Shalom Life | August 31, 2015

Yahoo Sends its Top Employees to Israel

What brings the participants of Yahoo's exclusive executive training program to Israel? CEO Marissa Mayer 'always believed there is something special about Israel'

By: Sagi Cohen

Published: July 1st, 2015 in Business » Israel

Yahoo Sends its Top Employees to Israel

Participants in Yahoo's program at the Tel Aviv development center.


In 2002 Marissa Mayer realized she had a problem. At that time she was already a senior product manager at Google and needed new product managers in the young, growing company. However, Mayer discovered that many experienced executives, who have been managing complex businesses, were not suitable for the job because they lacked the necessary technological knowhow and understanding.

This motivated Mayer into starting a super-exclusive program that trains the future generation of Google's product managers. Only the best talents were admitted to the program. Dubbed APM (Associate Product Manager), the Program soon became a great success. Its graduates filled the most central positions at the search giant while other founded successful startup companies in the Silicon Valley. The American media described APM as the "high tech rock star incubator", "the diamonds" or "Mayer's secret weapon".

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer (Photo: AFP)

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer (Photo: AFP)

In 2012, Mayer was named CEO of Yahoo, the internet mammoth, in attempt to bring it out of the crisis it was in. At the time, Yahoo suffered from a poor image of the sinking ship with many of its talented employees defecting to greener fields. Mayer was determined to attract young and fresh talents, so she established the APM at Yahoo too. Fernando Delgado, a senior product development director in Yahoo's headquarters and a Google APM graduate himself who moved from Google to Yahoo with Mayer, was appointed head of the Yahoo training program.

Last week, Delgado visited in Israel with the ten participants of the prestigious program. "When we joined Yahoo we realized we need to redefine the role of the product manager and recruit managers who fit the bill," Delgado said in an interview with Mamon. "A product manager needs in-depth technical understanding to win the trust of the engineers, but also managerial capabilities to lead them in the right direction."

Product management is one of the most important and intricate roles in a technological company, small or large. The product manager is responsible to leading the product development, be it an application, software or service, in keeping with the users' needs and the business goals. The product manager determines how the product will work, how it would look like and what it will be used for. To achieve all this, he or she needs to work with all corporate functions, most importantly with the technical engineers and teams.

Yahoo's APM is an accelerated training track and a talent incubator designed to nurture the future generation of executives. The candidates considered for the program are mostly the outstanding students of universities and colleges who have not yet accumulated significant work experience. The screening process is meticulous: only 10 were selected out of 3,000 applicants to the most recent cycle, following a long series of interviews and tests. The two-year training program takes the participants also through hands-on management positions at Yahoo. The graduates of the first class of 2013 already found their place in the various Yahoo services. While they are expected to remain at Yahoo for years after completing the program, no contractual commitment is required.

Fernando Delgado.

Fernando Delgado

What are you looking for in the applicants?

Delgado: "We watch out for four key qualities: 1. Technical people with relevant degree such as computer science, who can write code and understand what software development involves; 2. analytical people who have the natural propensity for solving abstract problems; 3. people with intuition and natural feel for products who can, for example, analyze why one product fails where another succeeds and what distinguishes a good feature from a bad one; 4. and finally, good interpersonal communication capabilities."

Could you give us an example of questions you pose to the candidates during the screening process?

"Here's a question which is actually a task: 'you have a team of 10 engineers and you were assigned to re-launch the Yahoo Messenger service. What would you do?' the candidate has several seconds to think and answer. We do not expect a 'correct' answer; rather, we want to see which arguments they will use and what the underlying creative thinking is. Here is another example: 'what happens when you type Yahoo.com in the browser?' the purpose here is to ensure they know how the internet works technically behind the scenes."

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