On June 18th, I got the call.
“I’m doing a CEO search. It’s a Fortune 500 company. It’s in the consumer Internet space. It’s in Silicon Valley—you wouldn’t even have to move. It’s the perfect job for you. The board is asking for you by name. Are you interested? It’s Yahoo.”
I had received similar calls before, and I wasn’t interested. I loved my job. I was proud of my role in growing Google, and I loved every new challenge that was thrown my way. But this time it was Yahoo, and that changed everything. I started using Yahoo before it was even called Yahoo. Yahoo defined the Internet. They helped get Google started. Yes, they had their ups-and-downs—but, the potential was huge. The alignment with my experience and career was uncanny: search, email, homepage, news, finance, maps, social, mobile and more.
However, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that I would or could make it work when I got that first phone call. At the time, I was pregnant, and I was thrilled. My soon-to-be-born son already had the most delightful personality—jumping and kicking hundreds of times a day, making me laugh out loud. After 13 years of really hard work at Google, I had been envisioning a glorious six-month maternity leave. However, if I took the new job, a long leave couldn’t happen. The responsibilities were too big, and time was of the essence—it just wouldn’t be fair to the company, the employees, the board, or the shareholders for me to be in the role, but out for an extended period of time.
I’ve now been at Yahoo for eight months, and I’m having a ball—there are great people and terrific ideas. It’s hard work, but I love to work hard. At the same time, starting a family with my husband has been all I hoped it would be and then some—joyful, intense, challenging. At five and a half months old, Macallister is tremendously fun—a big personality already. I live to spend time with him—be it to teach him sounds and songs, play a game of peek-a-boo (his latest obsession), or be his sidekick as he explores the world around him.
I’ve come to realize that being a mother makes me a better executive, because motherhood forces prioritization. Being a mom gives you so much more clarity on what is important. I’m very close to my own mother; she has always been my most important role model. I’m grateful to her and to my father for a lifetime of their love, attention, teaching and sacrifice. Over the past five short months, my appreciation has grown for all parents, especially those balancing work obligations, because I know they have that same clarity of dedication and purpose.
Looking back to reflect on the question: Could I really take the helm of Yahoo when I was 28 weeks pregnant? Even now, it sounds absolutely crazy. I considered if and how I could make it work: learning more about the role, getting words of encouragement from close friends and family, and developing a plan. I’ve always believed you can never have everything that you want, but with work and dedication, you can have the things that really matter to you. If I took the opportunity, it was clear that I would have to find a way to have time with my baby without a long maternity leave. I also knew going forward that there wouldn’t be much time beyond my job and my family for anything else. Ultimately, I decided I was fine with that, because my family and my job are what really matter to me.
Then, on July 11th, I got another call:
“You... should be smiling. You are the next CEO of Yahoo.”
New beginnings – professional, personal, or come what may – are always uncomfortable, but being open to them is the only way to grow. In the end, we are all capable of so much more than we think.