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 here.

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).

Posted by jzawodn at August 08, 2006 09:21 PM

Reader Comments
# Masserati said:

I think, he should work in Yahoo, becouse Google is monopolist now(

on August 8, 2006 09:57 PM
# Richard Crowley said:

I'm looking forward to your thoughts on complacency.
My full response: http://www.richarddcrowley.org/blog/111/

on August 8, 2006 10:46 PM
# grumpY! said:

"we suffer from the innovators dilemma and can't kill any of our cash cows"

there is nothing wrong with a cash cow. they do deliver something useful - cash. the problem is that yahoo is unable to automate these cash cows so they produce cash without consuming disproportionate resources.

on August 9, 2006 10:11 AM
# Ray Everett-Church said:

Lots of people in aging dotcoms forget that "cash cows" are what pay for salaries and the other things that make it possible to do the fun things. Many of my consulting clients have engineers who seem to forget that stuff like those horrible rotten advertisements are what keep the lights on so that engineers can pleasure themselves with irrelevant and/or unprofitable projects, AJAX experiments, creating beautiful code, etc.

on August 9, 2006 11:39 AM
# John said:

From my time at Yahoo!:

The Bad:
1. Very reactive to Google - go in one direction, then go in another because Google is doing something - even if it might not make sense to Yahoo!

2. QA is not valued at all - especially compared to other companies I have been at.

3. Aging properties
Loved your post on "Why Google Finance Makes Me Sad"

How long had Finance, Groups, Photos, Mail, Calendar, etc. gone without major improvements? Years and years until their is some competition...

4. Schedules
Never hits them... lots of micro management and lack of proper program management. How long has Y! Mail Beta is going to be in beta ...it's been two years since Yahoo! bought Oddpost!

As for women - I think Yahoo! has a lot more women than most Silicon Valley companies!

on August 9, 2006 12:13 PM
# Sean said:

hmm, no women up there in the valley? I always thought that was a given?! *although I always hoped that there would be some hot Jean Grey or Trinity types would be lurking somewhere, oh well.

Thanks for confirming my assumptions though, and killing my fantasy, guys! =p

I'll have to find me a wifey here in LA or something, before I ever decide to venture on up that way! If my luck is as bad up there (with no women) as it is here (in this sea of socal babes), then I think I'll be here for a few more years! =/

on August 9, 2006 08:03 PM
# Anonymous Yahoo! said:

Some added points...


1) Don't overestimate the benefits, stated and otherwise. Flexible schedule, coffee, ability to be around cool toys, etc.


1) Sort of the not invented here thing, but between our own groups. Search has this REALLY bad. This is more about rebuilding an application b/c either you didn't take the time to search for a similar one or you feel you should "own" how that product goes forward and not those "other idiots."

2) Inability to coordinate remote offices well (think integration with other domestic offices/acquisitions or with India -- we could do better).

on August 10, 2006 12:24 PM
# Mike Baas said:

All the good looking women are at Google.

on August 11, 2006 07:55 AM
# adam said:

seems work at someplace just for women, so one point is enough, that's women.

on August 14, 2006 12:51 AM
# kim said:

re: where are the women? That's not fair... there's plenty of us single engineer chicks, attractive and fun ones even. You're just not looking in the right places, as we don't frequent the trendy bars and the like. And no, I don't work for Google.

on August 15, 2006 10:58 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:


Heh, I think that they were talking about women *at* work. But it's nice of you to tease us by saying "were here!" but not telling us where to look. :-)

on August 15, 2006 11:00 AM
# kim said:

*laughing* oh, sorry! Try striking up a conversation in say... the bookstore sometime when you see a cute chick in the sci-fi section. Chances are she's not buying the book for her boyfriend.

As for at work, I've become accustomed to being the only female in syseng, or on the entire project. I guess they're right.

on August 15, 2006 11:04 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Good point. Half the problem is taking the chance in the first place.

on August 15, 2006 11:14 AM
# MSFTer said:

Interesting post and response, but all 13 of these points apply to any large-ish tech company. Google doesn't suffer from some of these problems yet but I'm starting to hear complaints about dependencies and duplication there too.

1. Open Minds. People are fairly open minded. The NIH syndrome is probably a lot worse here than at Goog or Yhoo,
2. Smartness. Check
3. Never complacent. Check
4. Passion. Check - more in some of the newer xbox/live groups than in the older or more business oriented groups.
5. Diversification. Double Check!
6. Globalness. We sell Globally but develop only in Redmond - needs Improvement.
7. Great work environment. Check.

1. Control. More so in older groups like Windows, Exchange and Office and less in Xbox, Live or even DevDiv.
2. Innovation constipation. Not as true here. I see tons of new ideas everyday although only a few make it because of point #1.
3. Isolation. Oh Yeah...
4. Product duplication. Outlook, Windows Mail, Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Mail Desktop, Outlook Web Access - Need I saw more?
5. Analysis paralysis. Analysis, Triage - we've got it.
6. Where are all the women at? :-) There're some in Marketing, HR, UA etc... but I'd agree.

on August 17, 2006 09:42 PM
# Max The IT pro said:

Great insights on the Yahoo corporate culture Jeremy. Well, I'm from Canada via Barbados so never did the Silicon Valley (SV) thingy. However, with regards to finding the skirts, get out of the "geek rooms" and into the gym when aerobics are in full swing. You do know that the cute hotties like to stay in shape, right?? :-)

on August 21, 2006 09:27 AM
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