As a Yahoo(YHOO) shareholder, I was thrilled with the news that Marissa Mayer would become CEO. I share her
engineering background, but found it difficult to explain to outsiders exactly how this changed the game for Yahoo, particularly in terms of the company’s ability to attract top engineering talent. I’ve always had a hard time convincing non-engineering management that engineers are not Legos- they don’t all have identical skills and speeds. In fact, there’s a power law, where the top engineers are an order of magnitude more productive and innovative than the rest.
Though it is true that the man-month is mythical, there is also a powerful network effect that can be unleashed by having talented engineers interact in unstructured ways. This is the secret of Google’s(GOOG) 20% time, and Facebook’s(FB) famous Hackathons.
I was pleased then, to see “Marissa Mayer To Board: Yahoo Needs More Engineers” at Business Insider this morning.
We know what one of those ideas is, and it’s pretty simple: Mayer wants to hire more front line engineers – a lot more.
According to a source familiar with Mayer’s conversations with Yahoo’s board prior to her hiring, she told the board that a quick examination of its headcount and org structure made it clear to her that the company does not have the kind of engineer-to-everyone else ratio that Google or Facebook has, and that fixing that ratio would be among her top priorities.
This might seem like an obvious move, but consider that before Yahoo’s board hired Mayer, it considered making Ross Levinsohn CEO. One of his first moves was going to be to get rid of thousands of engineers by shipping off Yahoo’s ad tech business.
Likewise, Carol Bartz’s signature move was shipping Yahoo’s search business – and many of the engineers running it – off to Microsoft.
- “Yes, Keep Moving”: Marissa Mayer’s First Memo to Yahoos (Natch!) (allthingsd.com)
- 3 Reasons Why New Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer Could Get It Right (dailyfinance.com)
- A Woman in Tech/Media’s Take on Yahoo’s Hiring of Marissa Mayer as CEO (jorydesjardins.com)