Author Nicholas Carlson Tells Us What Startups Can Learn From Marissa Mayer

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There are few figures in the tech industry today who are more compelling than Marissa Mayer. So it’s not surprising that she makes for a very compelling subject in Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo, the new book written by Business Insider’s Chief Correspondent Nicholas Carlson. So we asked Carlson to swing by TechCrunch HQ while he was in town this week to chat a bit about the book.

You can see our full seven-minute talk in the video embedded above, but I wanted to pull out a couple of quotes here. While the book has gotten a lot of attention for providing a detailed and sometimes unflattering look at Marissa Mayer and her career, it’s apparent that he’s come away from all his research and writing with nothing but respect for his subject. He said,

“I think Marissa Mayer is a total rock star. I think she’s hardworking, creative, and no one in the entire world prepares better than her. It’s a superpower of hers.

…[Even if she steps down at Yahoo], she’s 39, and she’s on to great things. She could run another company next week.”

And while this particular book focuses mainly on Marissa Mayer’s work in the upper echelons of the corporate world, Carlson said that there are many lessons that people at startups can take away as well. He said,

“I tell the story of how Mayer, at age 22, 23, came out of Stanford. She was a great student, and she had great options. She could have gone and been a consultant, or gone into academia, and instead she works for this company with a weird name, called Google.

…She went in [to Google] as a coder. And she worked on this project, she actually worked on the first ad system for Google. And it kind of took her a few months. And then this guy called Jeff Dean came in. He is a superstar coder, I’m sure many of your readers are aware of him, and he just solved the problem in about three weeks.

And what Mayer did was really smart. She said, ‘Okay. I’m not going to be a superstar coder at Google. I can help this company in other ways.’ So she just started throwing herself at every problem she could. And she really achieved a lot, and she became basically Larry Page’s right hand. Every product that went live on the site had to go through her.

So the lesson is, throw yourself at whatever you can.”

Video shot by John Murillo and Yashad Kulkarni, edited by Yashad Kulkarni, produced by Felicia Williams