Mayer's credentials certainly don't need any spicing up - she has a B.S. in symbolic systems and an M.S. in computer science from Stanford, and was the 20th employee at Google in 1999. There she has overseen a huge amount of the company's successes from Google Search, to Google News, to GMail.
So why the excitement to move from one of the biggest successes of Silicon Valley to the struggling old-timer?
I'm incredibly excited to start my new role at Yahoo! tomorrow: pressroom.yahoo.net/pr/ycorp/23655…
— marissamayer (@marissamayer) July 16, 2012
She had been sidelined a little in Google in the last 18 months having been moved from VP of search, Google central product, to VP of location and local services, but more importantly she had likely risen as far as she was ever going to at Google - she was very unlikely to ever be CEO at the company. At Yahoo! she not only gets to be at the top of the tree, but she also gets to take on a struggling company and turn it around - or at least try damn hard to do so. If she doesn't manage to then she'll be forgotten as another exec that couldn't do so, but if she succeeds then she will be praised from near and far as a genius. The job is a little like being the goal-keeper in a penalty shoot out - if you fail it isn't your fault, but if you succeed you are the hero.
However you look at this, however, it is a definite coup for Yahoo! as Mayer is widely considered one of the best executives in the digital business, and having cut her teeth with the tremendously successful Google, she will be a huge asset to the old giant.