Google's First Female Engineer


May 1, 2006 -- -- It's hard to believe that search engine giant Google hasn't even celebrated its 10th birthday yet.

But still, the success stories of people like Marissa Mayer, the company's vice president of search products and user experience, are among some of the nation's best.

"I was the first woman engineer hired," Mayer told John Donvan on ABC News Now's "Ahead of the Curve." "I was lucky to catch Google early, and I was just intrigued to come and work alongside a lot of really talented engineers."

Little did Mayer know that jumping on the Google bandwagon would put her at the top of the industry in less than a decade.

Mayer says that despite the company's continued success at creating varied services for its clients, Google has managed to stay on course.

"It's interesting that the original mission, which has remained unchanged during this entire time," she says, "was to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."

That, she says, is what services like Google Earth, which uses satellite photography to create an interactive map of the globe, are intended to do.

Google Earth is so good at doing its job that it has quickly become a program many Web surfers don't know how they ever lived without, Mayer says.

"It's really amazing how fast change happens, because as recently as a year ago, Google Earth didn't exist," she notes. "Now it's become a standard thing that people just expect."

Whether planning vacations and needing a bird's-eye view of the Eiffel Tower, or just wanting to find a hotel close to the Grand Canyon, Google Earth is just part of people's lives today, Mayer says.

Mayer carries with her an impressive resume that includes a Stanford education and stints at the UBS research lab in Zurich, Switzerland, and at SRI International in Menlo Park, Calif.

Though her history may paint the picture of an aggressive, take-no-prisoners businesswoman, Mayer says the atmosphere at Google has always been anything but.

"We've never been very outwardly focused on competitors in that we don't look at our competitors to see what we're supposed to do," she explains. "We use ourselves as our internal compass."

That compass has pointed the company toward a multimillion-dollar payday that has turned many Google employees into millionaires.

The secret to their success, she explains, is not in having large teams work on small projects but having small teams work on large projects.

"We thought if we had 100 times more engineers we would want to do 100 more different things," she explains. "Rather than do the thing we started off with 100 times better."

Don't be fooled though. Mayer says there are more people working on the core search team than ever before. So there is no need to worry that your searches will go unanswered.

Though she was the lone woman on a team of engineers when she began her career at Google, Mayer says the company keeps the doors open to women who want to get into computer sciences.

She says that colleges and universities report that 25 percent to 40 percent of their computer science majors are women, and Google tries to keep pace by maintaining that percentage of women on its engineering staff.

For women or anyone looking for a career on the digital horizon, Mayer says now is the time.

"I think it's a fun time and a fun place to be a geek," she jokes.

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