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Marissa Mayer helps run one of the world's most innovative companies by being an amazing talent finder. As Google's vice-president for search products and user experience, she is the last stop before founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin on the way to final approval of any new feature that appears on the Web's most valuable real estate. She thrives by practicing obsessive fastidiousness in hiring, fanatical social networking in managing, and apolitical critiquing of new ideas.
Mayer fits the classic mold of Innovation Champion. Growing up in Wausau, Wis., she captained both the debate team and the pom-pom squad. Her father is an engineer, her mother an art teacher. Yet her brains (Stanford University degrees in symbolic systems and computer science, patents in Artificial Intelligence pending), position (keeper of the keys to search), grit (Google's first woman engineer), wealth (employee No. 20), youth (born in 1975), and even her looks (Midwest beauty) draw bloggers and headhunters alike.
Mayer has been a Champion of Innovation longer than most, long enough to create her Nine Notions of Innovation. Her Third Notion -- hire not just the best but the most brilliant -- is perhaps the most important. An enormous global talent hunt is under way, with companies shifting from process and quality control to creativity and empathy as the key competitive edge. Mayer gets this. She still personally approves every hire for the products group at the 6,000-plus person company. She scans the résumés of interns, many of them Rhodes Scholars. And she picks the Google Associates, who are hired right out of college and trained internally. Mayer also shepherds each class on a summer trip overseas to stimulate creativity.
She's a big reason why Google functions as a single, open social network, where every piece of work is laid bare on the company's intranet. This allows Googlers to look for those working on similar technologies, find relevant expertise, or join projects. At the same time, Mayer imposes on the wildly creative company a rigid, procedure-filled structure. Insiders call it the "Marissa Gauntlet." This is the intellectually titillating and intensely grueling process whereby new features are pitched and critiqued à la art school. New features are digitally projected onto the right side of a conference room wall, big as a movie screen. Everything Mayer and others say is transcribed and projected on the left. Underneath both looms a giant mega-timer. Everyone gets an average deadline of 10 minutes. Mayer and her team add and subtract to the feature as time runs down. It is iteration at lightning speed.
VP, Search Products & User Experience
8:00 a.m. Wake-up, get ready for work
9:00 a.m. Arrive at work, take conference call about a new technology
10:00 a.m. Meeting with Udi Manber, VP of engineering to discuss search, engineering staffing, etc.
10:30 a.m. Meet with Associate Product Managers to brief and prepare for upcoming international business trip
12:00 noon Product review with Larry and Sergey; review product direction and strategy and potential future collaborations
1:00 p.m. UI (User Interface) review to review/approve user interface designs/changes for multiple products
3:00 p.m. Meet with a new member of my team to welcome him and discuss career goals/trajectory
3:30 p.m. Meeting with Google Video product manager
4:00 p.m. Google Product Strategy meeting with Eric, Larry, Sergey, and other executives to go over weekly site traffic and a few special topics
5:00 p.m. Executive strategy meeting on Google China
6:00 p.m. Office Hours
8:30 p.m. Catch up on the day's e-mail
11:15 p.m. Visit to the Google Gym to run
12:00 p.m. Go home
12:30 a.m. Watch TV, do e-mail
3:00 a.m. Go to bed