Marissa Mayer (third from right) leading APMs on a trip in 2007. Photo: Steven Levy from

Marissa Mayer’s recent appointment as Yahoo!’s CEO was undoubtedly a shocker for many in the tech world. However, she may have a secret weapon up her sleeve: hire and train talent from within.

According to’s Steven Levy, Marissa Mayer had for over a decade trained some of the best hand-picked talent in an accelerated leadership program at Google called Associate Product Manager (APM). While the name “Associate” sounds weak, the reality was that a number of those selected for the program grew rapidly as a result. The title APM became a badge of honour thanks to Ms. Mayer.

“Consider the first APM, a fresh Stanford grad named Brian Rakowski. He became a key leader of the team that built the Chrome browser and now is the VP of the Chrome operation. The second was Wesley Chan, who made Google Toolbar a success, then launched Google Analytics and Google Voice. He’s now picking winners for Google Ventures. Another early APM was Bret Taylor, who earned his bones by launching Google Maps. He left Google and co-founded Friendfeed, then become the Chief Technical Officer of Facebook.”

Being that Ms. Mayer was able to start such a program at Google, her thinking perhaps is to start a similar program at Yahoo!, which has unfortunately lost so much talent over the last few years. It will be interesting to see how this is managed because it’s difficult to see her running it. We see her being too busy running day-to-day CEO activities to spearhead such an endeavour at Yahoo! Her next challenge will be in hand-picking the ultimate: a replacement to herself.

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