Lessons from Marissa Mayer appointment

What is the connection between the water industry and Yahoo’s appointee CEO Marissa Mayer I hear you asking.

Not very much is my response, which is the point of my post.

Mayer is 37 years old and has 13 years total experience in the workforce, and is taking the CEO role of a company that does 5 billion dollars a year in revenue.

The first question that sprang to my mind is how someone could build up the level of management experience in such a short time, even within Google, required to take on the CEO role of a large listed corporation.

I watched an extended interview with Marissa in a public forum conducted in January this year. She told the interviewer that “Larry and Sergey threw us in over our heads and shouted at us until we became the people they needed us to be”.

It is a fundamental truth that smart, capable people learn best and fastest when they are given responsibilities (and the corresponding authority) well beyond their existing capability and experience.

The water industry as whole tends to be bad at this and there is a real shortage of young people in senior executive roles in water.

Whether Marissa succeeds or not at the Herculean task of turning Yahoo around, just her selection for the role is an impressive achievement.

I would love to see more young water professionals given the opportunity to overacheive like this. The industry will be better for it.

Industrial Treatment in Asia still exciting interest

I just got back from Singapore Water Week. Thanks to vigorous support from PUB, and their willingness to twist arms pretty hard, the water industry turn-out for water week was strong.

Interestingly though, the mood in the trade hall was relatively sombre. The major players we spoke to who depend on market growth to grow were somewhat bearish on the rest of 2012.

However new entrants are definitely seeing opportunity to take market share…particularly in industrial water treatment throughout Asia. They seem particularly interested in industrial wastewater, with strengthening environmental regulation in China and SEA forcing industrial customers to clean up their game. Everyone has their eye on Indonesia, trying to judge whether now is the time to jump into that market with both feet. In the meantime domestic EPC players continue to prosper.

In other interesting news Lanxess was pushing their new RO membrane range pretty hard, evidence of the true commoditization of polymer RO membranes for the mid-market. They seemed to have nothing much new to offer from a technology perspective…and seemed to be just hoping to leverage their resin sales network.

Mann +Hummel also had a big presence in the SIWW trade hall, with the UF products they acquired with the Singapore membrane business Ultra-Flo in 2010 on display. They have an active strategy to diversify out of automotive filtration and it will be interesting to see whether they find water as attractive a market as they hope.

With all this activity, as usual there will continue to be a huge demand for bilingual technical sales professionals in growth markets. In water the good sales guys tend to be a barometer for the relative strength of different technology businesses.