Will Marissa Mayer Give Yahoo Geek Cred A Boost? (YHOO)

Posted by · July 19, 2012 1:55 pm

Marissa MayerSince Yahoo’s naming of Marissa Mayer as its new CEO, there has been no shortage of dialogue about whether she is up for the challenge. Unfortunately, composing a disproportionate amount of that conversation has been Mayer’s pregnancy, which—unless I’m missing something—has nothing to do with her ability to take the helm at the struggling web company.

In fact, in a blog post made earlier this week, fellow EE blogger Jenn Prentice gives ample reason to conclude that such a blatant double standard should be dropped immediately (That discussion also continues in the latest episode of the EE Tech News podcast).

And in the midst of such hypocrisy by the press, one valid question about her suitability for the position remained largely unanswered: What do the geeks think of Marissa Mayer as CEO? Are her leadership qualities and plans for the company enough to bring some of that much-needed talent back to Yahoo?

Departing from the popular angle of fellow journalists to answer a more relevant question, Wired’s Robert McMillan went out of his way to do just that. Taking to the Wired Enterprise blog, McMillan writes:

[Finding talented engineers] will be the big challenge [for] Mayer if she wants to turn around one of the internet’s oldest brands. Yahoo was exciting before most of today’s top web players even exited, but it started a slide when it spurned Microsoft’s $45 billion acquisition bid four years ago.

Top engineering talent has fled the company and the site that was once the internet’s front door has developed a reputation as an also-ran. Today it’s worth $19 billion.

Speaking with Mike Sienkowski, a software engineering recruiter in the Bay Area, McMillan determined that recruiters are less than eager to send top talent to the ailing web company.

“Although they may not laugh at you, they may be quietly laughing at you,” Sienkowski is quoted as saying. “I wouldn’t do it. How do you get excited about it?”

However, with Mayer running the show, such a negative view of Yahoo may be on track to change, McMillan speculates. That is, “provided…that they haven’t completely written off the company,” he adds.

Unfortunately, that’s where the shadow of Yahoo’s past places Mayer at a disadvantage. Despite her clear talent and excellent credentials as employee number 20 at Google, that doesn’t change the fact that Mayer is Yahoo’s fifth CEO in five years, making for an environment among workers that is anything but optimistic. Still, McMillan writes, Yahoo is still known for treating its employees well and maintains a “better than average” review rating. However, “only 48 percent of Yahoo’s employees see improvement for the company,” he warns, which only seems lower when compared to Google’s 98 percent.

The article goes on:

About two-thirds of Yahoo employees would recommend the company to a friend. That’s not as good as Mayer’s former employer, Google (90 percent), but it hints at a place that’s not quite so demoralized as the tech punditry make it out to be.

And one other thing is clear. Although Yahoo is tarnished after years of management missteps—the failure to develop Flickr; the five CEOs in five years; the botched Microsoft bid—a lot of geeks genuinely want it to succeed.

With such optimism toward a company that has given consumers and workers every reason to doubt its longevity, all eyes are on Marissa Mayer. Will the new CEO cultivate an atmosphere that doesn’t just attract geek talent, but the best geek talent? More importantly, will her vision for Yahoo inspire the creativity and ingenuity necessary to maximize the value of that talent and restore Yahoo to its former greatness?

A lot of people seem to think so. And clearly even more hope so.

For more on new Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer…