Some people become famous for what they say. The outstanding ones make their quotes reality. Like Sheryl Sandberg. Woman, who has made it last year to #16 place of 50 Most Powerful Women in Business in the world selected by Fortune magazine.
In 2007, Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder of Facebook, felt a desperate need to turn Facebook from a “cool” social network to a real profitable business. Sheryl Sandberg, Google’s thirty-eight-year-old vice-president for global on-line sales and operations, was recommended to him as a potential partner. They started to talk at a Christmas party, they continued their discussions at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January. The deal was done and Sheryl Sandberg became the first COO of Facebook in March 2008. She started to write a history of a legend for herself.
Influenced By Her Mentor´s Career
Sandberg has benefited from sponsor Lawrence Summers, who was very powerful. First he was her thesis adviser at Harvard Business School. Later when Summers became the chief economist at the World Bank he recruited her as a research assistant. Finally when Lawrence advanced to Treasury Secretary, in 1999, Sandberg became, at twenty-nine, his chief of staff. After the Democrats lost the 2000 election, she decided to move to Silicon Valley to join the technology boom. Sandberg is still very grateful for his support, for encouraging her and helping her to develop: “Nobody can succeed on their own,” she believes.
Risk Taking Business Builder
Sandberg has joined Google even when she knew that they didn’t have a business plan. It was a private company, barely three years old, with no steady revenue stream. Her title was business-unit general manager, even though there was no business unit. At the time, Google had four people working on AdWords, a program for selling the small text ads that appear next to related search results. Sandberg volunteered to oversee sales and operations for the project. Before long, AdWords was making money. Soon, Sandberg was working on AdSense, which placed advertisements on external Web sites, with Google taking a slice of the revenues.And finally she got the AOL deal running. She was tough and fearless.
Her biggest worry was financial. “There was this open question: Could we make money, ever?” The engineers in Facebook were primarily interested in building a really cool site; profits, they assumed, would follow. Thanks to Sheryl, by 2010, a company that was bleeding cash, when she arrived, had become profitable. Within three years, Facebook grew from a hundred and thirty employees to twenty-five hundred, and from seventy million worldwide users to nearly seven hundred million.
Hands-on, Attention To Detail
“Sheryl always believed that if there were thirty things on her to-do list at the beginning of the day, there would be thirty check marks at the end of the day,” Summers says. Zuckerberg says he’s grateful that Sandberg “handles things I don’t want to.”
Listening, Approachable And Collaborative
Sandberg began to work at Facebook asking questions and listening. “She walked up to hundreds of people’s desks and interrupted them and said, ‘Hi, I’m Sheryl Sandberg,’ ” recalls Chris Cox, the vice-president of product. She goes around the room and asks people, ‘What do you think?’ ” She welcomes debate.
Being Close To Employees
The people who are her friends at work are her friends outside work. With Sheryl, everything is personal. There isn’t a separation with this thing she does at work and everything else. Sandberg says: “I believe in bringing your whole self to work. We are who we are. When you try to have this division between your personal self and your professional self, what you really are is stiff. . . . That doesn’t mean people have to tell me everything about their personal lives. But I’m pretty sharing of mine.” Being open with your employees, she believes, means that nothing is a surprise to them—even if you fire them.
Helping People Advance
“A key part of what Sheryl does in her life is helping people advance, to be seen and to be heard,” David Fischer, who was her deputy at Treasury, and has worked for her at Google and now at Facebook, says.
Supporting Other Women In Their Career
Early this spring, Sandberg gathered twelve female Facebook executives for the company’s Women’s Leadership Day. Each of them was expected to lead sessions encouraging all the female executives there to step up “into leadership” roles. Sandberg believes that women need the equivalent of “the old-boys network.” That is why Sheryl is putting together a new-girls network inside Silicon Valley. She invites to her home each month rotating cast of two hundred women for a buffet dinner and to listen to and question guests, who have included e.g. Microsoft C.E.O. Steve Ballmer, the educator Geoffrey Canada, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Being Always Honest
“She builds trust because she’s honest,” Cox says. “People can be intimidated by Mark. Sheryl just cuts right through that.” Summers sees it similarly and appreciates her boldness: “If I was making a mistake, she told me. She was totally loyal, but totally in my face.”
Powerful, Still True To Herself
“Sandberg could go be the C.E.O. of any company that she wanted to,” Mark Zuckerberg says. “But I think the fact that she really wants to get her hands dirty and work, and doesn’t need to be the front person all the time, is the amazing thing about her. It’s that low-ego element, where you can help the people around you and not need to be the face of all the stuff.” Howard Schultz, the C.E.O. of Starbucks, says, “Most people you meet who are highly qualified and accomplished tend to want to tell you all the things they’ve done and how smart they are. Or they want to impress you. Sheryl is not like that at all.”
With An Unplanned Future
Surely Sandberg is on track to one day become a C.E.O., if that’s what she wants. Or she may decide to return back to a potential career in politics. When she was asked, what she can imagine doing next, she responded simply, “I’m actually quite happy with Mark and the company. I always tell people if you try to connect the dots of your career, if you mess it up you’re going to wind up on a very limited path. If I decided what I was going to do in college - when there was no Internet, no Google, no Facebook . . . - I don’t want to make that mistake. The reason I don’t have a plan is because if I have a plan I’m limited to today’s options.”
During her Barnard´s Speech Sandberg said to fresh women graduates, “Don’t let your fears overwhelm your desire. Let the barriers you face—and there will be barriers—be external, not internal. Fortune does favor the bold. I promise that you will never know what you’re capable of unless you try. You’re going to walk off this stage today and you’re going to start your adult life. Start out by aiming high. . . . Go home tonight and ask yourselves, What would I do if I weren’t afraid? And then go do it!”