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.