Marissa Mayer enters the Yahoo pressure cooker
Yahoo's new CEO spent the last 13 years at a company that has been on top for its entire lifespan. Now she is in the spotlight dealing with challenges and expectations that will test her will and skills in a much different environment.
Marissa Mayer is in her second week of running Yahoo, going about the business of learning more about the place she was brought in to run -- for-- as she seeks to reinvigorate and refocus a company long described as "beleaguered" and "troubled."
Everyone seems to have advice about how Mayer ought to go about her business at Yahoo, not to mention conduct her personal life. Mayer will face pressure of a different magnitude from anything that she faced during her 13-year stint at Google.
Mayer, who joined Google as a 24-year-old Stanford computer science grad student, left one of the computing world's biggest winners for one that's struggling to survive intact. At Google, there was plenty of internal politics, business challenges and talent management headaches, but nothing came close to the scale of challenges and pressure Mayer now faces at Yahoo.
One Yahoo board member told Yahoo infiltrator Kara Swisher, "Let's be clear, she is our last hope." That would be the last hope for the board before a fire sale of its assets and the company.
Mayer also embodies the hopes of many women around the globe who see her as a role model. "It's an incredible challenge," Emory University teacher and management consultant Kevin Coyne told the Wall Street Journal. "If she succeeds, it will be a landmark case for women everywhere."
No pressure, Marissa. As Jason Robards playing Ben Bradlee in "All the President's Men" told the intrepid Woodward and Bernstein, "We're under a lot of pressure, you know, and you put us there. Nothing's riding on this except the, uh, First Amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country."
Of course, her task will have little to do with freedom of the press or the future of the country, just a struggling $5 billion Internet corporation with a mere 12,500 employees. She comes to the job without the baggage, or experience, of a seasoned CEO, ready to apply what she learned in helping to develop Google into the powerhouse it is today.
While Mayer has been in the spotlight as a Google, Silicon Valley and San Francisco culture star, all eyes in the tech and business industry and press will be watching and evaluating every step, large, medium and small, taken by the newly-minted CEO.
Like a politician or head of state, she will need to guard against bad advice from her counselors, and tune out the constant rush to judgement by those inside and outside the company. She took the job because she believes in herself, in her ability to tame the purple monster, not because she wants to have meetings all day about what to do and how to keep unhappy board members off her back.
Mayer can ask for patience as she develops her game plan. There is a honeymoon period, in which stakeholders and pundits hold their judgment in abeyance, but she is aware that signs of turn-around and growth, not just stabilization need to appear in the next few months to keep the natives from getting too restless.