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A New Hope, and Not Just for Yahoo!

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Once again, Silicon Valley has created some buzz in the media.

Drowning out any news of product launches, business partnerships, strategic acquisitions, and even all those Google Glasses stories was a simple, straightforward press release announcing that longtime Google employee and VP Marissa Mayer had left her company of over a decade to join Yahoo! as CEO.

Though I never worked directly with Mayer, we're both women who followed similar paths, studying computer science at Stanford University and dedicating our professional careers to serving technology companies. With that in mind, I thought I'd provide some of my personal perspective on the exciting news.

First and foremost, this is a proud time for all of Silicon Valley. Technology may be traditionally perceived as a male-dominated industry, but it won't always be that way. Every day we see more and more powerful women leaders boasting outstanding achievements.

One that comes to mind is Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, the business-savvy complement to Mark Zuckerberg's obsessive product focus. Sheryl had a big moment during the Facebook IPO just a couple months ago, and women have been expanding their influence in the Valley since the '90s. For example, when it comes to tracking and predicting industry trends, very few -- women or otherwise -- can claim as much influence and respect as Mary Meeker, now a partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

The list goes on and on, and it just grew more impressive with Yahoo!'s surprising announcement this week that its new CEO is Marissa Mayer, a woman who joined Google in 1999 as the search giant's 20th employee and first female engineer. And her accomplishments are impressive.

But this isn't all about gender. It's also not about the fact that Marissa is due to have her first baby in October. After all, most male CEOs in Silicon Valley have children without it being a big PR story; I look forward to the day when the same is true for women CEOs.

More important than either of those points is that we could be seeing the resurrection of a slipping Silicon Valley organization.

When it came to light in May that Yahoo! had hired a CEO who had significant falsehoods listed on his resume, Silicon Valley veteran Michael Arrington blogged that the company had "hit rock bottom":

It doesn't matter if Yahoo is a shadow of its former self. Employees still get up every morning and come to work and do their best in a difficult environment. These are good people -- not all of them have left or been terminated over the years. And they deserve a CEO that they can believe in.

And so does the [Silicon Valley] community.

This week, embodying the renewed sense of optimism that has lifted our community, Arrington's completely come around:

[T]he bloom is back on the rose at Yahoo.

It doesn't mean the company will find a way to win. But like I said, the whole Yahoo paradigm has shifted.

[...]

Fixing Yahoo will be difficult, particularly since the company seemed to have grown comfortable with its decline and no longer had any fight left in them.

I expect Mayer will be fixing all that sooner rather than later.

It's a good day for Yahoo.

To speak more broadly, Yahoo!'s decision will do wonders for the next generation of women in technology and business.

Many of Yahoo!'s 12,000 employees will feel reinvigorated to be led by someone with impressive technical skills and vision, but once the glow of excitement fades, Marissa and her company have serious, down-and-dirty work to do. It's not going to be a walk in the park at Yahoo!, a sluggish and aging tech giant that has gradually lost focus over the years.

But then again, what could be more admirable? Who could be a better role model for young women weighing their options, wondering whether they could work at great companies or even run with their own businesses?

Like many of my fellow entrepreneurs, I didn't create Hearsay Social with my co-founder Steve Garrity because it would be fun and easy, but because we're at our best when faced with enormous challenges. I expect similar motivations fueled Marissa's decision to try her hand at revitalizing Yahoo!.

Congratulations, Marissa. On behalf of the entire Silicon Valley community, and women around the world, I wish you the best of luck.

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