So Yahoo! have announced that their new CEO (the third in the last year) will be Marissa Mayer, an executive from Google.
This is big news but why? It’s not just that she’s a woman or that she’s only 37 or that she’s leaving the dominating Google for the beleaguered Yahoo!. Actually it is all of these things but to me it’s also that she used to be a software engineer. For start-ups, it’s obviously common to have a techie as the CEO since they are normally the ones that kicked things off but for mature companies it’s almost unheard of. Then again, maybe this is Yahoo!’s style since they did the same with previous CEO Carol Bartz, another pure CompSci grad and former “field analyst”. Tech companies like their C-levels to have some level of CompSci but normally along with some sort of business degree. It’s just not that usual to see engineers make it to that level.
Developers are normally seen as being unable to see the bigger picture or stay hands off. They struggle to move from an individual contributor to a strategic force multiplier since there is rarely a sense of achievement at the end of the day. In strategic posts decisions may take months or even years to come to fruition, completely unlike the minutes or even seconds long cycle of code>compile>test>deploy that developers are used to.
Whatever the successes or failure of Marissa Mayer, and I hope she does better than Ms. Bartz, it shows that these attitudes are changing as people realise that developers are more then just code monkeys.