After I shared with you yesterday’s Postcard, “Silicon Valley: Wasteland for women, really?,” I happened to spend time with someone who is a top role model for young women in tech: Marissa Mayer of Google
Mayer had invited me (and my Fortune colleague, Jessica Shambora, too) to sit at her table at the Matrix Awards, an annual lunch honoring women in communications. Mayer was one among a star slate this year–including Gayle King (who was introduced by Oprah Winfrey), Tina Fey, Sheryl Crow, and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.
CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo introduced Mayer—sharing a few pointers about how to succeed. When Mayer joined Google out of Stanford University 11 years ago, Bartiromo said, “she wanted to work on things that she didn’t know much about. She wanted to work with people who were smarter than she was.”
High bar. Mayer, who has a Masters in computer science from Stanford, came in as Google’s first female engineer and employee No. 20.
“I am a geek. I love to code,” Mayer told the crowd gathered at Manhattan’s Waldorf-Astoria. Mayer explained that she draws up spreadsheets to do practically everything that matters in her life—to cook, plan her recent wedding, and do her job. Which is: VP of Search Products and User Experience at Google.
“Geeks are people who love something so much that all the details matter,” she explained.
Obviously, it pays to be a geek. At age 34 last fall, she made Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women list, at No. 44.
Yesterday’s Matrix honor was one that her mother, who lives in Wisconsin where Mayer grew up, did not want to miss, Mayer told me. But sadly, three weeks ago her mom had a bike accident and broke her leg.
So Mayer’s mom couldn’t come. But Mayer had her brother in the audience. One other obviously proud guy sat behind me at the next table. Google CEO Eric Schmidt was there with his Blackberry, snapping pictures of Mayer on stage.