Yahoo Rebuilding Research Division After 2012's Job Slash

Marissa Mayer's 2013 agenda includes getting 50 big thinkers with Ph.D.s into Yahoo's R&D department, according to a report.


Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer continues to leave no stone unturned in her pursuit of reinvigorating the Yahoo brand and driving up profits. Her latest efforts include rebuilding Yahoo's research and development division, Bloomberg reported Aug. 1.

In addition to growing Yahoo's talent pool through acquisitions—it has acquired at least 17 companies under Mayer—over the last seven months it has hired 30 researchers with Ph.D.s and hopes to hire 20 more by year's end, said the report. Mayer told Bloomberg that Yahoo is investing "heavily" to build back up Yahoo Labs, which saw major cuts under her predecessor.

In April 2012, former Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson laid off 2,000 employees, most of them in its products division, marketing, research and international units, calling the move a "bold" one toward a "nimbler, more profitable" Yahoo.

Yahoo Labs is led by Yahoo Vice President Ron Brachman, who before joining the company in 2005 was a director at the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an organization credited with helping to invent the Internet. (On his Web site, Brachman said that while at DARPA, he and colleague Zach Lemnios created a Personalized Assistant that Learns (PAL) program that became the backbone of Apple's Siri.)

In 2012, project development spending at Yahoo, which includes R&D, was down 27 percent, compared with 2008. When Mayer came on board—June 17 marked her one-year anniversary—spending in that area was at $199.6 million, for the three months ending in June 2012. For the three months ending in June 2013, it was at $236.2 million.

Mayer has an engineering background—she was in charge of search at Google for more than a dozen years, before taking the lead role at Yahoo—and she's "worked to put engineers back at the center" of Yahoo, said the Bloomberg report, emphasizing the importance of Yahoo's technology council. The council is a group of eight leaders, including Yahoo co-founder David Filo and Chief Architect Amotz Maimon.

If she, Filo and Maimon don't agree, from a tech-council standpoint, that a product is "excellent," Mayer told Bloomberg, "it doesn't happen."

Yahoo Also Investing in Real Estate

Yahoo's San Francisco team will be moving to a new office, Yahoo Chief Development Office Jacqueline Reses (she of the now-infamous end-of-working-from-home memo) announced on the Yahoo Tumblr blog Aug. 1.

The group will move from San Francisco's financial district to a space within the San Francisco Chronicle building, in the Market Street neighborhood, where it will keep company with a growing number of high-tech companies, including Twitter and Spotify.

"These days, transformation is palpable everywhere you turn at Yahoo. For this reason," wrote Reses, "we love the symbolism of moving into the Chronicle building, as it personifies the digital revolution in how people around the world consume media."

Collaboration has been a major theme for Yahoo under Mayer. She directed changes to the physical workspaces at Yahoo's Sunnyvale, Calif., headquarters, to encourage it, and it was the motivation behind the decision to end work-from-home arrangements.

Reses said the new office will give Yahoo space to further grow its team, and it will, of course, also include "great food, a game room, collaborative work stations and ample room for teams to work together and have fun."