You are probably wrong about Working Remotely, Yahoo and Marissa

by Brian Ritchie


Last Updated: Mar 6, 2013 06:52
965 words · 5 minutes read

Your way is not the only way.

I was having a conversation with one of my closest friends yesterday over a topic I felt very strongly about. Working remotely and the Yahoo – Marrissa Mayer controversy that seems to be trumpeted over the internet every day.

Let me preface by saying that I have had enough experience working with Operations and Techonology Teams from huge multinationals down to small startups bootstrapped or what you would call a successful company. So having seen and experienced a bunch of variations of working style and ethics I feel confident enough to be able to share my views on the topic.

Yahoo

Yahoo. Logo Courtesy of Wikipedia

If you think Marissa Mayer is outlandish, wrong, gone nuts or whatever term you fancy, in issuing the Non-Remote working request, YOU HAVE NOT THOUGHT IT THROUGH.

I’ll rephrase that – You never bothered to take a moment to analyze the situation deep enough, to take all factors into account and make a holistic decision. You fell prey to the swaying media and the opportunitistic few to rattle off some conjured up fantasy philosophical belief that you wanted to show off to the world. You also think and or believe there’s such a thing as cool San Francisco Startup Culture that is a template or model framework responsible for creating miracles and chose to cherry pick one portion of it – Working Remotely and stake your claim in the Hall of Fame or Young CEOs or Startup Gurus. All in all, you think you’re right because you assume there’s only one way to solve a problem.

Here are some points you need to consider before you pass judgement on Marissa that would help you make a more holistic decision as a CEO of a Mega Tech Company with prior experience :

1) Yahoo is in a dire state. Yahoo has been in a dire state for quite a while. Their founder decided to call it quits which is always a bad sign. They have had a bunch of CEOs come and go – none of them capable enough of making any true radical change and probably left the company at an equal stage if not worst.

When you take a look at a company in such a situation with hundreds of products and thousands of employees spread out and not communicating as efficiently as they should, there needs to be some form of radical change to upset the current order or status quo that is counter productive.

2) Marissa Mayer worked at Google. She one one of the most influential women figures there and has been known for her meticulous attention to detail and data driven decisions. She has clearly been exposed to the variety and variations of Google’s work culture. She understands how remote working works and understands how best to structure those environments having worked in them herself. Its not rocket science. High profile hires are hired purely for their knowledge transfer capabilities.

3) Most people who criticized Marissa forgot that they hold Incubators such as YCombinator and 500 Startups and Techstars and the list goes on in the utmost high regard but fail to take a moment to understand why they are what they are. Paul Graham has mentioned numerous times in talks as well as online, the reason why he does not allow or incubate remote teams. Its because it simply doesn’t work. It doesn’t work if you are rapidly trying to build multiple products and change others. It doesn’t work if you are attempting to launch a product with a Team of various skills and it definitely doesn’t work if you are trying institute new work culture and discipline.

This is exactly what Yahoo needs right now and Marissa probably figured it out. She needs to reignite the Startup culture within Yahoo. She needs to make it more hacker friendly, more build and ship compared to just maintaining age old products that have never changed for years. Take Yahoo Mail for instance.

Working remotely

Working remotely. Image courtesy of citrixonline

4) Yahoo’s Work culture needs a reboot. If you have chatted with anyone who has dealt with Yahoo in any capacity before (I have), you will understand that Yahoo’s work culture is never described as the energetic, young hacker-like persona that is used to describe Google and Facebook but instead is almost always described as the laidback hippie hacker. While this may have worked for Yahoo at one time and probably was the shining beacon of Tech culture of the yester years, its not what talented engineers are looking for now. Young talent, good talent infact want a place that not only fosters learning but keeps them on their toes, allowing them to break the barriers that surround the world we live in every day of every week. Hackers want to be challenged and right now, as amazing as some of Yahoo’s technologies are, their culture is ‘shooing’ away talent and this is NEVER good for a Technology-based company.

All of this among numerous other points related remote workers abusing privileges and of course operations and financial points which need to also be taken into account, I echo my support for Marissa Mayer cancelling remote working for now. I support the need for her to fix a wounded juggernaut of the Tech industry to save it from extiction not simply because of its size and effect on unemployment but also because Yahoo has contributed to some of the most crucial pieces of technology that power the web and it shouldn’t be let to die just yet. There’s much more things that we can expect from it and I am sure the media will say the same one year from now when Marissa has got it grounded and focused on execution.