Thoughts About Working at Yahoo!

    August 9, 2006

A few weeks ago, Matt McAlister wrote Thoughts about working at Yahoo! after one year in which he summarized his favorite and not so favorite things about working there.

I’d like to enumerate his 13 points and add my take, as someone who has worked in different parts of Yahoo for a bit longer. Why? Because that’s what blogs are for. That and pictures of kittens.

The Good

1. Open Minds. Agreed that people mostly are open-minded. But Yahoo has a bad case of Not Invented Here Syndrome in some engineering groups.

2. Smartness. While I have been in meetings with useless people, they’re really not that common. Luckily, most of them seem to go away after a while.

3. Never complacent. I have to disagree strongly with this one. Many parts of Yahoo! have been complacent during my tenure. Some more than others. Matt cites a “constant stream of advances” but I think that’s unrelated to complacency. More on that in a future post.

4. Passion. Yup. What he said.

5. Diversification. We’re well diversified but have been known to take our eye off the ball now and then. Either that or we don’t always do a good job at recognizing that the ball has changed. But we’re still far above average here.

6. Globalness. Though we’re often shielded from this in Sunnyvale, it’s really true. I’ve been lucky enough to visit a few international Yahoo! offices and it’s always an enlightening experience. Always.

7. Great work environment. Agreed.

The Bad

1. Control. I couldn’t agree more. My most hated response to a good idea is “it’s on the roadmap.” Don’t even get me started on that.

2. Innovation constipation. First of all, I’m glad to see he worked constipation into the post. But he’s basically saying that we suffer from the innovators dilemma and can’t kill any of our cash cows. That’s quite true. But that’s not the only type of innovation around either. So I partially agree.

3. Isolation. I’m less concerned about geography. You can’t swing a dead cat in Silicon Valley without hitting someone running a new Web 2.0 startup. This may be a problem for some people, but I think it’s an individual trait and not specific to the company as a whole.

4. Product duplication. Without an example or two, I’m not quite sure what he’s getting at here.

5. Analysis paralysis. This one hits the nail on the head. There is no greater problem that I see today at Yahoo!

6. Where are all the women at? Dude, you’re in Silicon Valley! :-) Seriously, they’re around, but many are not in engineering or product management jobs. But look at PR, HR, or Marketing someday. They’re crawling with women. Most of them aren’t single (or aren’t available), and that’s probably the real complaint.

I’d love to see what other Yahoo’s think are strengths and weaknesses are (in general terms only–we don’t want to get anyone in trouble).

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Jeremy Zawodny is the author of the popular Jeremy Zawodny’s blog. Jeremy is part of the Yahoo search team and frequently posts in the Yahoo! Search blog as well.

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