To begin a description of Sheryl Sandberg as an “executive” does no justice to her vast contributions and achievements in fields of and beyond business. A renown name in business and activist circles alike, Sandberg holds a great deal of prominence in a diverse range of fields such as entertainment, economics, feminism, and technology thanks to her affiliations with organizations such as The Walt Disney Company, U.S Treasury, Women for Women, and Facebook. While her contributions to business and society are unquestionably remarkable, the story of how she gained such influence is perhaps what is most exceptional about her.
Rise of an Ambitious Woman
Sandberg’s grip over diverse subjects began even before she graduated from college, as she assisted Larry Summers in his research at the World Bank, where she personally dealt with health projects in India. This relation would continue after her graduation from Harvard college when she left behind a one year stint at McKinsey & Company to work under Summers in his capacity as the U.S Treasury Secretary. Armed with a trove of experience on a variety of topics, Sandberg then decided to make the shift towards the world of technology when she picked up a job at Google Inc in the year 2001. She would serve there for the next 7 years, holding the role of “President of Global Online Sales and Operations”. It was also during her Google days that she wedded her husband Dave Goldberg. Despite already having served in some of the world’s most important organizations, Sandberg’s career was only in its infancy as the role that would send her into the front lines of global technological revolution was still yet to come.
The Facebook Chronicles
Despite a successful IPO, Facebook’s shares began to drop as the company failed to deliver revenues that matched investor expectations and pressure began to mount on Sandberg, with several calls for her resignation. Withstanding it all, Sandberg, along with Zuckerberg, came up with Facebook’s mobile-centric advertising policy. In 1 year, Facebook’s share value regained IPO value. In the following 4 years, it multiplied more than four fold of the IPO price, standing at a tidy ~$160 as of 2017. The whole episode served as the final nail in the coffin for those who had questioned Sandberg’s ability as COO.
In 2015, right in the midst of a golden run for Facebook’s shares, tragedy struck Sandberg’s life. Her husband Dave Goldberg passed away on May 1st, 2015 from Cardiac Arrest as the couple was vacationing in Mexico. She would later describe the experience as “a void” and that she “couldn’t even see or breathe”. Following a 10 day bereavement period, Sandberg began her re-entry into work but failed to put up her best. Realizing that the 10-day period was not enough, she would later change official FB policy to offer 20 days paid bereavement leave for employees. Through it all, Sandberg fought with resilience and in 2016 she finally made her comeback to the public eye when she gave the commencement address at UC Berkeley.
Triumph: Of & Beyond
Sandberg’s recovery from her husband was one of the most important progressions in her life. But it is far from the only triumph she fought hard for. Her 2013 book “Lean In” recollected some of her most important struggles in life, narrating how she fought against the biases that surround women in society and came out on top. She has taken the onus of advocating for better bereavement policies in companies and has produced literature on how to deal with grief. She also advocates more fiercely for feminism at both personal and corporate level.
Sheryl Sandberg’s career and contributions will go down in history as some of the most important contributions made by a woman influencer. Her story will live on through her works and her legacy through the strong foundations she has built for Facebook.