Marissa Mayer on God, family and Yahoo

November 28, 2012: 1:14 AM ET

In her first public interview since taking on the CEO gig at Yahoo, Marissa Mayer outlines her priorities both in and out of the company.

Mayer smiles onstage at the Fortune Most Powerful Women event in Palo Alto, CA, Tuesday night. (Photo by Don Feria/Getty Images for Fortune)

FORTUNE -- In her first public interview since taking on the CEO gig at Yahoo, Marissa Mayeroutlined her priorities both inside and out of the company.

"I think that for me, it's God, family and Yahoo—in that order," said the new chief executive referencing the Vince Lombardi trinity. (Her first son Macallister was born September 30). Mayer spoke at a Fortune Most Powerful Women event, an invitation-only dinner in Palo Alto that took place Tuesday evening.

Since arriving from Google (GOOG) last July, Mayer has taken several steps to turn Yahoo (YHOO) around. She brought in a new chief marketing officer and heads of sales and HR, among other executives. She's also made efforts to boost employee morale by instituting free lunches and handing out iPhones, Android devices and Windows-powered phones to staffers.

Yahoo has over 700 million users and plenty of popular products, including email and its sports and news sites. The company's stock is up nearly 19% since Mayer took over last summer. But the 37-year-old CEO has a long road ahead, and has already said that a turnaround will take multiple years. To succeed in making Yahoo a "growth company" again, she'll need to secure the company's position as a leader in mobile apps and offerings--a tall order for a company that doesn't own its own mobile browser, operating system or hardware.

MORE: Marissa Mayer: Ready to rumble at Yahoo

Unsurprisingly, Mayer is optimistic. "We have a terrific set of assets on the web--all the things people want to do on their mobile phone," said Mayer. "The interesting thing is when you look at what people want to do on their phone, it's mail, weather, check stock quotes and news. That's Yahoo's business. This is a huge opportunity for us because we have the content and all the information people want on their phones."

The challenge now, said Mayer, is making it all easy to use on a mobile device--being that must-download app people want to get when they buy a new smartphone. Mayer has made it clear she wants Yahoo to develop more mobile expertise, and said the company would likely make more "acqui-hires" (a.k.a. acquisitions made purely for talent, not technology) of mobile companies in the future.

But Yahoo's turnaround isn't solely about mobile, she noted. For years, the Silicon Valley company has struggled with focusing its business. Previous CEOs have tried--and failed--to streamline Yahoo and solve its identity complex. "We really want to have a global suite of products that are truly excellent," said Mayer, highlighting the popularity of Yahoo's search, mail, news and sports pages--and in particular its Sports Fantasy site. The company's fantasy football page was down recently (on a Sunday, no less!), which Mayer addressed jokingly, saying "Twitter was a little brutal that day."

Mayer has also made it a priority to make Yahoo a fun place to work again. The Silicon Valley company has seen many executives departures and morale has suffered greatly over the last few years.

"The company's been through a turbulent period and a distracting period," said Mayer. "I want Yahoo to be the absolute best place to work, to have a fantastic culture. We're working really hard right now to remind people about all the opportunities that are there." Of course, that will likely take much more than free lunches and iPhones. But Mayer knows a thing or two about corporate culture--she spent the bulk  of her career at Google after all.

The key to getting it all done, according to Mayer, is "ruthlessly" prioritizing."That's one of the reasons I haven't been talking [to the press]," said Mayer. "And I will go back to not talking after tonight."

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About This Author
Michal Lev-Ram
Michal Lev-Ram
Writer, Fortune

Based in Silicon Valley, Michal Lev-Ram covers enterprise and mobile technologies for FORTUNE. Prior to joining FORTUNE, she wrote for CNNMoney, Fast Company, Popular Science and other business and technology publications. She was also a staff writer at Business 2.0 and holds a B.A. in journalism from San Francisco State University.

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