Going across the street. It’s a classic part of the Silicon Valley story; when an engineer gets tired of one job or sees more opportunity elsewhere, it’s a simple thing to just “go across the street” and get a different job in technology.
It’s a little harder to do when a company gets so big and sprawling that it fills acres and acres, gobbling up streets along the way. And when that company provides meals and haircuts and all sorts of other amenities on site—it makes it hard for its employees to even think about going home, much less to go work for someone else.
And when you are the 9th engineer hired—and about the 20th employee—at a company that now employs over 30,000, and you're running one of its fastest growing businesses, no one really thinks you might actually leave.
So it came as a big surprise this afternoon when Yahoo announced that it had convinced Google’s Marissa Mayer to walk across that proverbial street and take over as Yahoo CEO. She starts her new job tomorrow. It puts her on a short list of women who hold or have held the top executive position at a technology company. If she succeeds, she’ll be legendary, and if she fails, well, nobody else has been able to do much with Yahoo lately either, so a stumble will likely not dull her shine.
Said Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, in reaction to her departure: "Yahoo! has made a good choice and I am personally very excited to see another woman become CEO of a technology company. Best wishes to Marissa and Yahoo!"
That's an official comment. Unofficially, the valley on this Monday afternoon is abuzz. This news will definitely dominate conversations all week, be they on Twitter or in line for a latte. Overall, the reaction is hugely positive; her fellow tech-geeks think that if anyone can save Yahoo, it's an engineer like Mayer. Actually, an engineer who specifically is Mayer, because she's an engineer that understands users, and that's a powerful combination. Suddenly, folks are planning to pay attention to Yahoo again. And putting their money in it—the stock is going up in after-hours trading. And it was looking like it'd be a quiet month...
Update 7/16/2012 10 pm:
That wasn't all the news from Marissa Mayer today. This evening she tweeted the following: "Another piece of good news today -
@zackbogue and I are expecting a new baby boy!" Congrats on the new job and the new baby!
Photo: IEEE Spectrum put Marissa Mayer on the cover of our April issue. Looks like she needs a new t-shirt, in Yahoo purple, which just happens to be her favorite color.)
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.