David J.




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May 4, 2009

My First Day at Yahoo!


Recently I gave a speech to a few hundred people. The crowd was great. I told them about The Law of the Garbage Truck and they took The No Garbage Trucks! Pledge with me. They participated in everything. 


Following my speech, the event sponsor asked me to stay for some questions. It was my pleasure; I answered whatever they asked. I think it was the third question when someone asked me, “What was it like working for Yahoo! in the early days? The event sponsor, who had talked about my time at Yahoo! during my introduction, immediately asked the audience, “How many of you would like to hear about David’s experience at Yahoo!?” The answer surprised me. They all raised their hands. Here’s the quick story I told the audience. It’s about my first day at Yahoo!. 


Day One

It was 1998. I was Yahoo!’s first director of Customer Care, and employee number 450. My first day on the job started with new-hire orientation. There were eight of us in the room. We talked about what brought us to Yahoo!, and why we were excited to be there. We listened to a company overview. Our benefits were explained. We filled out paperwork. We received our official badges. Then each one of us was escorted to our cubicles. 


My Tour

My escort was great. On the way to my cube, she gave me a narrated tour of the building, pointing out everything along the way. 


“Here’s the kitchen,” she said. “Oh, and here’s the new-employee bulletin board. Your picture will be here later today.”


We kept moving and looking around.


“Here’s the life-sized Elvis statue. There’s the Luke Skywalker cutout; it’s always showing up in different people’s offices. And here are our cool chairs and sofas.” The furniture was always dressed in Yahoo!’s internal colors, purple and yellow.


The Cubes

Just beyond the furniture were rows and rows of cubes. We called it the cube farm. We headed into it and turned toward the back corner of the building.


“There’s Tim Koogle’s cube,” she continued her tour. “You know he’s the president and CEO.”


Everyone called him T.K. His cube was in the corner. I thought it was great that he worked in a cubicle just like all the other Yahoos (the name for all of us inside the company).


We turned right and walked down the line of window cubes.


“There’s Jerry’s cube. It’s a little messy. He gets away with it. He’s creative.”


Jerry Yang, along with David Filo, had founded the company a few years earlier.


We kept walking. 

“There’s Jeff’s cube. You met Jeff when you flew in for your day of interviews.” 

Jeff Mallett was our chief operating officer, soon to be promoted to president. Jeff would also be my boss a few months later.

“Here’s Gary’s cube.” Gary was in his office, on the telephone and waved. Gary Valenzuela was our chief financial officer.


We continued. Five steps later, we stopped again. My guide looked at me. “Here’s your cube.”


At that moment, I had an out-of-body experience. I thought to myself, “Is my name really on the big gold star outside this cube? (The custom at Yahoo! was to use gold stars instead of name plates.) I know my role is important. I’m here to build Customer Care. But they have me sitting next to the CFO, who’s next to the COO, who’s next to the co-founder, who’s next to the CEO. This has to be a mistake.” 

It wasn’t. At Yahoo! every role and every department were equally valuable. We all had cubes and we sat where there was a) space available (we were growing fast) and b) wherever it helped us best coordinate our work. 

A Chance to Contribute

My five years at Yahoo!, first as senior director of Customer Care and then as director of Learning and Development, reinforced my belief that the best companies focus on collaboration, keep politics to a minimum and continually deliver outstanding products and services to their customers. Yahoo! had its challenges in the early days, and we all made mistakes – plenty of them – but they didn’t get in the way of ultimately offering us a chance to provide our customers with the best products and services possible.


I think this is what we’re all looking for in our companies. And that’s what I told the audience that day. 


David J. Pollay is the creator of The Law of the Garbage Truck™. Mr. Pollay writes the Monday Morning Momentum Blog each week. He is a syndicated columnist with the North Star Writers Group, creator and host of The Happiness Answer™ television program, and an internationally sought after speaker. Mr. Pollay’s book, Beware of Garbage Trucks!™, is due out later this year. Mr. Pollay is the founder and president of the consulting and seminar organization, The Momentum Project.


© 2009 David J. Pollay. Distributed by North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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