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Marissa Mayer is an enigma, despite her carefully crafted image

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Marissa Mayer Yahoo Tumblr (STOCK)
Marissa Mayer Yahoo Tumblr (STOCK)

Marissa Mayer has long played powerful roles in Silicon Valley, both as the face of Google and as Yahoo's CEO. However, the story of her rise to the highest echelons of Silicon Valley power is as much an inspiration in the tech world as it is fraught with long-simmering conflict. In a lengthy feature in Vanity Fair, Mayer is a cypher. And as one person who worked closely with her told the magazine, "It is a mistake to paint her as an angel or as a devil."

"All of these narratives have a grain of truth to them."

To the outside world, Mayer is the sunny yet determined mind who helped shape Google's public image and has spent the last year turning Yahoo's fortunes around as its chief executive. She's taken incredible care to perfect that, lining herself up with the likes of Einstein and Churchill as a hard worker. However, while all would agree that she is incredibly smart and dedicated, those who've worked under her tell conflicting stories about who she is and what it's like to work for her. Some sing her praises. "She has almost single-handedly transformed the culture and made people proud to work [at Yahoo] again," Eric Jackson of Ironfire Capital told VF. Others are not so kind. "Is she a great product person and technologist?" one former Google employee asks. "You bet. But is she insecure and needs attention? You bet. Is she narcissistic? You bet. All of these narratives have a grain of truth to them." Ultimately, there are multiple narratives to Mayer's increasingly complex image — something she's taken great pains to perfect.