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Marissa Mayer

Since taking the helm of dwindling tech giant Yahoo in July 2012, Marissa Mayer has overseen the beginning of the company’s complete transformation from the inside out. Having helped shape the definitive Google search function and sky-rocket its user base to over a billion worldwide, Mayer is now looking to conquer the world anew

When Marissa Mayer was named the new CEO of Yahoo in July 2012, a fresh life was given to the flicker of hope left among the company’s beleaguered and disillusioned workforce. From bearing the torch as the pinnacle of the modern world upon its inception in 1995, Yahoo’s finances – and success – had been pummeled by the dotcom bust. By the twenty tens, the former heavyweight had become the butt of Silicon Valley jokes.

The company’s force and main focus, banner ads, was swiftly becoming irrelevant to an increasingly mobile -orientated society. By July 2012, Yahoo employees had undergone four different CEOs within a five year period. Skepticism was rife among investors and employees alike. According to an insider source, “The parking lots would be empty till 10 am and would be empty again after 4 pm. That happened day after day after day for seven months in a row.” So why did Google icon Marissa Mayer’s appearance on the scene create such optimism?

In short, Ms Mayer’s track record was already hard to beat, by anyone’s standards. Having joined Google as its twentieth employee, she trail-blazed her way from a programmer to the executive in charge of, among other functions, the look and feel of Google search. Seemingly oblivious to her extraordinary position as a female leading the world’s technological elite, she oversaw the explosion of daily searches from a few hundred thousand to over a billion. Later, she became VP of local and Google Maps.

Upon completing her Stanford master’s in Computer Science with a specialization in artificial intelligence, Marissa Mayer’s decision to take on Google was a tough one. Why? Because it meant casting off twelve other impressive career offers on the table. Ultimately, Ms Mayer elected, rather than consulting for Silicon Valley clients at McKinsey, to join the quirkily named but promising start up, Google.

Ms Mayer applied the same work ethic she had always shown  (during her school days, on top of exceling academically, she was a standout debater, president of the Spanish Club, treasurer of the Key Club and by junior high undertook 35 hours of ballet a week) to increasing Google’s already fast growing popularity as the world’s go-to web service. For her first two years as a programmer at Google, she worked 100 hours a week. Her rise was spectacular.

It is perhaps no surprise, given her history, that since Marissa Mayer joined Yahoo, the initial hopes placed in her leadership have proved accurate.

The changes Marissa Mayer has rung in as the new Yahoo CEO have been radical and swift. Shifting the focus entirely from Yahoo’s diminishing realm, the banner ad, Ms Mayer has instead focused much of her energies on embedding Yahoo with a startup culture, making it prepared to adapt to the needs of modern customers.

She has notably overseen Yahoo’s takeover of Tumblr, along with its successful leap into the unknown territory of harnessing mobile technology. As well as creating award-winning user-friendly mobile apps (Ms Mayer seems particularly proud of the Yahoo News Digest and Yahoo Weather apps), an elite team of Yahoo developers has also built a system to help app developers to monetize their products.

“We were by far the most successful of the banner ad companies,” tells Ms Mayer. “It was very scary to give up that crown and say, ‘You know what? That industry over the long haul isn’t going to matter as much.’”

Yet the gamble seems to be paying off. In her first year, Marissa Mayer was able to maintain steady revenue despite entirely altering the company’s focus. Investors also seem impressed. Since her entrance into the company, stocks have increased by around 300%, going from $15.74 in the summer of 2012 to around $45 nowadays.

Perhaps her greatest achievement since joining Yahoo though has been injecting a potent dose of energy and excitement to the company’s previously lackluster culture. From bringing in Google touches like free food, to focusing on quality, to ensuring teamwork was possible by getting tough on working hours, Ms Mayer gave Yahoo’s workforce a sense of purpose and belief in their company.

As one candid employee describes, “If she hadn’t come in, all the smart people would have left. And that would have been the end of Yahoo.”

Though the road is long for Yahoo to be considered a real contender among the very biggest tech firms such as Google and Facebook, Ms Mayer’s leadership in the past few years has surrounded the company with hope and enthusiasm. As Marissa Mayer’s plans of drastic transformation enter a new stage of growth, all of a sudden nothing at all seems impossible.

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