Google Vice President of Search Products and User Experience Marissa Mayer focused on what the company is best known for, searching, throughout her commencement address at Illinois Institute of Technology's 2009 ceremony, held this past weekend on IIT's Main Campus.
Google's first female engineer, Mayer, addressing more than 1,500 graduating undergraduate, graduate and Ph.D., students, stressed the importance of key items throughout their lives: passion, smart people, allies, courage and places of comfort and then, helping others find their own ways.
"Find the smartest people you can, and surround yourself with them," Mayer said. "Working with smart people means that you will be challenged to do your best. You will strive to keep up with them, and as a result, they will elevate your thinking."
"Find allies, rather than adorers at each of life's transition points. You are at one now. New friends, new connections and new social circles emerge and in those moments, you can choose. You can choose to surround yourself with adorers, or you can choose to surround yourself with allies…Allies will tell you when you've done something well, but they will also be honest with you when they feel you are making mistakes or not living up to your potential."
Mayer's advice to students also included an observation on how the world and companies are changing in the information age. "My advice [is to] be an information fountain…Power comes through sharing information. Tell everyone everything. The more valuable, the better. Sharing leads to connections, connections lead to collaboration, collaboration leads to creativity and innovation. Creativity and innovation are what change the world."
Bringing together all of her key points, Mayer concluded, "I wish I could make finding passion, courage, smart allies, or places of comfort as easy as a Google search. I can't. But that said, I'm very optimistic that all of you will find your courage, your voice, and your role in changing the world we live in for the better."
At the ceremony, Mayer was awarded an honorary doctorate of engineering degree from IIT Armour College of Engineering.
Mayer joined Google in 1999 to lead the user interface and web server teams. Currently, she leads Google's efforts on search products — web search, images, news, blogs, maps, scholar — and other consumer-facing initiatives, such as Google Earth, Google Books, iGoogle, and Google Chrome. Her contributions include leading the design of Google's homepage and simple search interface, which has been internationalized to over 100 languages across 150 countries. Several patents have been filed on Mayer's work in interface design and artificial intelligence.
Along with her full-time work at Google, Mayer has taught introductory computer programming classes at Stanford University, where she earned both her B.S. in Symbolic Systems and her M.S. in Computer Science with a specialization in artificial intelligence. Stanford has recognized Mayer with the Centennial Teaching Award and the Forsythe Award for her outstanding contribution to undergraduate education.
She has been featured in various publications, including being named one of "10 Tech Leaders of the Future" by Newsweek and one of the "50 Most Powerful Women" by Fortune. Additionally, Red Herring named her one of "15 Women to Watch" and Business 2.0 called her part of the "Silicon Valley Dream Team."
For Mayer's full IIT commencement address, please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jaKoMCujc2k.