Great tech innovators: Marissa Mayer

The hero Yahoo needed, and the one it deserved

  • Age: 40
  • Company: Yahoo
  • Best known for: Her work on Google's search engine, CEO of Yahoo
  • Quote: "Geeks are people who love something so much that all the details matter."

'Can Marissa Mayer save Yahoo?'. That has been the question on many peoples' lips for a while now. When Mayer was appointed CEO and President of the company in 2012, Yahoo was sinking and needed a hero.

Long before joining Yahoo, Mayer actually had ambitions to be a paediatric neurosurgeon, but at Stanford University she changed course to symbolic systems and put much of her focus on artificial intelligence.

After graduating from Stanford she joined Google as its first female engineer where she worked on many of Google's web products, including Search, Images, Maps and News. In fact, the sparse design of Google's search homepage can be partly attributed to Mayer, who oversaw its creation.

Another of Mayer's big wins during her time at Google was the acquisition of restaurant review aggregator Zagat, which became integrated with Google's services.

However in 2012, Mayer became President and CEO of Yahoo, a company that was still stuck in the desktop era and falling into irrelevancy.

Mayer put more focus on mobile and users, creating a new group specifically for mobile products. She also focused heavily on what became known as "MaVeNS" - mobile, video, native apps and social. One of her biggest moves at Yahoo so far has been the acquisition of Tumblr, which Yahoo bought for $1.15bn.

But importantly, Mayer has brought a cultural shift to Yahoo, focusing outwards instead of inwards. Yahoo spent many years having an identity crisis, and in some ways it is still finding where it belongs in this mobile era, but Mayer has helped turn things around for the better.

In fact, in July 2013, more people in the US visited Yahoo sites over the course of the month compared to Google sites. There's still a long way to go, and a lingering question over whether Mayer can turn Yahoo into a massive, thriving entity, but with Mayer at the helm, there's every reason to be optimistic.

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