There comes a moment in every very ambitious person’s life when she sees with perfect clarity that the path before her is blocked. For Marissa Mayer, Google employee No. 20 and Silicon Valley’s reigning “geek queen,” this moment occurred last year, when her former boyfriend, Google co-founder Larry Page, kicked her off the company’s elite operating committee, to which she had been appointed the previous year.
Page had taken over the running of Google’s day-to-day operations from Eric Schmidt, the company’s longtime CEO, in April 2011, and immediately launched a major renovation of the company’s structure and priorities. Mayer was bruised in that reshuffling. For about a dozen years she had presided over “search”—which is to say everything the user saw, felt, and experienced when navigating Google—but now she was shunted away from that core business and put in charge of “local”—maps, restaurant recommendations, and the like. This was arguably a demotion and at best a lateral move. And when Page overhauled the operating committee, or “OC,” Mayer’s reduced status was made both explicit and public. The committee was renamed “the L-Team,” after the boss, and he pushed Mayer off in order to make room for a handful of others, including Android and YouTube masterminds Andy Rubin and Salar Kamangar. “She was not included,” says her friend Dylan Casey, who left Google last year. The L-Team is Google’s Sanhedrin, a group of insiders that decides strategy and vets acquisitions. If you’re on it, you have a hand in shaping Google’s future—and, therefore, the future of global technology. If you’re not—well then, you have Google on your résumé and a net worth estimated at $300 million.