Marissa Mayer isn’t listening to her critics. In February, the young CEO drew fire and ignited a debate after barring Yahoo employees from working outside the office. “I really didn’t mean for it to become an industry narrative about whether people could successfully work from home,” she said with a hint of bemused frustration at Wired’s Business Conference on Tuesday. “It’s gotten taken to hyperbole.”
The 37-year-old Mayer has attracted all kinds of criticism and speculation since her Yahoo appointment last summer made her the youngest head of a Fortune 500 company. But revealed she doesn’t read the commentators, good or bad. “I don’t click,” she said. She does see headlines and admitted to asking her husband occasionally to read and summarize anything that piques her interest because “it always sounds better from someone you love and loves you.”
Mayer’s perceived missteps may be the media’s focus, but they aren’t hers, she said. “We have a lot of work to do,” she said of her choice to ignore the naysayers. Mayer came to Yahoo as a rising star at Google, a move many judged as a step back to a company beyond redemption. But she wasn’t discouraged, she said. “I don’t know that the job could have been more tailor made,” she said. “I thought that would be really fun in terms of the challenge.”
Mayer was all business at the conference, talking about Yahoo’s cross-platform aspirations, building her dream team, getting into video, and being a major contender in search—all in all, rebuilding Yahoo to be a leader in the field it once dominated. The key, she said, comparing the company to genetics, is supercharging the existing good genes and “not trying to inject new mutant DNA.”
She sounded exceedingly positive about the prospects. “We’re really starting to get into the sprint,” she said. And the lofty aspirations that no doubt attracted her to Yahoo and vice versa haven’t dampened since taking the helm. “I want it to be a product that people use on a daily basis.” Her moonshot, she said, is “being on every smartphone, every tablet, and every PC for every Internet user.”
And about that no-working-from-home thing? “It was the right thing for us right now,” Mayer stressed. Now stop asking.