Google’s ‘it girl’ Marissa refuses to be stereotyped

In December,Marissa Mayer was vacationing in Africa when her boss,Jonathan Rosenberg,e-mailed her asking if she was leaving Google.....

Written by New York Times | Mountain View | Published: March 3, 2009 12:51:01 am

In December,Marissa Mayer was vacationing in Africa when her boss,Jonathan Rosenberg,e-mailed her asking if she was leaving Google.

As the gatekeeper of Google’s home page,and one of the company’s most closely watched public faces,Mayer controls the look,feel and functionality of the Internet’s most heavily trafficked search engine. Rumours of her possible departure had lit up the blogosphere and offices across Silicon Valley.

None of it,she assured Rosenberg,was true. And Mayer,who is the company’s first female engineer,still says she isn’t leaving. She says she has gone out of her way to inform Google’s founders,Larry Page and Sergey Brin,as well as Chief Executive Eric E Schmidt,that she is staying put.

People may not understand Mayer,but as the “it girl” at one of the world’s hottest companies,she is very hard to ignore. A popular guest on TV news programmes and talk shows,a Google-booster often quoted in print,and a rapid-fire presence on San Francisco’s social scene,she is the rare executive who has become a celebrity.

Mayer,33,plays a pivotal,serious role at Google. “Knowing Marissa,if she were considering leaving Google,she’d do it in an orderly way,” says Rosenberg,who is Google’s senior vice-president for product management.

Others have a different view. Matt Rabinowitz,a close friend who has known Mayer since their days on the Stanford debate team in the early 1990s,says he thinks she might move on.

When Mayer joined Google after graduating with a master’s degree in computer science from Stanford in 1999,the company was a shoestring start-up where nobody expected to get rich quick. She started out writing code and overseeing small teams of engineers,carving out a niche for herself by developing Google’s search offerings.

Google’s home page — spartan white embroidered with splashes of blue,red,yellow and green — mirrors her Wausau home and her penthouse. Since joining Google,she has introduced more than 100 products and features,many of which have thrived: Google News,Gmail and Image Search,for example.

“She is a catalyst for winning ideas,” Rosenberg says. “Marissa has been through the evolution of the Google playbook. She is part author. That is very important because she understands the design aesthetic of Google.”

Mayer says she is vexed by how some perceive her. “I am not a girl about town,” she says. “It isn’t how I project myself. It is how other people choose to project me.”

Despite her complaints,Mayer also relatively carefree about her privacy. Photographs of her and her fiance,Zachary Bogue,are instant Internet fodder.

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