters".

Matt Cutts seems to disagree about her work -- https://twitter.com/mattcutts/status/224963111222910976

To be fair, Matt Cutts is incapable of ever not being nice.

True but you know Matt is anothger posibly trophy hire at soem stage he is acting way above his pay grade if my company asked me to represnt them to congress etc I would say "cool" but I want a board seat first :-)

Realy you think that head hunting Matt Cutts is not many internet companies wet dream?

He commented only on her intelligence and work ethic, not her work.

Matt Cutts is a public face for Google.

And if she crashes and burns, she gets what, 50million in an exit package? Why not take that.

Marissa was an early employee at Google, she was employee 20 there and Google's first female hire - she's worth ~$300 Million, I doubt she's doing this for the money.

well, it's more like, she has $300 Million now, but her compensation going forward now, win or lose, will probably dwarf that of staying put at Google and personal portfolio growth for the next few years. She's not doing it for the money, but her personal wealth only stands a huge boost.

That doesn't mean anything other than she was Larry Page's girlfriend at the time.

I'm sorry but I find it so hilarious. I worked at Yahoo and Google both. I know both their cultures (and especially the culture at Yahoo after all the good engineers left). IMHO, she is status quo - no different than the horrible string of CEOs being hired by Yahoo. In fact, I will put a stake in the ground that she will not move the needle further than what Scott/Bartz did.

I just can't get over how hilarious this situation is.

Curious; care to elaborate from an insider's perspective?

What about their cultures make this situation hilarious, and how come you're convinced that Mayer won't make a difference?

Not knowing much about Mayer and reading some comments here i have the opposite question, why Mayer should be able to make a difference?

The biggest factor is not Mayer herself, but again the "wrestling with a pig" factor mentioned in an excellent observation above. Yahoo! is not a sexy company.

Yes, I too am curious about your perspective. There are far too many posts claiming "Hey, I worked at X and Y!" without providing any sort of perspective whatsoever.

Would you care to elaborate more on the different cultures both as individual entities and in direct comparison to each other?

Backspace, you sound negative. Can you at least provide some information which makes you feel like she is not going to perform? Like her previous performance, because that would be an ok indicator in this case.

I agree w/ backspace.

"the risk for her is just stunning"

What risk? She's already achieved complete financial security from here time at Google. At Yahoo! she'll be taking the reins of a company that still attracts a massive userbase but is aching for someone with a fresh viewpoint on how to transform the company. Nothing buy potential IMO.

I'm not talking about money or reputation. The risk I see is time and opportunity. She could spend a maddening four years not moving the needle at Yahoo rather than another company or a startup of her own. Four years of punishing travel, endless meetings, unending Wall Street scrutiny. That risk.

Did you seriously just compare the CEO position at Yahoo to a _start-up_? To think the two are even in the same zip code, much less the same ballpark, is just, well it reflects a rather isolated viewpoint, put it that way. Yahoo is a $19B corporation.

Corrected. Poor phrasing on my part. I was suggesting a likely alternative for her would be starting a company, not that Yahoo is anything like a startup.

Yahoo = Major Leagues , Starting your own start up = Minors

Wow, has HN been taken over by business types already?

Don't you think Mayer has enough capital, connections, reputation, experience, etc. that if she started a company to do what she wanted, how she wanted, it would be completely different from your average college-grad startup?

I mean, come on now. There's no comparing the two.

No, that's exactly how I took it.

Oblig car metaphor: That's like saying hey, as an alternative to a free Lamborghini Aventador, you can have an old Pontiac Fiero chassis, and a Chevy 350 with a blown head gasket. If you're really lucky and amazing you might make something worth 1/10th what the Lamborghini is.

Well in this case it's an original Lamborghini, but it was in a horrible wreck and has been sitting at the bottom of the sea for about ten years...

So you can dredge it up, and perhaps restore it to it's original glory...or you can go out and build your own, new dream car from scratch.

Either way it's going to be a TON of work to get to a truly valuable (and fun to drive) vehicle...

Car metaphors are tempting, but Yahoo vs. a startup is more like the difference between fixing up a rusty EOL aircraft carrier and building a sailboat.

Also even if you restore the Lamborghini you will own way less than 30% of it.

I'm not sure the analogy stretches quite that far. Do you really care how many percent you own if you can drive it whenever you like and modify it however you please?

Not really a good metaphor. Steve Jobs, Tony Fadell, Elon Musk, Max Levchin, and many more entrepreneurs chose to start a second company rather than take a C level job somewhere else. A better analogy is whether to adapt an off the shelf piece of code to scratch your itch (often a reasonable choice) or to write your own from scratch, clean slate. The latter is much more risky, but that fits a certain personality.

Exactly. With her connections, knowledge and wealth she might be able to build an amazing company from scratch.

Not exactly,

Building a successful company is not a joke even if you have knowledge and connections. Users don't value what and whom you know.

At her level and for all she has done, getting to be the CEO of a billion dollar firm is actually a great deal.

Looking at it from other way around, Her career at Google might have probably come to a halt given the fact that Larry and Sergey are going to be there around for a long time to come. On the other hand, she could not be the CEO of a successful firm- Because such stints demand prior experience.

In short the change she got now is because, the company is currently a underdog. No big CEO who is already on a wave of success will take up that kind of a job. She needs the company because she gets to be the CEO and nobody else would offer her the same position.

In many ways this is a no brainer.

No one I've talked to who works at Yahoo would compare it favorably to a Lamborghini.

Except as CEO she would probably make enough to buy a new Lamborghini every week. People rarely talk about opportunity costs but if you can make more than 10 million a year spending 5 years building a company from scratch to see a 30 million exit is a Failure. And doing better than that is ridiculously rare.

You would think that at Hacker News, car analogies would not be necessary, since I imagine there is a large proportion of users like myself who have no interest in cars, and have never owned nor intend to own one.

I have no idea how a Pontiac Fiero or a Chevy 350 compares to a Lamborghini Aventator without looking it up. All I know is that all three are probably luxury automobiles. I have even less of clue about what a head gasket might be.

On the other hand, if you tried to explain something to me by using a job at Google, Yahoo, and a start-up as analogies, it would definitely help make things more understandable.

Well, only the Lamborghini is a luxury car(unless you consider all cars a luxury but that would be a different discussion).

Otherwise, I fully agree with your point. I like cars and had no clue what, exactly, the Pontiac Fiero or the Chevy 350 were as I'm not American and those are American cars. Around here German(Mercedes, BMW, Audi, VW) and Japanese(Mazda, Subary, Toyota, ...) cars are much much more common.

Fiero: Pontiac's great experiment at making a European style sports car. A real _proper_ sports car: Mid-engined, rear wheel drive. Except, because most most of the parts were from other GM vehicles, it was mostly shite. Still - very popular with kit car/replicar builders because they made quite a few of them (~350,000) and they're cheap as donor cars.

Chevy 350: Basically a commodity engine. 5.7L pushrod V-8. Used in lots of GM vehicles from the late 60s through the early 90s. Camaros, Corvettes, Cadiallacs etc. Built tough, cheap, and there are a gazillion aftermarket parts available.

I've always found it weird how different engine sizes are in American cars as opposed to everything else.

Unless you were going for a race car or something it's quite uncommon to have a 5.7L engine in anything but an American car.

It's fairly unusual these days. Only thing you'll find with an engine that big is either a full-size SUV, a large truck, or a Corvette.

Plus, if you weren't here, you might not appreciate just how horrible the "EPA era" engines were. Much stricter emission controls + not having the technology to really meet it led to some really de-tuned engines. Wouldn't be unusual for a 5-6L engine in those days to only make 140-160HP stock.

I thought HN had a large preponderence of "engineers" (or at least they claim to be) I would have expected almost 100% of us sould have enough knowledge to understand the analogy.

Pontiac's and Chevy's are very American cars. Speaking as a European I can guess they're not as good as a Lamborghini but not with enough detail to make it a particularly useful comparison.

The flaw with this analogy isn't likening Yahoo! to a Lamborghini. It's saying that startups are all the same, regardless of who's starting them.

If Elon Musk and a new Stanford grad started brand new companies on the same day, would both companies be old busted cars with blown head gaskets?

Also, the metaphor is a bit flawed by likening the 17-year-old floundering company to a new sports car and a hypothetical new company as something that's already worthless because of wear and tear.

The appropriate analogy would not be a free Lamborghini, but the chance to drive one (with 2 bad tires) for a while. Or, go buy/build your own car and own it.

I think it's a great move, and Google is probably in favor of it.

> Oblig

Please spare us the silly abbreviations.

Agreed. I understand there's a hacker mentality here, but who would really pass up the CEO at an established behemoth like Yahoo to take the reigns of an unproven (or found) startup?

Me. I'm not qualified to be the CEO of Yahoo, so I would only be setting myself up for failure if I took the job. But running a smaller company limits the amount of harm I can do to myself and others while I learn the ropes.

The only reason to expect Mayer to do well as the CEO of Yahoo would be if her work at Google were similar to that job in some respect. I'm not sure it is.

True, but Yahoo! has made so many mistakes that she would have to really to screw up (like lie on your resume) for it to hurt her reputation. So that time and opportunity cost is unlikely to ever be a waste. If she fails, well Yahoo! was already a failure, if she succeeds, she's a perceived as savior. Either way, she's a contenter for ceo of any other major internet company going forward.

I see it as the wrestling with a pig problem.

If you wrestle with a pig, both of you get dirty, and the pig enjoys it.

Meyer's a superstar right now. Yahoo's had an anti-Midas touch on several people who've attempted to steer it right.

I really don't understand why people are saying she won't get a reputation hit from this if she fails. Every other CEO trying to steer Yahoo right so far in recent history has a black eye and had to leave in relative disgrace. None of them had the superstar status that she has right now, but the fact is, none of them were allowed the conclusion "well, Yahoo was just too screwed up anyway". I'm not convinced that she'll be able to escape getting a black eye if she also fails. People are harsh on Yahoo CEOs. The deck is stacked against them in so many ways.

I think because people believe at this point it is taken that failing at Yahoo would hardly be surprising. For 2 reasons: 1) the company is in much worse shape (especially in reputation) than it was when previous CEOs failed to turned things around and 2) after a bunch of people try and fail the stigma of failing is likely to be reduced. Also here reputation is so positive that failing at a task many think is going to be hard not to fail at, won't likely turn those thinking well of her around.

Now she could fail in ways that are so bad that it does harm her reputation, certainly. I tend to agree with those that think as long as she doesn't fail for reasons that make her look really bad, her reputation won't suffer too much.

Also if Yahoo is marginally successful she may get an outsized boost - due to others failing to do even that.

Yahoo is one of those companies who has so many great properties that it will be easier than it seems to resurrect that company. They just needed a competent CEO.

I think Mayer is the right choice.

Actually, your metaphor and the pattern of ruining hopefuls fits a pattern from Greek Mythology. (Other tough guys try to capture/defeat/kill a fearsome monster, but Hercules shows he's an uber-stud by finally doing it)

So Yahoo's now the Erymanthian boar?

I see it more as an Augean stables.

Time to divert Los Gatos Creek and the Guadalupe River. But I think the stench is stronger than them.

The law of statistics and its regression to the mean tell me she will likely succeed, but should not be credited for this success.

"someone with a fresh viewpoint on how to transform the company"

Prior to joining google in 1999 as employee number 20 "Mayer worked at the UBS research lab (Ubilab) in Zurich, Switzerland, and at SRI International in Menlo Park, California" (wikipedia) for what appears to be only a few years. (She graduated high school in 1993, received a B.S. and and M.S. which must have taken at least 4 or 5 years afaik).

My guess is that she has a great deal of confidence, confidence built on the fact that she was an early google employee and she was able to ride the success of that opportunity. But her entire working career is basically google and I'm not sure she brings the depth of experience necessary to take on turning around the fortunes of Yahoo.

You may be right, but the "experienced" CEOs that preceded her have been a disaster. It is non-trivial to find someone with executive experience at this level; there just aren't that many companies that are this big in this industry (and hiring from outside the industry seems to have been a massive mistake in most of the instances where it has happened; somehow business people always think the business skills are the most important, and so they think a PepsiCo chief can run a tech company, but that never seems to pan out very well).

At the very least, Mayer has been part of a real leading tech organization that grew from nothing to everything in record time. That's experience that is also very difficult to replicate. And, the skills she's known for within Google are all product oriented, and that's where Yahoo has failed so miserably and Google has succeeded so fantastically.

and so they think a PepsiCo chief can run a tech company, but that never seems to pan out very well

For IBM, the decision to hire a non-technical and experienced CEO turned out OK. IBM turned around. But I'd agree that this is probably an exception to the rule.

I think the key here is fresh thinking and ability to get the political/operational/strategic stars aligned inside the organization to /cough/ execute. An experienced person may bring this to the table, and a lesser experienced person may bring this to the table. The key is whether it's brought to the table.

The other thing that I would be concerned about is her PR appeal. I have no idea who Google employee 19 or 21 is, and I have no idea what she actually did at Google, except that it sounded important. Yet I've heard of her, would probably recognize her in a news picture, and remember her name.

I've had the opportunity to work with people who were very good at personal public relations, and based on that experience, I'm skeptical. Constantly selling your public image means that you can't be wrong, which always results in revisionist history and oddball situations.

Hopefully I'm wrong -- Yahoo needs help, and she does have a good story.

Steve Jobs and Zuckerberg were mentioned in this thread as examples of CEOs who can't be wrong and have revisionist memories.

The risk of her reputation. Once you have money, reputation is of the things that keeps you going every day. Right now her reputation is golden.

And if she had stayed at Google, what would be the next step for her career-wise? She went from vice president of search products to overseeing location and local services. Now she's CEO. You don't think that'll motivate her?

I think it not surprising that she left Google to be a CEO somewhere, it was just surprising that she picked Yahoo. Another one of those VP -> CEO jumps that was interesting to watch was Ed Zander (Sun Micro -> Motorola).

What I was expecting was that she would leave and start some sort cross between 'solve a world issue' with 'easy accessibility' kinds of UI. At Google her strength was having a clear idea of how to speak to users through UX, The Yahoo gig can use that, certainly, but watching the succession of failures and missteps at Yahoo the issues aren't primarily UX or users, it seems like Yahoo is in a major identity crisis about what exactly it actually is.

When one of their recruiters was trying to convince me to join the pitch was this:

"Yahoo is the premier digital media company

Yahoo! delivers amazing personalized digital content and experiences, across devices and around the globe, to vast audiences. We provide engaging and innovative canvases for advertisers to connect with their target audiences using our unique blend of Science + Art + Scale."

To which my response was "Really?", if someone were to ask me what the "Premier digital media company" was I don't think I'd respond "Yahoo!"

Hence my surprise.

I'd say the "premier digital media company" at the moment is Netflix. They have their problems and troubles, but they have enough brand recognition and enough good content (albeit produced by other people) to quality for that moniker.

What about YouTube? Or Zynga? Or Facebook for its photos?

I think when people hear the phrase "digital media", they think of it has traditional-media-delivered-digitally. But I think the internet enables entirely new variations of traditional media, tailor-made for our hypersocial, crowdsourced, and attentionless internet society.

Agreed. I would think you could make an argument for NetFlix (streaming/rentals), Apple (iTunes + players), or Amazon (streaming/rental/sales/player (book)) as being 'digital media' companies.

It may be that I think 'education/entertainment' more than I think 'discovery' when I think digital media. If Yahoo claimed to be the digital media discovery company that might be the starting point for a bigger vision.

That's always been my problem with Yahoo.

They are a company filled with brilliant engineers (who give us things like Hadoop), yet they only want to be a media company.

And there's no problem with that, if they took their engineers and had them create new media distribution platforms or new efficient encodings or any other of the huge amount of highly technical things that can improve media distribution and consumption.

You overestimate the downside of a reputation hit. The business world loves failures, and in fact it promotes them as people experienced with problems.

One of the biggest things she's going to probably have to do is lay off thousands of people. The business world might love that, but the folks losing their jobs probably won't. Turnaround CEOs take a lot of flak.

Folks losing their jobs don't hire the CEOs. :/

Look at the previous CEOs of Yahoo. Even excluding Scott Thompson (who lied on his resume) NONE of them have even held executive positions, or done anything significant in the business world. It doesn't seem like people forgave them just because Yahoo is a horrible mess.

You mean, since leaving Yahoo? In that case you're probably right. Carol Bartz did great things for Autodesk.

Yeah, since leaving. My point is that Yahoo is a career destroyer for its CEOs-none of them have held a significant position afterwards. Bartz even had a great track record before (and during!) her tenure at Yahoo, but that doesn't seem to have helped.

They haven't really had that many CEOs, and Mayer is young enough to weather anything that might happen. I can't imagine she isn't going into this without an upper hand, It's not like she was looking to jump ship (maybe she was) and Yahoo was the only company who would hire her.

If she fails it will not hurt her reputation. Yahoo has already gone through so many CEOs. I think that if she can't turn around Yahoo, no one else will. After all, she is better qualified than the previous executives.

Reputation is only a part of it. At her level there several other motivators at work -


She has a great reputation--and she certainly has a lot of work ahead of her. Wish her the best of luck.

And later in Oct, She will go on maternity leave. So no Yahoo head ache for some time. http://www.firstpost.com/tech/yahoo-marissa-mayer-is-first-p...

"My maternity leave will be a few weeks long and I'll work throughout it."


I hope she doesn't regret it. I just read this article by Anne-Marie Slaughter, titled "Why Women can't have it all" and describing her experience mixing a high-power job with raising children (even with a supportive husband):


"fresh viewpoint on how to transform the company"

And possibly who to poach from google.

Definitely unexpected that she would show up at Yahoo but not unexpected that she would leave Google. The re-org was kind of a slap in the face and everyone pretty much knew it. But taking this role was not what I would have expected. If Microsoft really is trying to sell its Bing unit she might be able to make a search company out of it again. Or at least a company with a native search product to power its other properties.

I don't think there's a lot of reputation risk for her, here... I'm pretty sure that if Yahoo continues it's current course, the majority reaction will be "Well, Yahoo was a sinking ship anyway, there's not a lot she could have done" but if Yahoo makes a comeback she'll be hailed as a miracle worker.

For proof of this, see Marc Andreessen's comments in TechCrunch[1]:

Andreessen also said he's "super-happy" for Mayer, because she's ready to step into a CEO role at a major tech company.

But can she actually turn Yahoo around? Andressen declined to offer any suggestions for areas that the company should pursue, and he also cautioned that it's hard to think of many Web companies that succeeded in turning themselves around.

"On the other hand, it's hard to overestimate how screwed Apple was in 1997," Andreessen said. "Tech comapnies can in fact be turned around. The problem is, there aren't a lot of Steve Jobs characters running around."

Basically, if she makes it, she's "a Steve Jobs character" and if not, well, it's hard to turn tech companies around.

[1]: http://techcrunch.com/2012/07/16/marc-andreessen-marissa-may...

Don't be so sure. Nokia was a sinking ship before Elop joined and now he's wearing most of the blame. Sure, he could have hitched Nokia's wagon to Android instead. But given that Google own competitor Motorola and are selling the killer Nexus 7 at no margin, they aren't exactly an ideal partner either.

All you need to do is look at how the tech press/community is ALREADY talking about this. See the quote from Andreessen[1] that I already talked about or, alternatively, another TechCrunch article that just got published:

What a time for Marissa Mayer to take control at Yahoo. She'll need all the smarts she can lay her hands on to revive an ailing Yahoo.[2]

It's already being set up so that the expectation is "she'll probably fail, because ANYONE will fail" but if she succeeds she's a miracle worker or "a Steve Jobs character".

[1]: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4252945

[2]: http://techcrunch.com/2012/07/16/yahoos-neglected-global-lab...

Nokia was stagnating before Elop, not sinking.

Elop scrapped everything Nokia had dumped years of R&D into and turned the company into Microsoft's (Elop's former employer) puppet. Nokia could have made an instant comeback if they had just built a few semi-decent Android phones, but they are now locked in to Windows. Elop's case is atypical.

They had their own competent looking OS in the pipeline (which was available on a couple of the earlier Lumias).

I agree, I think Elop made bad decisions which were massively swayed by Elop's attachment to Microsoft.

> She's not going to suffer in compensation or reputation.

Are you serious? Have you seen what's happened to Yahoo's CEOs since ... ever?

I think it's a risk too. She's shown that she can excel in a small company undergoing hyper growth.

In this case she's presenting herself as a turnaround expert. I'm surprised she didn't sign on with a pre-IPO darling like Twitter or Facebook long ago.

Respectfully what risk does she have? She has a tremendous history with Google, even if Yahoo tanks with her at the helm, she could probably continue in at least a Senior Vice President position with almost any other company of her choosing.

Not to mention she is more-then-likely financially taken-care of. At that point, 'risk' is almost negligible. It's all just 'more possibilities' for Mrs. Mayer.

I mentioned this out loud at the office and that was the exact same reaction.

I don't think anyone in my office had a reaction other than "...What the fuck?!"

haha, I actually meant the "what the fuck" part

Actually I don't think the risk is all that high. If the sinking ship still sinks, then oh well. But, however small the chance, she manages to turn things around...

As someone who has been underwhelmed by Ms. Mayer since her early days at Google, I think this is just another desperate attempt to save the ailing Yahoo. It will fail, and she'll be out in less than a year.

curious to learn why you say this?

She's a showboat, IMHO. This is based on personal observation and insider info. She's quick to yell about how great she is, but you don't see a lot of unbiased people talking about her contributions to technology or to Google. She has her own publicist; not from Google, mind you, this is the Marissa Mayer publicist. She apparently enjoyed keeping people lined up waiting for an appointment with her for hours. To summarize, there are a lot of signs of weak character, no signs of great leadership, and no signs of greatness at all. Yahoo's board wanted her, obviously, for the name Google. They will be disappointed.

Wow, years later, even after her de facto demotion at Google, people still think she's some kind of product genius?


This is a hilarious situation.

This is typical Yahoo bullshit. They hire a CEO not for the primary reason of effectiveness or experience, but instead for their perception of effectiveness in the media. Is she an improvement over Bartz? No doubt, because the first time I saw Bartz discussing Yahoo's future several years ago, it was immediately clear to me that they weren't getting out of their tailspin. Is Mayer a genius? I'm sure of it. But from all the things I've heard from Google employees and their dealings with her, I suspect that a lot of the hype she receives in the media is due to the lack of female role models in the Valley. She damned sure doesn't sound like a good leader. Biting off heads, interrupting people mid sentence, forgetting what happened in the last meeting....... this is the epitome of somebody who has bitten off more than they can chew. The sad part is that there are so, so many women in the Valley that deserve the attention she gets.

Eh, I like Marissa, and I've worked on projects (the 2010 websearch visual redesign, and doodles) for which she was the executive sponsor. No, she's not a nice person, and most likely she does not give a shit about you as a person. But she is very often right about her design opinions, and when she's not, she'll listen to data.

I don't think Yahoo particularly needs a nice person as CEO right now. Their culture is dysfunctional enough that they probably need a Steve Jobs type, someone with clear opinions who's willing to ruffle a lot of feathers (and make a bunch of people quit). Steve Jobs wasn't really a nice person either.

I've worked at both Yahoo and Google. I've never worked with Marissa directly but I think your opinion of her is pretty much correct.

The biggest risk I see is that there is a huge difference in her role. At Google she stood atop a pyramid of other geniuses, with similar backgrounds and values, and was a filter for their ideas. At Yahoo she's dealing with a culture where engineering is not the highest value, and she's going to have to get off the top perch and descend into the ranks, clearing out the enemies of progress which exist at every level.

I disagreed with nearly everything I ever heard Marissa say related to design, especially her over reliance on A/B testing to inform design. I think she is one of the main reasons Google products tend to feel like they are designed by engineers.

Their products are usable and uncluttered. I have reservations about the new unified look (too much padding in horizontal stripes one can't scroll, trying to displace browser chrome), but I've been very happy with the previous, “designed by engineers” Google aesthetic.

There are so many UX problems with the current crop of Google core products, it's hard for me to agree that "usable and uncluttered" can refer to anything but the Google of the past.

Google of the past was built on A/B. The new UIs are designed by a small, closed-eared team of graphic artists.

And that is very obvious in the UI, unfortunately.

What's wrong with relying on A/B testing to inform design? In my opinion, except for the whole Google+ unifying process going on most Google products are highly usable.

What's wrong with relying on A/B testing to inform design?

It can help you find local maxima, but not the global maximum you are (or should be) looking for.

Most observers seem to agree that Yahoo's problem is cultural in nature. It's not a Nokia-esque situation, where the company was heavily damaged by competitive forces before Elop even showed up.

A big part -- a necessary part -- of the way Jobs changed the culture at Apple was by bringing in a lot of people who had been loyal to him for years at Next and elsewhere. I can't think of any cases where an outsider has parachuted into a large company, by invitation or otherwise, and turned it around by himself/herself.

Can/will Mayer do that? If so, where will the required team of revolutionaries and revanchists come from? If she doesn't (or can't) raid Google, then where will she get the people she will need?

There're lots of good people at Yahoo. I've heard from other Google engineers who do a lot of interviewing that their recent impression of a lot of ex-Yahooers has been "Hire this person NOW. How could the company let someone like this go?"

I wouldn't be terribly surprised if one of Marissa's first moves is to fire all the middle management and then promote a bunch of longtime individual contributors into their place.

I know almost nothing about her, but these descriptions remind me of this post about Zuckerberg.

"Working with Zuck" http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=339013388919

"Every time Zuck looks at a product, it is as if he does so with fresh eyes... He doesn't care what he said yesterday"

From the description, her behavior reminds me a lot of how Steve Jobs behaved. If you read the biography, Jobs would often contradict himself, he was extremely rude, he would cry at meetings, he would hear an idea and say it was shit, and then the next week propose the exact same idea as his own, etc.

I'm not saying she is at all comparable to Steve Jobs, but it sounds like they both know what they want, and don't spend a lot of time with what they think is wrong.

I've said this often, but Jobs was about 50% right and 50% wrong. When Jobs was wrong, it was usually a small strikeout, but when he was right, they were monster home runs, which is why people tolerated Jobs' behavior. Mayer needs to be right a lot more than she is wrong, so I guess we'll have to see how that pans out.

Not a good comparison. Meyer famously tested 41 shades of blue on Gmail. Optimising local maxima is hardly innovation. Jobs was more of the Henry Ford mindset that if he asked people what they wanted they'd ask for a faster horse.

I guess you didn't read very carefully because I didn't compare Meyer and Jobs except in the similarities of how their temperament were described. One was from an official biography, and one from from an anonymous forum comment, so I take the forum comment with a grain of salt. To be clear, I don't think they are at all comparable in terms of success or as a visionary.

But since you brought up the testing of 41 shades of blue, I guess you didn't hear this story about Steve Jobs obsessing over the yellow gradient on Google's icon on the iPhone.


I didn't say Jobs didn't obsess over details. Clearly he did. The difference is that he knew what he wanted up front rather than testing market reaction to make decisions. The latter is commonly perceived as the "Google Way" and it's more about meeting expectations than setting higher ones.

I was wondering if there are any public and published research reports/papers that were written by her? At least something from her time at Stanford? So far the only thing I could find were some Google patents where she appears as a co-inventor.

Edit: Oddly enough I can not reply to the comment below. My statement wasn't meant to be critical but more on the curious side. The "41 shades of blue" story sounded always intriguing, so I was wondering if there are any other traces of her research activities.

Even if she has, what of it? Academic success does not imply the ability to lead and vice verse. Steve jobs, bill gates, Zuckerberg all built businesses worth hundreds of billions of dollars without any degree at all.

Gates had academic success: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pancake_sorting

Wasn't topped until 2008...

Yes. There's a big difference between a genius who's also a jackass, and someone who thinks they have to be a jackass to be a genius. Jobs was solidly in the first category.

I read the biography too and this seems only remotely similar. Anyway, if someone shares some of Steve Jobs' bad traits, that means nothing at all. It's not an indication of a good CEO.

CEOs in general tend to be hard to work with. There are also anecdotes about Gates being rude.

Further, I would say the people who want to judge a character by a few anecdotes are being lazy, small minded, and short sighted. Jobs, Gates, and Mayer are all different people with their own styles. I'm not sure if Mayer's style will be what Yahoo needs, but I wish her the best of luck.

A lot of people are assholes. That doesn't mean they are like Steve Jobs.

That description of her didn't include a single word saying anything positive about how she did her job. No description of Jobs of similar length, regardless of how much the writer hated him, would have failed to mention that Jobs also had many positive qualities.

In fairness, when Jobs was Meyer's age he was mostly regarded as a wild eyed dreamer who lost the computer wars. He was fortunate to get a second act at Apple (which looked very seriously at Be instead of Next).

I know people who worked directly with Steve and would write descriptions of similar length with nothing positive to say.

Anybody read 'I'm feeling Lucky' by Douglas Edwards? He came across as a good judge of people to me, just based on my reading of the book. And he is not negative on many people in his book.

But he was critical of her, and there were lots of hints of bad blood between them in his book. Although he always remains very subtle in whatever he says.

Reading that comment, you share, reminded me of some sections of the book.

Interesting. So that reply was ages old, but in the event that you're dealing with a manager like that today - what is the best thing to do outside of leaving the organization?

If the organization is large enough, try to make an amicable break and move internally. This is the simplest way if you do not have a conscience about the company or your work (not always a bad thing to be conscience-less about these things). If you can't move internally, pursue two threads of action simultaneously:

(1) In most situations, you will have a smart, rational person you might be aware of in the layer that he/she reports into (though preferable, not necessarily her direct boss). Talk to them about what you see as problems.

Be prepared to back up your claims with documented, solid evidence of the behavior. Keep emotional, hyperbolic, prejudicial expressions or assertions to yourself - they will only work against you in such situations.

Be as paranoid as you can be about who you can trust to back you up in your peer group in case there has to be a discussion. Knowing people who're discontent like you helps only if you know they won't stab you in the back.

Avoid ultimatums. Express faith in the system and the ability for the person to change. Express willingness to change yourself. In other words, come off as the bigger person right from the beginning and at all times.

(2) Have an exit strategy if the situation turns on you. This could include escalation to several layers (CEO/Board) above the layers you're dealing with and looking out for a new job.

"Be prepared to back up your claims with documented, solid evidence of the behavior. Keep emotional, hyperbolic, prejudicial expressions or assertions to yourself - they will only work against you in such situations. Avoid ultimatums. Express faith in the system and the ability for the person to change. Express willingness to change yourself. In other words, come off as the bigger person right from the beginning and at all times."

Based on past bitter experience I've boiled this down to, "Don't be easy to dismiss."

I think leaving is your only option, actually, outside of going to HR and asking to be moved to a different team... and I'd never go to HR to ask that.

That actually makes it sound like she'll fit in at Yahoo just fine.

Aren't you getting "We've temporarily limited requests for old items." for that link?

Marissa Mayer (2012-Present)

Ross Levinsohn (Interim) (2012)

Scott Thompson (2012)

Tim Morse (Interim) (2011-2012)

Carol Bartz (2009-2011)

Jerry Yang (2007-2009)

Terry Semel (2001-2007)

Timothy Koogle (1995-2001)

I seriously hope that the Board of Directors has some idea of what they're doing, because their track record certainly doesn't look like it.

EDIT: To be clear, this wasn't meant as a slam on Marissa. What I meant was "It looks like the Board has created a toxic environment that no one could survive."

From http://yhoo.client.shareholder.com/directors.cfm. Looks like they don't have many slouches. Heavy on financial services and broadcast. Perhaps light on internet entrepreneurs. Largely independent. A couple big shareholders.

Alfred Amoroso - Chairman, Yahoo! Inc.

John Hayes - Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, American Express Company

Sue James - Retired Partner, Ernst & Young LLP

David Kenny - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Weather Channel Companies

Peter Liguori - Former Chief Operating Officer, Discovery Communications, Inc. Former Chairman and President of Entertainment, Fox Broadcasting Company

Daniel Loeb - Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Third Point LLC

Thomas McInerney - Former Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, IAC/InterActiveCorp

Brad Smith - President and Chief Executive Officer, Intuit Inc.

Maynard Webb - Founder, Webb Investment Network, Chairman of the Board, LiveOps, Inc.

Harry Wilson - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, MAEVA Group, LLC

Michael Wolf - Chief Executive Officer and President, Activate Strategy, Inc.

Philip Monego spent six months there before Koogle.


I am very curious what goes in those Board of Directors meetings.

Does everyone just sit around asking eachother "What the fuck does this company do, and how are we still in business?"

Seriously, what does Yahoo do? I don't know, because I haven't been their website since the 1990's. They obviously don't make software or hardware products, because I don't own any and have never paid for any of their products. I have no use for whatever services they might offer because I've never heard of anyone praising or recommending their services. I honestly would like to know how Yahoo still exists.

I think Marissa Mayer has a much harder task in front of her than she might think. Yahoo really doesn't do anything, or have products. How is she going to improve that which does not exist?

Yahoo has some good niche products that are doing relatively well compared to the rest of the company (fantasy sports is one, Flickr is another). To survive they probably need to do more of those and figure out how to specialize and monetize the products that aren't stagnating.

Yep. I only go there for Flickr and March Madness. Flickr could use some innovation, but it does its core mission well enough. March Madness is a simple task done well.

Used to be on a couple of private mailing lists through their groups, but those have both moved to private google groups over the years.

You know what I'd honestly like to see them do? Compete with Google, head on. I think search and ads are both stagnant markets compared to what they should be. I would absolutely love to see her knock Google out of its complacency and get those worlds moving forward again.

She could pull the talent together to do it, I think, if she was bold enough.

The problem is I'm not sure she's bold enough. But Yahoo absolutely requires gigantic boldness. It's the main quality they need at the top, honestly.

I can't stand Flickr, the moment I see the two loading animation of a Flickr page I reach for the back button.

I hear people say good things about Hadoop... though the stigma of it's development at Yahoo has always kept me from investing the time to learn more.

When Thompson got pushed out new people took control of the Board, including the hedge fund that outed him for lying about his CS degree.

In the same way you can't attribute past failures to Mayer, you can't attribute them to the current Board either.

Historical precedent: Stephen Elop was head of Business Division at MS before he became Nokia CEO and then Nokia fully fell in MS's lap.

Prediction: Sometime in near future some sort of very close partnership will happen between Google and Yahoo, subject to regulatory approval of course.

Edit: Fixed "MS CEO" to "Nokia CEO" typo. Thanks kreilly

Came here to say just that.

Another prediction: such partnership won't help Google very much, but will hurt Microsoft a bit -- due to Yahoo shying away from Bing and possibly MS e-mail technology.

It may also well help developers -- Yahoo's YUI is a very handy and very relevant toolkit; with Marissa as the CEO, I sure hope Yahoo will embrace developers more and YUI will get some more love.

I was discussing the same topic with my coworkers when we heard the news. Yahoo's YUI could be the company's starting point at developing strong products and boosting Yahoo's relevance as a brand. It's a great library.

I assume you mean Elop became CEO of Nokia, not MS.

Yea, IMO Google should have persisted with the Google-Yahoo ad deal and let DOJ sue, then use the appeal to show the bad logic DOJ tried to use to stop the deal.

This might be a stupid question, but are there any amazing turnaround stories in the world of large tech companies? If not, is that due to the relative youth of the sector, or something fundamental? I can think of a ton of companies that have faltered, but really none that have made a dramatic turnaround.

Apple kind of leaps to mind.

This is where they were the year Jobs returned, remember: http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/gadgetlab/wired+cover.jpg

Apple is a good example. Keep in mind that Apple was "turned around" by one of the founders. That's an example of re-aligning the company with it's original vision rather than altering the vision. I think the latter is much harder but I've never tried.

Wow, I feel stupid now. Maybe I didn't think of Apple because it was an original founder returning and fixing things?

Don't feel stupid! It doesn't happen very often, really. Certainly the examples are few and far between. Turnarounds can happen, they just usually don't.

Interesting observation. Most startups fail, and most turnaround efforts fail. Makes success something you really want to hang on to when you find it.

Bit borderline on being a 'tech' company by modern standards (though historically it's about as tech as it gets), General Electric under Jack Welch. He pulled off a Jobsian effort in the 80s. GE went from $27bn revenues to $130bn under his watch and a market cap of $14bn up to $410bn.

As I recall most of that was due to the US economy turning around and picking up defense contracts. I think it would be impossible to not make money in that situation.

I think there is a big difference between "impossible to not make money in that situation" and growing revenues by 100B under your leadership. A lot of companies in that era did not grow revenues by 100 billion dollars.

Intuit hit a period of relative stagnation that Brad Smith has been working to plow through for a while, a period of change marked by the acquisition of Mint and an expansion in the online product suite

SanDisk went in the relative dumper following the memory glut in ~2009 but seems to have been recovering under Mehrotra for about a year now

And a great turn around (and around) story is Seagate, who tanked, went private around 2000, came out and soared mid-2000 and is sort of tanking again even under chairman Stephen Luczo's leadership

give "who says elephants can't dance" a read. it deals with the turnaround of ibm, a company with tremendous institutional inertia.


Apple from the mid-1990's to present. CEO John Sculley had been instructed in 1993 to sell the company (unsuccessfully, to AT&T, IBM, etc.), before getting fired. He refers to the time as Apple's "near-death experience." In 1997, Steve Jobs returned to the company via NeXT and Microsoft invested a severely needed $150 million. Without those two events happening, it is highly possible that Apple would not still exist today (let alone being the most valued technology company in the world). That's about as radical of turnaround as possible.

Lou Gerstner's turnaround of IBM, in addition to the obvious Apple comparison.


Apple passed through a pretty dramatic shift on the Sculley/Spindler years... AOL is another example, if I'm not mistaken.



IBM under Lou Gerstner is one of the greatest turn around stories in business history.

"How Lou Gerstner Got IBM To Dance" http://www.forbes.com/2002/11/11/cx_ld_1112gerstner.html

Also, Michael Dell returning to his company has been a solid turn around in regards to profitability and improvement in product quality, both of which had languished under the former chief. It doesn't show in the stock valuation because of substantial PE compression, but Michael Dell has taken the company from losing money briefly and having some accounting scandals, to a solid level of profitability in the last few years.

The microsoft controlled board already made sure the founders have no voice in the company anymore.

Can someone explain how she is able to do this? Set aside the boldness of the move, but if anyone ever should be put on some kind of "garden leave" or some kind of non-compete it would be a person moving from a prominent position in Google to become CEO of Yahoo?

Anyway, that aside. One thing that I hope that comes from this, is bringing some of the same Google-quality-developer-friendly-ethos to Yahoo. Dispite consuming several Yahoo services, I'm always disappointed at how slow they release changes... and if there is one thing that Yahoo needs it's changes..


[] June 16th, "Marrissa Meyer Makes Move to Yahoo",

[] June 20th, Yahoo switches from Bing to Google Search.

[] July 21th, Bing sees enormous drop in QPM.

Coup of the century? Who would of thought, should this actually happen, it would be the best possible outcome. Sacrificing the queen to totally dominate the search market even further.

Sure, there isn't really an enforceable non-compete in California, its one of the things that makes Silicon Valley, well Silicon Valley. Second there is a sort of hubris around 'the best revenge is beating them at their own game.' I know of at least two founder/co-founder pairs that split over different ideas about how the vision should go and rather than try to sue the other out of existence, the sense of invulnerability or desire for competition gives rise to a sort of 'bring it on if you got it' mentality.

Even if non-competes are enforceable, sometimes it will make more sense for a company to let an employee go straightaway anyway, rather than having them hang around twiddling their thumbs with no motivation.

True, Where California's statutes affect innovation is in the case where you're trying to raise money. In a state that enforces non-compete agreements you have a harder time if your new venture competes with the place you just left. That is because there is a risk that if you're successful you will be sued by your original employer and shut down. This is not true in California so it is nominally easier to raise funds.

How enforceable are they in other states? I know in the UK there have been a few test cases which seem to have resulted in the interpretation that you can only enforce one if it would otherwise be detrimental to the ex-employer (e.g. starting a new business or taking your contacts with you), otherwise people would find it difficult to move jobs within an industry because you'd almost always be going to a company who could be classed as a competitor.

Non-competes are unenforceable in California. Non-solicitation and non-disclosure agreements are more so.

Non-competes are effectively illegal in California.

If I have a non-compete from employment in another state but then want to relocate to California, does that previous non-compete still apply?

Assuming that you work in California, no, the non-complete clause is rendered unenforceable. (Under Application Group, Inc. v. Hunter Group, Inc., California law trumps a choice of law clause with respect to a non-compete clause.) If you live in CA and commute to Nevada/Oregon/Arizona/some other state, then my understanding is that the law of the state where you actually work would apply.

Disclaimer: IANAL and this post does not constitute legal advice of any kind.

Yahoo's deal with Bing was reported to expire in 2019: http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2052024/Its-Official-Mi...

> June 16th, "Marrissa Meyer Makes Move to Yahoo"

Psst: It's July.

"Who would've thought"

(Couldn't help myself :-)

Doug Crockford gave a great keynote address at the HTML5 conf this year titled "What would Crockford do?" It was basically not about HTML5 and all about what he'd do if he were Yahoo CEO.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cukFl7gpjE (Crockford takes the stage ~5:09 )

Remixed with the slides: http://youtu.be/8HzclYKz4yQ

he would fork a Node.js and made Ynode :) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HzclYKz4yQ&feature=playe... ~22:40


see the video for the answer

I saw the video. It seems a very silly thing to do -- ever since I first saw that video I've been trying to understand Crockford's angle, and I just cannot. However, feronull seems in favour of it, so I'd like to know why.

Forking a project isn't a healthy thing to do, unless there's something seriously wrong with the existing community (e.g. XFree86). As far as I can tell:

* The nodejs community is healthy and vibrant.

* There are no systemic problems with contribution.

* Isaac Schultner has his head on straight, has reasonable priorities, and is a pleasant character.

* Much, if not most, of node's development is happening outside Joyent anyway.

* Nothing is stopping Yahoo from contributing to the existing project.

Even if all of the above were false, why does Crockford think the remnants of Yahoo's engineering can do better? Joyent is filled with Sun's top talent, and the engineering division is run by an enlightened alpha engineer.

I cannot help but think this is a case of sour grapes by Crockford, because there just doesn't seem to be a good reason for his stance.

Edit: as an aside, his idea of rewriting everything in node is a bit ridiculous too. I've been a part of several projects to rewrite code, for smaller things than all of Yahoo's online assets, and it sure took longer than one year to do a good job even with excellent engineers. This is a long-term project, not something you do to fix the immediate bleeding. This, and forking node, are very strange things to focus on right now given Yahoo's difficulties.

Wow, I think that might be highest compliment I've ever been paid -- thank you! And though I am now clearly biased by your generous assessment of Joyent engineering and of me personally, I believe that your other comments are (of course?) spot-on. For whatever it's worth, we reached out to Crock to see if we could dissect whatever wasp had crawled into his underwear, but (no surprise) we were met with deafening silence. Even assuming that his was an entirely emotional response to some perceived slight in the distant past, we still have no idea what he's talking about. If anyone knows what he was referring to when he called our stewardship "amateurish", please, enlighten us!

> Forking a project isn't a healthy thing to do, unless there's something seriously wrong with the existing community

Or you have goals which are substantially different from the goals of the original project.

Lets not forget that parts of Android are 'forked' from Linux (and were later merged back).

Not quite, Android's non-hardware specific parts are more of a patchset. The kernel is still Linux.

Wow, what an incredible coup.

I've always admired her, she seems to be very smart and has her finger on the pulse on what the Internet is all about, so if anyone can turn Yahoo around it's her.

I sincerely hope she has the intestinal fortitude to do WHATEVER it takes to revitalize Yahoo. The first thing I would do is get rid of the entire board of directors, they need a complete reboot as well.

>"so if anyone can turn Yahoo around it's her."

Do you really believe that? I mean, of all the potential candidates out there, she has the best pedigree?

I think the negative commentary stems from there. You think this is a coup. To me, it's sort of a ho-hum, predictable hiring. Yahoo! needs an overhaul as a business, and to do so they hired someone with SV name power.

I 100% believe that she has the best pedigree of any person out there.

Think about it, who would you have as CEO of Yahoo? John Chambers? Larry Ellison? The CEO of Hulu? Mark Hurd? Jerry Yang? Tim Cook?

I think Mayer is better qualified than anyone else that is available because she is an expert on the space. When she joined Google, the mainstream Internet was less than 5 years old. Her entire career has been built on the Internet. If she went to any large company like IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, Cisco, EMC, you name it, I would think it wouldn't be a good fit, because she wouldn't be an expert on the space.

Mayer has been with Google since practically the beginning, and as an executive, she has participated in the decisions and actions required to create and maintain a world-class engineering organization. As well, being an early employee and not just surviving but thriving, I'd be willing to bet that Mayer has done more as an engineer than most engineers at Yahoo, except maybe Filo, so that gives her incredible technical legitimacy. So, yes, I believe she is extremely qualified to run a company like Yahoo.

You can't just stick a "turnaround expert" in the shoes of Yahoo CEO and expect a great result. You need someone that understands the space, and can make the tough and right decisions that can put Yahoo back on track. Everyone that they've chosen as CEO since Yang just felt like they were trying to salvage as much of Yahoo as possible, and sell it to some other company or PE fund, and give up. By choosing Mayer, it means they are serious about trying to put Yahoo back on the right path again, and not just selling it off. I'm pretty sure this will motivate the current troops at Yahoo.

The only other interesting choice for CEO might be Reed Hastings, but he's taken already. The Yahoo board could have elected to try to acquire Netflix and put Hastings as CEO of the combined company, which would have been interesting. I still prefer the choice of Mayer though, because it shows a lot of guts, both on the part of Yahoo and Mayer.

>"I think Mayer is better qualified than anyone else that is available because she is an expert on the space. When she joined Google, the mainstream Internet was less than 5 years old. "

You do know there's a world of business outside the Valley, right? I'm not implying that she wouldn't be a good fit and very capable at many jobs or positions. But Yahoo!'s days are becoming numbered. When I think about what she could have possibly experienced at Google versus what Yahoo! needs as a company (which is a corporate and strategic overhaul), I can't understand where she'd have obtained anything remotely like "turn-around" expertise. Yahoo! is going to require some outside-the-box thinking, and this hiring is about as inside-the-box as it could be (along with every other name you mentioned would have been).

But this is just one man's opinion. I hope she can pull it off; it'd be a great story.

>"You can't just stick a "turnaround expert" in the shoes of Yahoo CEO and expect a great result. You need someone that understands the space"

Why can't you? What exactly is Yahoo!'s "space"? Of all the poor decisions made by Yahoo! of late, why do you trust that this was suddenly a stroke of genius?

"I'd be willing to bet that Mayer has done more as an engineer than most engineers at Yahoo"

really? any evidence for this? (not snark, genuinely curious) I've never heard of Marissa Mayer as a top 1% engineer (vs a 'strong' manager)

Thank you for the positive attitude. Most comments here are focused on how much of a challenge this is for her and why would she leave security for something that could possibly become bigger. Well, maybe she wants something bigger in life. Can that be possible?

Ummm isn't it the board of directors that hires the CEO?

Yes. But if an incoming CEO has a lot of political capital, they can try and demand that certain board members leave as a condition of taking the job. It's unusual, and takes an unusual person to pull it off, but it happens. (For example, this is what happened when Steve Jobs was made interim CEO of Apple.)

Mayer is a big coup for Yahoo, and the investors may back her if she wants to clean house with the board, but I wouldn't necessarily expect it to happen; it's unclear if Mayer really sees the board as part of the problem, and as Mayer is coming from outside of the organization, she may lack the close ties to other Yahoo execs that would be necessary to pull such a move off.

This will be interesting. She has three big challenges - with little prior experience in each:

1. Running a public company is vastly different and considerably more complex than managing large teams. She has to build an executive team capable of executing on all fronts. This is beyond hiring the best engineers and product managers, it is about hiring a CFO, COO, GMs, VPs, etc. that can execute on the plan set out by the CEO.

2. Managing a stagnating business requires different skills than a rapidly growing business. Google benefitted from exponential growth in usage, users, revenue. Yahoo is already over the hill. Most incoming CEOs do a top-down review of the business to understand assets and liabilities. They visit customers and large investors. In the end, they have to present a credible plan to the BOD for refocusing the business. Where should you invest or divest? Should you be aligned along product lines, geographically, or along customer segments?

3. Yahoo needs deep tech investments - to do so, it must attract and retain brilliant engineers. It is my understanding that Ms. Mayer's focus at google has been product and not technology. Without proper engineering, the best product ideas will fizzle. How will Ms. Mayer attract the best engineers to Yahoo? Without growth, it is hard to convince the best engineers to join your shop.

"Ms. Mayer resigned from Google on Monday afternoon by telephone. She starts at Yahoo on Tuesday." - That's quick.

For the rank and file 2 weeks is standard.

For upper level executives as soon as you resign you're escorted out the door by security and you're not allowed to touch anything. The level of access you had was so high that they don't want you learning anything more about the company's plans and want you out asap.

I doubt anyone cared that she resigned by phone.

I've been around some companies where any IT worker who gives 2 week notice is escorted immediately out of the building. It is not unusual for 2 weeks to not be needed or wanted.

She should have done it by G+ hangout

(my opinion)

Or Yahoo 360. What? It never launched? Well, she could do it on Yahoo Mash. Huh? Got shut down? Or she could post a link on Yahoo Buzz. What's that? Also dead? Crud, maybe she could post it to facebook.

First acquisition (or partnership) should be meetings.io

California is an "at will" state so she's under no obligation to give Google any notice if she intends to quit, just as Google doesn't have to give her any notice if they intend to get rid of her.

In most cases 2 weeks is a professional curtesy.

I find it so childish, when company escorts an executive out. If CEO have been looking for a job, then all needed files have been copied long time ago. CEO knows it. Company knows it. yet they cannot resist the stupid ritual. giggling.

It's not childish, it's just being responsible. This is generally done for any employee with access to highly sensitive data. They're not going to do any more work for you; why take any risk that they'll do anything damaging after the moment when they tell you they're leaving?

Also, once they've resigned, they're no longer an employee, so for a lot of companies (Google included) they may not be allowed in the sensitive office areas, anyway.

It seems a lot like closing the barn door after the horses have left. If they were going to do anything damaging, why wouldn't they do it after they've decided they're leaving but before they tell you they're leaving? After all, they control when they tell you.

I think that particular practice is security theater - it's so the employer can say "We take all possible precautions", regardless of whether the possible precautions are effective.

There's been a real state change. The individual has gone from an employee - with contractual obligations to the employer in terms of intellectual property, etc. - to a non-employee who may not have those same obligations. There are also issues of liability and safety - as a non-employee, they may no longer be covered by your insurance, depending on the type of workplace.

Is it mostly for form? Probably, but there's a reason it's considered the right process. It's not done for "theater", it's done because sometimes these things end up in court later on.

Usually when you resign, there's an "effective MM/DD/YYYY" clause in your resignation letter. Until that date, you're still an employee, and still bound by any contractual obligations as such.

There's no particular reason for that effective date to be "now" vs. "two weeks from now". I've certainly had coworkers that announced their intention to resign 2 weeks or a month before their actual departure (actually, the one time I've quit a job, I think I stayed for a couple weeks afterwards wrapping up my project & transferring knowledge). The difference is only that in one case, the employee is intending to resign but you don't know about it, but in the other, the employee is intending to resign but you do know about it.

If you've read the news reports, this was an immediate resignation. At least in California, there's no obligation to give notice on a resignation. It's a courtesy, but in the case of some senior positions, or when you're going to a competitor, a company isn't going to want you to work two more weeks anyway.

Right, but now we've circled back to the original point, which is that when you do give notice, it makes no sense for the company to insist that you leave immediately and escort you out, as you were in control of when you gave notice. If you wanted to do any damage, you would've just done it and then gave notice.

So what, you just let them hang around the office for while? Maybe poach a few employees? It might not prevent any damage that's already occurred, but there's no reason to allow more damage.

Work out an end-date with them that will allow for a comfortable transition & knowledge transfer. Perhaps that's "immediately" if someone else can take over their job, or if they're not interested in staying and helping you. Perhaps it's "2 weeks from now." But generally assume good faith, because if they wanted to screw you, they would've already done so.

It's "responsible" to treat people like potential criminals in lots of contexts. Doesn't mean it isn't a shitty thing to do.

Asking a non-employee to leave the premises of a business isn't treating them like a "potential criminal". If you find a random visitor wandering around your office, you may ask them to leave. It's not a "shitty" thing to do as long as it's done politely.

Let's keep in mind this is also someone who is leaving voluntarily, not being laid off. They are picking their moment when they become a non-employee.

I think this is pretty standard. Yahoo clearly needs a permanent CEO yesterday.

It's nearly always "same day" if you are going to a competitor. Whether you're the CEO or the front desk clerk.

Is it possible that Yahoo is just too far gone to be helped? Her head must be filled with dozens of ideas for changing the corporate culture there, but would any of us honestly believe anything could save Yahoo at this point?

There's another way to look at it. With $1bn of net income in 2011, Yahoo! can clearly turn a profit.

Could any of us here on HN forge a great, long term business from a profit stream of hundreds of millions of dollars? I'm sure quite a few could, and Meyer surely stands a good chance.

Even if she has to turn the organization upside down, make major branding changes, or fire key staff, Yahoo! has the resources, at least, to change for the better. It has just lacked the willpower, till now hopefully.

It can always be saved. They have a reasonably competent group of employees, a nice patent portfolio (recently cross-licensed with FB), and a recognizable brand that is still in heavy (albeit declining) use today. Even the more geeky crowd is becoming bearish on Google, so I think it's the perfect opportunity to reinvent the brand. What it should/could become is anybody's guess, but it will have to be a big change to correct their current course. It's always possible.

Look at it from this angle: if she succeeds, she could be wildly successful (Steve Jobs return-style).

If she fails, could anyone fault her?

I see no outsized downsides for her here - she either succeeds or Yahoo continues to fail. For Yahoo, this is a high-profile CEO who, if the board gives enough maneuvering space, might prevent the free-fall and establish a stable flight.

YIM: Yahookia In Motion

That's might be really good news for Google users: I think products that she used to run, like local business reviews on Android maps have a new chance now.

Care to elaborate?

Clearly she's done good things at Google, but I think the chances of her being able to right what's wrong at Yahoo! are very low. Best of luck to her.

Its a great coup for Yahoo.

I think Yahoo's problem is the fact that its search side of things has collapsed. Primarily it was this that made the company so big. Now that search has effectively collapsed they don't appear to have a core product.

This means the question "What does Yahoo! do?" can't really be answered.

If you ask that question of Google. You answer. Google is a search engine which also does...

If you ask that question of Amazon. Amazon is an online store which also does...

With Yahoo? Yahoo.. owns a bunch on interesting products? It has no core and without a big central product to build around it has been hard for successive CEO's to actually drive the company forward.

I have no idea what Mayer can do to resolve this.

When does Yahoo's contract with Microsoft for the search engine expire? 2014? I think she will quickly switch to Google search engine after that. And there goes half of Bing's market share.

It's a 10-year contract that expires in 2019: http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2052024/Its-Official-Mi...

She did the right thing. I think she had peaked at Google.

She risks "failure" at Yahoo, but that's why this is the right move. What was she to do at Google -- just drift along as the cofounders continue to (rightly) control the company?

I've never been a huge fan nor a detractor of Mayer, but I'll be rooting for Yahoo now. It's about time for another epic comeback story in SV. Long odds, but that's why this is fun.

One thing I'm wondering as I read this is whether there has ever been a successful turnaround at a dot com company before. I can't think of any. If anybody can think of one, I'd be interested to hear it. I think Yahoo is still going to shrink a great deal, but that has little to do with their CEO. You can't expect one person to reinvent a company that does not have typical operations. By that I mean you can't improve processes or introduce vastly better products. Yahoo's only chance at growing is to expand into new product lines. That's why I don't necessarily think Mayer is a great match. I would be far more interested if a Tim Cook type had been chosen. Not because of the ties to Apple, but because of his expertise in operations and real business experience.

Ms. Mayer resigned from Google on Monday afternoon by telephone.

That must have been an interesting call (to Larry?) to make...

Especially given that Larry has lost his voice.

that only makes it more awkward...

If I'm not mistaken she has been in charge of Google Local for a while. This is an awful, awful product. Buggy as hell, ugly, and absolutely no inspiration or cleverness anywhere to be found. If that product was truly her responsibility, God help Yahoo.

She was in charge of Geo, which is a broad product area that includes Maps, Earth, Local, Street View, Maps for Mobile, Zagat, etc. Local may suck, but most people think Maps is pretty good.

Maps was great when she took over. Local was very important because the push was to get all businesses using Google Local (this is why they promoted it to the top of all search results, etc, and why they tried to buy Yelp).

Despite the obvious value to them, the product was and remains very poor.

I'm really surprised nobody has mentioned the Glass Cliff http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass_cliff

"women are more likely to occupy positions that are precarious and thus have a higher risk of failure - either because they are appointed to lead organizational units that are in crisis or because they are not given the resources and support needed for success"

It was quite clear that the only way she could move up and grow would be to either start a new company, and what would that be that after Google, or leading another huge company. Great choice, I am rooting for her, and for Yahoo.

This is just brilliant news for Yahoo. Much as they have become a figure of ridicule in Silicon Valley, I have hoped year after year to see a Yahoo resurgence. This is finally a real chance at a turnaround.

Of course now we have to see if potential acquirers (particularly those going up against Google) suddenly see Yahoo as a much better target if they can get Mayer in the deal. (MS, FB, I'm looking at you!)

I hope she'll sell all that search and mail junk to Microsoft and turn Yahoo into the Flickr company.

Flickr is profitable and awesome!

I'm just gonna leave this right here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcSujceZDmg

Actually I was hoping that was one of those Hitler spoof videos.

Downvotes? Aww, you guys need to lighten up!


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