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Biography / Profile of Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO and Former Google VP

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Biography / Profile of Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO and Former Google VP

Marissa Mayer accepts a 2009 Woman of the Year Award sponsored by Glamour Magazine

© Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Name:

Name Marissa Ann Mayer

Current Position:

Chief Executive Officer and President of Yahoo!, Inc. - July 17, 2012-present

Former Positions at Google:

 

  • Vice President, Local, Maps and Location Services - October 12, 2010 to July 16, 2012
  • Vice President, Search Products and User Experience, November 2005-October 2010
  • Director, Consumer Web Services, March 2003-November 2005
  • Product Manager, July 2001-March 2003
  • Software Engineer, June 1999-July 2001

 

Born:

May 30, 1975
Wausau, Wisconsin

Education

High School
Wausau West High School
Graduated 1993
Undergraduate
Stanford University, Bachelor of Science in Symbolic Systems specializing in Artificial Intelligence
Graduated with honors June 1997
Graduate
Master of Science in Computer Science specializing in Artificial Intelligence
Graduated June 1999
Honorary Degrees
Honrary Doctorate of Engineering, Illinois Institute of Technology - 2008

Family Background:

Marissa Ann Mayer is the first child and only daughter of Michael and Margaret Mayer; the couple also have a son, Mason, born four years after his sister. Her father was an environmental engineer who worked for water-treatment plants and her mother was an art teacher and stay-at-home mom who decorated their Wausau home with Marimekko prints -- a Finnish company known for its brightly colored designs against a clean white background. This design esthetic influenced Mayer's own choices for Google's user interface years later.

Childhood and Early Influences:

Mayer states her childhood was "wonderful" with a world-class ballet school and many opportunities right in town. Both parents were dedicated to nurturing their children's interests. Her father built a backyard ice-rink for her younger brother and her mother drove her to numerous lessons and activities over the years. Among those she sampled: ice skating, ballet, piano, embroidery and cross stitch, cake decorating, Brownies, swimming, skiing and golf. Dancing was one activity that clicked. By junior high, Mayer danced 35 hours a week and learned "criticism and discipline, poise and confidence" according to her mother. Other influences figure prominently in her childhood. Her teal-painted bedroom featured Techline furniture (establishing early on her preference for clean lines and minimalist design), and one concession to girlhood was her Jackie Kennedy doll collection.

 

Laura Beckman Anecdote:

Mayer frequently mentions a valuable life lesson she learned from Laura Beckman, the daughter of her piano teacher and a talented volleyball player. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Mayer explained: "She was given the choice of joining the varsity team...[and] sit on the bench for the year, or junior varsity, where she would start every game. Laura shocked everyone and chose varsity. The next year she came back as a senior, made varsity again and was a starter. The rest of the players who had been on junior varsity were benched for their entire senior year. I asked Laura: 'How did you know to pick varsity?' Laura told me: 'I just knew if I got to practice and play alongside the best players every day, it would make me better. And that's exactly what happened.'"

 

High School:

Mayer was president of the Spanish Club, treasurer of the Key Club, and involved in debate, Math Club, academic decathlon and Junior Achievement (where she sold fire starters.) She also played the piano, took babysitting lessons, and continued to dance; her years of classical ballet training helped her earn a place on the precision dance team. Her debate team won the state championship her senior year which helped her hone her skill of identifying problems and solutions quickly.

She credits her work ethic to a job as a supermarket cashier where she memorized produce codes in order to check out items as fast as employees who'd been there 20 years. Her highly competitive nature was apparent in her interview with the LA Times: "The more numbers you could memorize, the better off you are. If you had to stop to look up a price in a book, it totally killed your average." While experienced cashiers averaged 40 items per minute, Mayer held her own, averaging between 38-41 items per minute.

College and Graduate School:

As a high school senior, Mayer was accepted to all ten colleges she applied to, eventually turning down Yale to attend Stanford. She entered college thinking she'd be a pediatric neurosurgeon, but a required computer course for pre-med students intrigued and challenged her. She decided to study Symbolic Systems which included courses in cognitive psychology, philosophy, linguistics and computer science.

While at Stanford she danced in "The Nutcracker" ballet, engaged in parliamentary debate, volunteered at a children's hospital, was involved in bringing computer science education to schools in Bermuda and began teaching her junior year.

She continued on at Stanford for graduate school where friends recall she pulled all-nighters and often appeared in the same clothes she wore the day before.

Early Career Path:

Mayer served at the UBS research lab in Zurich, Switzerland for nine months and at SRI International in Menlo Park prior to joining Google.

Interview with Google:

Mayer's initial introduction to Google was decidedly inauspicious. A graduate student in a long-distance relationship, she recalls "pathetically eating a bad bowl of pasta in my dorm room by myself on a Friday night" when a recruiting email arrived from a tiny search engine company. "I remember I’d told myself, 'New emails from recruiters — just hit delete.'" But she didn't because she'd heard about the company from one of her professors and her own graduate studies focused on the same areas the company wanted to explore. Although she'd already received job offers Oracle, Carnegie Mellon and McKinsey, she interviewed with Google.

At that time, Google only had seven employees and all the engineers were male. Realizing that a better gender balance would make for a stronger company, Google was eager for her to join the team but Mayer didn't immediately accept.

Over spring break, she analyzed the most successful choices she'd made in her life to see what they had in common. Decisions about where to go to college, what to major in, how to spend summers all seemed to revolve around the same two concerns: "One was, in each case, I’d chosen the scenario where I got to work with the smartest people I could find....And the other thing was I always did something that I was a little not ready to do. In each of those cases, I felt a little overwhelmed by the option. I’d gotten myself in a little over my head."

Career at Google:

She accepted the offer and joined Google in June 1999 as he 20th employee hired by Google and its first female engineer. She went on to establish the look of Google's interface as a search engine and oversee the development, code-writing, and launch of Gmail, Google Maps, iGoogle, Google Chrome, Google Health, and Google News. She heavily influenced the company's biggest successes such as Google Earth, Books, Images and more, and she curated Google Doodle, the morphing of the familiar homepage logo into designs and images celebrating special events around the world.

Named a Vice President in 2005, Mayer's most recent role had her supervising the company's mapping products, location services, Google Local, Street View and many other products. During her 13-year tenure she led the product management effort for more than a decade during which Google Search grew from a few hundred thousand to over a billion searches per day.

Several patents in artificial intelligence and interface design carry her name as inventor. She has been very vocal in her support of smart product design, intense corporate teamwork and girl power.

Move to Yahoo

She assumed the reins at Yahoo as CEO on July 17, 2012, where she faces a tough battle to restore morale, confidence and profitability. Mayer is the company's third CEO in a year.

Move to Yahoo:

She assumed the reins at Yahoo as CEO on July 17, 2012, where she faces a tough battle to restore morale, confidence and profitability. Mayer is the company's third CEO in a year.

Personal:

Mayer dated current Google CEO Larry Page for three years. She began seeing internet investor Zach Bogue in January 2008 and they married in December 2009; the couple are expecting a baby boy October 7, 2012. She owns a $5 million luxury penthouse atop the Four Seasons hotel in San Francisco and later purchased a Palo Alto Craftsman home, but not before looking at more than 100 properties. An aficionado of fashion and design, she is one of Oscar de la Renta's top customers and once paid $60,000 at a charity auction to have lunch with him.

Mayer is an art collector and commissioned preeminent glass artist Dale Chihuly to create a 400-piece ceiling installation featuring blown glass sea flora and fauna. She also owns original art by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Sol LeWitt.

A cupcake aficionado, she's been known to study cupcake cookbooks, create spreadsheets of ingredients, and test versions of her own before writing new recipes. "I’ve always loved baking," she once told an interviewer. "I think it’s because I’m very scientific. The best cooks are chemists.'

She describes herself as "really physically active" and told the NYTimes that she's run the San Francisco half marathon, the Portland Marathon, and plans on doing the Birkebeiner, North America's longest cross country ski race. She's also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.

She regards her ability to anticipate trends as one of her assets: "Back in about 2003, I correctly called cupcakes as a major trend. It was a business prediction, but it's been widely interpreted as [that] I just like them."

Other frequently-mentioned details about Mayer include her love of Mountain Dew and how little sleep she requires -- only 4 hours a night.

Board Membership:

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
San Francisco Ballet
New York City Ballet
Wal-Mart Stores

Awards and Honors:

Matrix Award by the New York Women in Communications
Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum
"Woman of the Year" by Glamour magazine
Named one of Fortune's 50 Most Powerful Women in Business at age 33 making her the youngest woman ever to be included

Personal:

Mayer dated current Google CEO Larry Page for three years. She began seeing internet investor Zach Bogue in January 2008 and they married in December 2009; the couple are expecting a baby boy October 7, 2012. She owns a $5 million luxury penthouse atop the Four Seasons hotel in San Francisco and later purchased a Palo Alto Craftsman home, but not before looking at more than 100 properties. An aficionado of fashion and design, she is one of Oscar de la Renta's top customers and once paid $60,000 at a charity auction to have lunch with him.

Mayer is an art collector and commissioned preeminent glass artist Dale Chihuly to create a 400-piece ceiling installation featuring blown glass sea flora and fauna. She also owns original art by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Sol LeWitt.

A cupcake aficionado, she's been known to study cupcake cookbooks, create spreadsheets of ingredients, and test versions of her own before writing new recipes. "I’ve always loved baking," she once told an interviewer. "I think it’s because I’m very scientific. The best cooks are chemists.'

She describes herself as "really physically active" and told the NYTimes that she's run the San Francisco half marathon, the Portland Marathon, and plans on doing the Birkebeiner, North America's longest cross country ski race. She's also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.

She regards her ability to anticipate trends as one of her assets: "Back in about 2003, I correctly called cupcakes as a major trend. It was a business prediction, but it's been widely interpreted as [that] I just like them."

Other frequently-mentioned details about Mayer include her love of Mountain Dew and how little sleep she requires -- only 4 hours a night.

Awards and Honors

  • Matrix Award by the New York Women in Communications
  • Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum
  • "Woman of the Year" by Glamour magazine
  • Named one of Fortune's 50 Most Powerful Women in Business at age 33 making her the youngest woman ever to be included

Board Membership

  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  • San Francisco Ballet
  • New York City Ballet
  • Wal-Mart Stores
Sources:

"Biographical details on Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer." Associated Press at Mercurynews.com. 17 July 2012.
Cooper, Charles. "Marissa Mayer: The bio that made her Yahoo's next CEO." Cnet.com. 16 July 2012.
"Executive Profile: Marissa A. Mayer." Businessweek.com. 23 July 2012.
"From the Archives: Google's Marissa Mayer in Vogue." Vogue.com. 28 March 2012.
Guthrie, Julian. "The adventures of Marissa." San Francisco Magazine at Modernluxury.com. 3 February 2008.
Guynn, Jessica. "How I Made It: Marissa Mayer, Google's champion of innovation and design." LAtimes.com. 2 January 2011.
Hatmaker, Taylor.
"5 Surprising Facts About Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer." Readwriteweb.com. 19 July 2012.
Holson, Laura M. "Putting a Bolder Face on Google." NYTimes.com. 28 February 2009.
Manjoo, Farhad. "Can Marissa Mayer Save Yahoo?" Dailyherald.com. 21 July 2012.
"Marissa Mayer." Profile at Linkedin.com. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
"Marissa Mayer: The Talent Scout." Businessweek.com. 18 June 2006.
May, Patrick. "New Yahoo CEO and former Google star Marissa Mayer has her work cut out for her."Mercurynews.com. 17 July 2012.
May, Patrick. "Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's Bio: Stanford to Google to Yahoo." Mercurynews.com. 17 July 2012.
Netburn, Deborah. "New Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is a cheesehead, Wisconsin proclaims." LAtimes.com. 17 July 2012.
Taylor, Felicia. "Google's Marissa Mayer: Passion is a gender-neutralizing force." CNN.com. 5 April 2012.

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