Last week's post seemed to have touched a raw nerve. It reached the top of Techmeme and Hacker News, got reposted by Forbes, BusinessInsider, VentureBeat, Infoworld and was linked to by the likes of Fred Wilson. It even got me offers to appear as a talking head on TV which was fun.
The best part, however, was none of the above. I got a ton of email, tweets, Facebook messages from Yahoo employees both past and present. Though my post was mostly snarky and a misguided attempt to be funny, the responses I got were full of raw passion and emotion from people who obviously cared deeply about the company. And these people need to be heard.
I asked a few select people (from among those who reached out to me as well as people I knew from my Yahoo days) to write up an answer to a single question. They range from young, frontline engineers a few years out of school to senior leaders of the company. The question was -
What should Marissa Mayer do next?
Here's what they said (everything verbatim, minor edits for brevity).
Focus on a high quality and high bar organization. A culture that values technical excellence, engineering quality, operational excellence. Will not compromise by throwing shit against the wall to see what sticks. Great quality internally will lead to a culture of excellence, and will lead to winning products and attracting great talent. Quality requires investment, and that means some hard choices. When we do cuts and have layoffs, it s a smoke screen. I see teams being recreated, and folks being rehired back. Sad!!! Lets make the hard calls, stick to it; invest in quality, excellence and a platform for the future; execute ruthlessly.
-current employee, senior engineering leadership
personally I wish to see Marissa assemble "can-do" teams to fix broken products and update tired, old products to the present day. By that I mean, make our flagship products the best they can be, to where there's nothing obvious that users can complain about or find reason not to use them. For once I'd like to see some (even one) of our major products hailed as "the best".
-current employee, engineer
I would also love to see her get rid of all unnecessary in-house software initiatives that have open-source alternatives of equal quality. And even if an existing open source project doesn't exactly fit the bill, let's modify / extend it and contribute back to the community. It will increase the company's reputation and it will make it WAY easier to on-board new engineers if we work with tools and software that everyone already knows as opposed to a slew of proprietary things that take months to master for new hires.
And last but not least: Yahoo needs a 'labs' product stage. Let's put everything out there in front of our audience. The good and the bad. Let's stop being scared of failure and embrace the fact that we can learn from everything we put in front of users, successes and failures alike. Our products are going to be way better.
I sincerely hope Marissa is going to enable us to do the kick ass things we joined the company for in the first place
-current employee, designer
Focus on building stuff and getting it out there. It is important for engineers and product folks to see that the stuff that they're designing/building is getting out there. Y! should focus on removing the friction necessary to get products approved, built and especially rolled out. SE needs to get into the same page with product in that its equally (or more) important to roll things out than to only worry about site up.
Don't block products or product leaders by claiming that everything has to be Y! scale. Focus on getting the features working and fixed and then build for scale. In addition, be creative in the way products are made available to the public. Invite only or only certain percentage of the users getting a feature would be start.
Engineering leaders MUST be extremely technical and be able to code. Engineering decisions shouldn't be made by folks who get invited to meetings, but rather by people who can design and code.
-ex-employee, senior engineering leadership
If you work there or have worked there in the past, I would love to hear from you in the comments or over email.