Careers and Business Life Cycles

Marissa Mayer was involved in all aspects of high school from arts to sports.  She also had a strong interest in math and science.  The Governor of her home state of Wisconsin nominated her to be one of two representatives to the National Youth Science Camp held each year in West Virginia.

She went to Stanford and originally was preparing to become a pediatric neurosurgeon.  She switched majors to symbolic systems (a combination of philosophy, psychology, linguistics and computer science).  She followed this with a Master’s degree in Computer Science with an emphasis on artificial intelligence.

Marissa was heavily recruited, but chose to start her career at Google.  She was the 20th employee and the first woman hired.  Her attention to detail led to a number of promotions.  Her efforts at Google involved the design of Google’s homepage, Gmail, Chrome and Google Earth.  She was a member of a three-person team to develop Google AdWords, which made up most of Google’s revenue.  She eventually became a VP of Google.  Throughout her career at Google, she mentored young employees, many of who have become leaders in technology companies.  She also taught introductory computer programming at Stanford and mentored promising high school students.

On July 16, 2012, Marissa was appointed President and CEO of Yahoo.  It was also the day she announced that she was expecting her first child, a boy.  She would have twin girls three years later.  Yahoo had been struggling, and Marissa worked to change the culture.  Unfortunately, not all of the changes she made were well received.  After Marissa had been with Yahoo for five years, she announced her resignation.

Marissa accepted the challenges of Yahoo as a lesson and decided to start a new venture:  Sunshine.  The mission of Sunshine is to “make mundane tasks effortless, free up your time and make it easier to be thoughtful.”  The first product offered by Sunshine is Sunshine Contacts, an app that lets users manage their communications with others.

Marissa’s career path is representative of many professionals.  Some of us are great with start ups while others of us are better at turnarounds.  The majority of professionals; however, are more comfortable with careers in well established business where day-to-day assignments don’t vary by much.  We don’t often connect our careers to the life cycle of the businesses we work for.  It often takes different types of personalities to start up something than it takes to restore something.  Both involve a lot of change, but the changes are quite different.  For those who don’t like change, there are still plenty of career options in established businesses where assignments are more routine.

* * *

“I always did something I was a little not ready to do.  I think that’s how you grow.”
– Marissa Mayer

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.