We are celebrating the extraordinary people responsible for invaluable technological innovations that have helped form the world as we know it. Their legacy cements them all in history as some of the brightest and most influential figures who continue to inspire today.

This time we look at software engineer and businesswoman, Marissa Mayer.

Marissa Mayer’s Background

Marissa Mayer was born in Wausau, Wisconsin, on 30th May 1975. Her father was an environmental engineer and her mother was an art teacher. She had demonstrable skill in maths and science. When working in a grocery during high school, Marissa would memorise number codes for produce items in order to streamline the checkout process.

Scientific Beginnings

Originally set on becoming a doctor, Marissa developed a passion for computers while studying at Stanford University. She earned both a Bachelor of Science in symbolic systems and a Master of Science in computer science, with a specialization in artificial intelligence. She also undertook research internships at SRI International in Menlo Park, California, and the UBS research lab in Zurich.

After leaving university, Marissa gathered 14 job offers. The final one was from a brand new technology company called Google. Marissa accepted their role to lead Google’s user interface and Web server teams and became the company’s 20th employee and its first female engineer. During her ten years at the company, she provided a significant contribution to the development of Google Maps, Google Earth, Street View, Google News and Gmail.

Her Contribution to Science

Marissa’s roles at Google encompassed those of project manager, designer and executive. She worked extensively on the interface of Google Search and over her ten years at the company, she was credited with increasing the number of daily searches from a few hundred thousand to more than a billion.

Meanwhile, web services company Yahoo had been struggling with both its identity and its finances. They were in search of a new CEO. They would need someone who knew how to pioneer and produce a steady stream of innovative products to help the company compete with large companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple. In July 2012, at only 37 years old, she was appointed as president and CEO of Yahoo. A year after Marissa took over Yahoo, the company’s stock price was up by 100 percent.

Her Legacy

Marissa’s appointment at Yahoo meant she became one of only 20 women running a Fortune 500 company. She worked hard to completely revitalise the culture at Yahoo. Prior to her appointment of CEO, the car park would be empty before 10am and after 4pm. Marissa employed elements of Google’s culture to inspire her staff, from introducing free food to hosting weekly ‘FYI’ question and answer sessions. Her attention to detail meant that the quality of Yahoo products improved massively, from their company branding to their apps. She breathed new life into a company that was being left behind by the big names of technology.

In September of 2013, Mayer was ranked number one by Fortune magazine in its annual “40 Under 40” list of business leaders.

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