I recently came across two news items, one from Vanity Fair and the other from Inc, on possible future role for Marissa Mayer as the CEO of Uber. Uber has a very interesting year, including a high profile intellectual property dispute with Google’s autonomous driving car division: Waymo, a series of horrible sexual harassment cases, personal tragedy striking the current CEO and founder: Travis Kalanick and finally the most important and very wise decision by Travis to step down as the CEO of Uber.
Both the articles cast Marissa as a bad choice for Uber. I disagree with both the articles. Marissa’s time at Yahoo has been controversial. Initially portrayed as a savior for a yesteryear’s fallen tech behemoth, the opinions soon changed when it became clear that turning around Yahoo was almost impossible. Yahoo already lost their technology leadership way before Marissa was appointed as the CEO. There are very few second comings in technology, and Yahoo wasn’t one of them.
Uber on the other hand is a technology and market leader in ride sharing. If one looks at Marissa’s time at Google, converting a technologically dominant product portfolio into something even more enticing is her skill. Even at Yahoo, she has accomplished a great job. Finding a suitable suitor for Yahoo’s core business was the only way forward, other than the inevitable slow painful death of Yahoo.
Search and online advertisement business is a monopolistic business dominated by Google. Yahoo never had a real chance in the market to survive on its own. The current assets of Yahoo matches very well with Verizon’s existing business. Yahoo excels in curating content over a wide range of topics from healthcare to finance. Yahoo also has a great advertisement platform. Verizon needs both these businesses to differentiate itself as an internet and cellular service provider from its competitors. Getting Verizon to buy Yahoo is a great decision for the future prospects of Yahoo’s core businesses.
The key problem at Uber is a cultural one and not a marketing or technology issue. Despite all the media hoopla around an inclusive Silicon Valley, it is still a very homogeneous work culture. It will take years to fix these fundamental problems. Marissa isn’t the answer for that. But, during her time at Yahoo, Marissa has demonstrated a great fit into that stereo-typically sexist work environment, which Uber also suffers from. Uber needs a CEO who understands how to survive the horrible culture there, to institute long-term changes. One takeaway from Marissa’s tenure at Yahoo is her ability to survive in the cluster-fuck swamp. For Uber, therefore, Marissa Mayer is a great fit. Marissa knows how to keep the party going, and Uber needs to keep the party going at-least in the short term to keep all the brogrammers happy.
In summary, fixing corporate culture is a long-term mission for any company. In the short-term a new leader at Uber needs to understand and survive the current horrible culture there. Anyone, who expects the new CEO of Uber to magically wipe the slate clean is living in a self created bubble. Hiring Marissa Mayer won’t fix all of Uber’s problems in one day, but I am confident that she will be a great leader Uber needs right now. She will survive the swamp long enough to drain it, clean it and develop it into a beautiful golf course one day.
The video above is a great explanation of sexual harassment at workplace. As the founder and chief imagination officer at Ekaveda, Inc, I strive to ensure an inclusive, and a zero racial and gender discriminatory workplace. Our core team actively promote these ideas and foster a culture of radical openness. This honest expression of opinions on Uber’s next CEO choice is an attempt on behalf of Ekaveda, Inc, to incorporate fair and humane conditions in a modern workplace.
(Captions for pictures from top to bottom: 1) Marissa Mayer at the 2016 World Economic Forum, via Business Insider, 2) Marissa Mayer on Vogue cover in 2013, 3) The recently updated Uber logo via the Independent, UK, 4) The logos of Verizon and Yahoo at their respective headquarters buildings, Via Time, 5), Uber’s advanced technology initiative to develop a self driving car, obtained via Business Insider, 6) Ronald Reagan quote: “It’s hard, when you’re up to your armpits in alligators, to remember you came here to drain the swamp.” via Quotefancy.)