My book, “Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo,” comes out today. Finally.
When I was talking to sources for the book over the past couple years one thing that became super clear was that, when Mayer became the CEO of Yahoo back in July 2012, her approach to the job was very different from all of her predecessors.
She grabbed the company by the lapels.
While Yahoo CEOs in the past had taken a very “top-down” approach — devising a strategy and then giving lieutenants orders to execute it — Mayer was very “bottom-up.”
Right away, she sat in on product meetings and started grilling engineers and designers on their work.
The best story I ever heard about Mayer’s hands-on style was about her first day on the job.
After figuring out where to park, getting a security badge, listening to congratulatory voicemails from people like Jamie Dimon and Valerie Jarrett, and wading through hundreds of balloons and cupcakes delivered to her new office, Mayer got down to setting up her computer.
Her first request: a simple email address featuring just her first name.
Her second: A highly divisible phone number.
And finally: That her computer be connected directly into Yahoo’s code-base so that she could help work on it at any hour of the day or night.
(Humorously, the IT guy Mayer asked to do this was not actually an IT guy at all. It was interim general council Ron Bell.)
Needless to say, setting up a computer to code was not something Yahoo CEOs prior to Mayer, such as Terry Semel or Carol Bartz, asked for.
(Another funny story from the book is about how aghast Yahoos were to discover that Semel didn’t really know how to use email.)
In many ways, Mayer’s bottom-up style has been very effective. There’s no question that Yahoo’s product-launching cadence picked up considerably after her arrival. It used to take Yahoo a year and a half to launch new versions of Mail. Now that happens every few months.