Kara Swisher

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CFO Goldman Says Mayer Regime Has Been Improving “Quality of Life” at Yahoo


At a Morgan Stanley investment conference today, the affable Yahoo CFO Ken Goldman put in an appearance to talk about life at Yahoo since he got there last fall.

Unfortunately, he said almost nothing new in an onstage interview and, more importantly, did not address the hot-button controversy around the work-from-home ban that CEO Marissa Mayer instituted last week.

To be fair, that’s because Goldman was not asked by anyone about the issue, which is perhaps not a surprise at these hand-holding investor events. But he did make a veiled reference when touting its “strong leadership” now.

“What gives people confidence is that we’re making decisions,” he said. “The worst thing to do in a company is to waffle.” But Goldman then added obliquely that some people like those decisions and “some people don’t.”

No, they don’t! Woo-hee, has this one blown up!

The work-from-home debate has certainly exploded across the landscape this week, after an edict to eliminate the long-time employee policy at Yahoo, especially since most other Internet companies tout flexible work arrangements.

But, apparently, Mayer thinks Yahoos have abused the privilege — she noted at an employee meeting last week that VPN logs showed work-at-home staff did not sign on enough — and a Yahoo internal memo said that working “physically together” was the way to reenergize the lagging fortunes at the company.

Opinions inside Yahoo about the topic have been mixed but heated, essentially pitting employees against each other in an awkward way. But the reaction from outside the company has been decidedly negative.

At the Morgan event in San Francisco, Goldman instead focused on the sunnier side of the street at the Silicon Valley Internet giant, noting the Mayer regime was focused on increasing user engagement, international presence and broadening its demographics.

“The thing that just struck me over and over is how much has been done by this company that is really new,” said Goldman, pointing inevitably to the new free food policy — which has long been common across Silicon Valley — as well as a quarterly goal system, employee reviews, weekly FYI meetings and more.

Referring to internal polls showing increased confidence among staff, he added: “What really strikes me is how much has been done to really improve the quality of life at Yahoo.”

Goldman also touched on the need to increase revenue, spur innovation and also some upgrades of core products such as Yahoo Mail and its famous homepage, although leaving out that this had been in the works before the new leadership team was in place.

He also talked, as Mayer has a lot, about the importance of mobile to the future there, noting that the mobile revenue was still “modest.” (Goldman declined to say just how modest, but I posted that depressing number here.)

“We just got into this is a major way,” he said, asking investors for patience to get up to mobile speed at Yahoo. “I think we have been clear it will take us some time, but we have taken some positive steps.”

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— Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, in their farewell D post