Sunday, September 25, 2005

BusinessWeek profile of one of my geek girl crushes: Marissa Mayer

BusinessWeek has published a profile of Marissa Meyer, a Director at Google, and someone I find admirable from what little I know of her. I saw Marissa speak on a panel last year and was disappointed that the moderator did not seem to get what a great resources she had, preferring to discuss a topic I, as a single childless woman, am tired of hearing about at every single women-oriented event I attend: balancing a family and work.

Somethings really jump out at me from the profile.

1. Yes, there is the obligatory physical description: "The woman charged with helping come up with Google's response is a tall, striking blonde with blue eyes. At 30, Mayer still carries herself with the erect posture of the ballet dancer she was in her youth." Actually, I can easily imagine a male exec being described as tall, striking, even as having good posture...perhaps "retaining the swagger of the boxing he did in his youth." Being blonde and blue-eyed? Probably wouldn't be noted in a profile of a male. [Check out Havi Hoffman's recap on the Yahoo! Search Blog of a recent SD Forum SIG meeting to see some sartorial description of the male panelists!]

2. The column is so rife with cliches. PhDs vs. MBAs, engineers vs. marketing, geeks vs. business-types. Yes, it's hard to deny those cliches do exist. I do wonder, however, whether part of Google's (or any other truly successful Silicon Valley company's) success is that they do not fall prey to the stereotypes as easily as other more mediocre companies. I'd like to see that explored, personally.

3. Mayer sounds like she executes good time management practices, and yet they still note that a "typical" work day is 9AM-Midnight. That's just brutal. People wonder why Silicon Valley is full of young guns? And I also wonder whether shooting down someone's idea really leads Mayer to issue "withering rebukes." It's all part of the Silicon Valley ethos that I don't like...a harshness that seems all very primitive and chest-beating, but doesn't really elevate the discussion or lead to better results.

4. I'm really wondering when Mayer gets added to their Exec. Team. Her responsibilities sound huge...and tremendously impactful. Her work ethic sounds intense. Her visibility and the good press she brings to Google has been increasing over the last year or two. And scanning the exec photos I see no shortage of young faces (starting with the founders of course) so her relative youth (30 years old) shouldn't be a limiting factor at a company like Google.

The description of Mayer's day-to-day life at Google is fascinating, and actually explains a lot about how Google ended up sponsoring BlogHer. See, I cold-emailed Mayer. Told her I was an admirer (with the blog links to prove it luckily.) Told her someone at the pre-SuperNova dinner had suggested her as a good person to contact at Google re: BlogHer sponsorship. And asked her to pass me along to the right person, if it wasn't her. And she did. And that person actually passed me to a third person. But never did they let the ball drop. Google was an absolutely essential sponsor. And the profile makes pretty clear that listening to new ideas and being open to them is a big part of Mayer's job, and that if she passes something through people pay attention.

So now you know: I have a geek girl crush. Marissa Mayer may be a decade younger than I, but she is still a role model. (And as I sit here in my 5th hour of working on a Sunday morning I guess I shouldn't get too down on a culture of 15 hour days.)

Heh, Wall Street Journal called me "chubby." I don't remember if they pointed out that I'm blonde or 6ft tall, though.
If you were a woman that would have been "plump", "Rubenesque" or "zaftig."

(None of which would make me feel any better.)
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