I’m thrilled to see Yahoo appoint Marissa Mayer as CEO. I don’t know her personally but from what I’ve heard from her at various conferences I believe it she is a great choice. I was at Yahoo from 2003 -2004 – Yahoo had already strayed from its product/customer experience roots and while not as apparent publicly was already internally confused as to priorities and inefficiently run – I was frustrated with this and left after a short time. Mayer appears to be just the antidote to this problem. This will be a huge step up for her – it is quite different to run a company rather than product divisions but we all have to jump in the deep end when we take those big steps forward and she seems to be quite the fast swimmer.
I wanted to comment on the various hand-wringing going on about her starting a job 6 months pregnant. It sure feels like you can’t please anyone these days – her comment about her plans to just take a few weeks off is either going to damage her child or set a bad precedent for family leave in general. I don’t believe either of these ideas are true. The difficult thing for Mayer is that all of this happens in the public eye but from a practical matter it is the same for parents all over.
In my view this all boils down to the fact that you do what you have to do at the time. If you are as loving and attentive to your child as possible and have a good support system things will be fine. I have gone through this 4 times under varying circumstances. My oldest son was born in the beginning of December during the second year of my masters program at Georgetown. I had 4 final exams that semester. I had already taken two then Derek was born the Monday after. Then back to studying for my last 2 finals. Todd was born a month after I started my first job at Informix. I didn’t qualify for disability yet so I just could take 2 weeks of vacation. Margot was born in June after I had been working for Informix for 5 years. I enjoyed taking 8 weeks of maternity leave when she was born and since Adam was born right after I left Gupta I also ended up with about 8 weeks off.
Sure – it was very nice to be able to have a “normal” maternity leave with Adam and Margot – it was preferable to the short recuperation time I had with Derek and Todd but I don’t think they turned out any worse for the experience. It was difficult for sure but I completed my exams and work and got through it with the support from my family. I don’t think we are any less “bonded” then I am with the younger two and the memory of the stress of juggling work with a newborn has faded.
Of course timing isn’t always perfect to allow men as much time as they would like off either. Our VP of Marketing Drew Garcia had his first daughter shortly after he joined SugarSync. At the time he was our only person in Product Management and we were in the middle of a big release so he couldn’t take much time off. Fast forward 2 years and he had two great employees who could cover for him when his second child was born giving him more flexibility.
Bottom line is a dedicated professional such as Marissa Mayer will get the job done, both professionally and personally. I wish her, as is customary in Jewish culture, B’Shaah tovah!**
**B’shaah tovah – congratulations to an expectant mother (literal translation “in a good hour,” means “at an auspicious time,” i.e. may whatever time your child is born be a good time.” Also the correct response to the announcement of a marriage engagement. In both cases, it is in in anticipation of a “mazal tov” for something to hope for that has not yet occurred.