What now: The future of computer geeks

Marissa Mayer speaks onstage at the FORTUNE Most Powerful Women Dinner New York City at Hudson Room at the Time Warner Center on May 24, 2011.

Marissa Mayer

Kai Ryssdal: The question of the week here on the broadcast has been what now? What are we going to be debating, questioning and covering as 2011 unfolds? Our commentary series wraps up today with something more personal, less public policy.

Commentator and Google executive Marissa Mayer on technology.


Marissa Mayer: I have a confession to make: I am a geek.

Now granted, geek isn't a word you often hear referring to women. But, I am a geek -- not only am I a computer scientist by training, but I love to code, on Linux, on web servers, in C++, javascript, and mySQL. Outside of work, I cook using spreadsheets.

I often think about how organizing one's closet is really just a data problem. Did I wear that skirt last week or the week before? Where is the blouse that goes with that -- is it at the cleaner or tailor? Couldn't we just solve this already with some RFID tags, a scanner in the ceiling and the tiniest bit of C++?

And, like most geeks, I'm actually painfully shy and introverted. All of which has to make you wonder, how did a computer scientist, and such a geek to boot, end up reading this piece on the radio? The answer: The Internet.

The Internet is changing almost everything. It's changing how we communicate, how we connect with each other, it enables opportunity. It even, thanks to Google, helps people find stuff in a way they never could before.

And, in the world of technical women, it's enabling something quite extraordinary -- it's helping geeks, like me, all over the world find their voice and find their passion. And passion to me is what being a geek is really about. And, while passion is geek-enabling, passion is also gender-neutralizing. People often ask me what's it like to be a woman at Google. And, the question always kind of throws me. Because I'm not a woman at Google, I'm a geek at Google and it's absolutely positively great.

In a world where there are too few technical women, the Internet serves as powerful point of inspiration and an amazing way to tap into human creativity and potential. So, empower the geeks you know. Encourage girls -- let them know that it's OK to be a geek. Daydream about mechanical engineering and how it relates to fashion. Make something thought to be science fiction a reality. Teach girls that finding your passion means that all the little details that get them excited should matter. And most of all, embrace your own inner geek.

Ryssdal: Marissa Mayer is the vice president of consumer products at Google.

So, what now for you this year? Send us your thoughts.

Marissa Mayer

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