Jeff Dossett talks about joining Yahoo, climbing mountains


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Microsoft executive Jeff Dossett, who next week will join Yahoo to oversee its U.S. websites aimed at consumers, took some time to chat with the media today.

Dossett is replacing another former Microsoft exec, Scott Moore, who is leaving Yahoo. As senior vice president, Dossett will report to Hilary Schneider, the executive vice president of U.S. operations. He will split his time between Yahoo’s Sunnyvale, Calif., headquarters and Santa Monica, home of the Yahoo media group. He will maintain his residence in Seattle.


Dossett discussed his mountaineering spirit and his decision to join Yahoo despite the Internet pioneer’s recent struggles.

Q: Why did you join Yahoo?

A: I like to take on big challenges, and I view this as a great opportunity. The timing was perfect for me. I was ready to move to the next level of leadership. And as I have said before, where others see risk, I see opportunity.

Q: So no trepidation?

A: There are lots of challenges ahead, but Yahoo has a unique set of media assets.

Q: How do you perceive the challenges facing Yahoo?

A: The economic environment is the one challenge that ...

... we are all learning more about right now. I think it really plays to Yahoo’s many strengths. I think we will see advertisers focus their investments on the largest and most engaged audience on the Web. Despite the tough economic times, I think this will be a great opportunity for Yahoo to earn an even larger share of marketers’ overall ad spending. I am very optimistic about the long-term potential of the online advertising industry and Yahoo’s position in it.

Q: But the short-term is a bit less sunny, isn’t it?

A: No. 1, we need to get fit with the right resource base for the revenue opportunity that exists at the time. No. 2, we need to get focused. One of the things that has been true throughout the industry, given the size and the potential of the opportunity, is that companies have attempted to do everything, to serve all consumer needs. Now is the perfect time for the team to get focused on the highest-priority, highest-growth opportunities that relate to audiences that advertisers need the most today. So we need to get fit, get focused and finally, we need to get going. It’s all about execution excellence.

Q: Will you do anything differently from how Scott did in the past?

A: It’s too early to suggest any change of direction. I have a great deal of respect for Scott Moore as a friend and as an ex-colleague and for what he and his team accomplished over the last few years. In a time of significant internal and external change, the best thing I can contribute as a leader is clarity in purpose, to provide confidence in the future opportunity and to help remove any obstacles the team faces.

Q: How long have you been in discussions with Yahoo? For what positions? And when did this position become available?


A: I have been in discussions with Yahoo for approximately one month. We had focused those discussions on emerging opportunities in business development. When Scott Moore made his decision to move on to other opportunities, this opportunity bubbled up to the top of the list. And, frankly, I am thrilled.

Q: When do you start work?

A: My official start date is Monday, Nov. 10.

Q: Will you be working out of Santa Monica? Sunnyvale?

A: I am planning offices in both.

Q: Where will you reside?

A: I will be commuting from my home in Seattle. I am used to spending a great deal of time on aircraft, and I plan to do so for some time. I will spend my work weeks in Santa Monica and Sunnyvale.

Q: What were the circumstances of your departure from Microsoft?

A: I just informed Microsoft as of today of my decision to move to this leadership opportunity at Yahoo.

Q: You are quite the mountaineer. You took off two years to climb mountains?

A: I had climbed a local mountain, Mt. Rainier, in 2000 and 2001, in support of a local charity, the American Lung Assn. I was fortunate enough to summit on both attempts. I was bitten by the mountaineering bug, if you will. I came up with this crazy, bold, big aspiration to climb to the summit of the highest peak of all seven continents. So in January 2002 I took a couple years off and trained and prepared myself. I will say that my mountaineering experience had a fundamental effect on me as a person and as a leader, and I bring that with me to Yahoo.

I now feel emboldened to take on big, bold goals and undertake the skills development, the training, the getting the tool set necessary to achieve what I otherwise might not have thought possible. It’s the way I think about business challenges and leadership challenges now. I have a fundamental optimism and confidence now. I define big, bold goals and, as long as I persevere, anything is possible.

Q: What are your thoughts about the proposed merger with AOL?

A: I have no comment on that. I will say that the Yahoo leadership team is committed to building an even stronger business going forward.

Q: And the failed merger talks with Microsoft?

A: No comment.

-- Jessica Guynn