Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg stepping down

Her goodbye social post sheds light on Facebook’s early culture.

Deborah Yao

June 2, 2022

4 Min Read

Her goodbye social post sheds light on Facebook’s early culture.

Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg is leaving the company in the fall after 14 years alongside CEO Mark Zuckerberg. She will stay on Meta’s board.

“It is time for me to write the next chapter of my life. I am not entirely sure what the future will bring – I have learned no one ever is,” she said in a Facebook post. “But I know it will include focusing more on my foundation and philanthropic work, which is more important to me than ever given how critical this moment is for women.”

In his own Facebook post, Zuckerberg said “it’s the end of an era.” Calling Sandberg “my good friend and partner,” he added that “I'm going to miss running this company with Sheryl.”

Sandberg has been as visible publicly as Zuckerberg, becoming a champion of female leadership with her book “Lean In” and helping to navigate the fake news crisis during Trump-Clinton presidential election.

But in April, The Wall Street Journal reported that Sandberg came under fire for pressuring the U.K.’s Daily Mail in 2016 and 2019 to squash a developing story about a restraining order taken against her then-boyfriend and Activision CEO Bobby Kotick. Meta has denied that Sandberg threatened the news outlet.

The new COO is Meta insider Javier ‘Javi’ Olivan, although his role will be more like a traditional chief operating officer.

“I don’t plan to replace Sheryl’s role in our existing structure,” Zuckerberg wrote. “I’m not sure that would be possible since she’s a superstar who defined the COO role in her own unique way.” Besides, Meta has grown to a point that calls for a closer collaboration between the products and business groups.

Instead, Sandberg’s responsibilities are dispersed among her team as Olivan focuses more on making internal processes more efficient.

Facebook’s early days

Sandberg said she first met Zuckerberg at a party at the house of Daniel L. Rosensweig, now CEO of Chegg. Zuckerberg was 23, Sandberg was 38.

“I was introduced to Mark as I walked in the door, and we started talking about his vision for Facebook. I had tried The Facebook, as it was first called, but still thought the internet was a largely anonymous place to search for funny pictures. Mark’s belief that people would put their real selves online to connect with other people was so mesmerizing that we stood by that door and talked for the rest of the night,” Sandberg said.

She described the early days of Facebook as “chaotic.” “We had some ads, but they were not performing well, and most advertisers I met wanted to take over our homepage like The Incredible Hulk movie had on MySpace.”

“One was so angry when I said no to her homepage idea that she slammed her fist on the table, walked out of the room, and never returned. That first summer, Mark realized that he had never had a chance to travel, so he went away for a month, leaving me and Matt Cohler (now a VC) in charge without a ton of direction and almost no ability to contact him. It seemed crazy – but it was a display of trust I have never forgotten.”

Figure 1: Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg (Image credit: Getty Images) Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg (Image credit: Getty Images)

Sandberg said she asked Zuckerberg for three things before she joined the company: they would sit next to each other, meet one-on-one weekly and provide honest feedback. They have kept up this pledge, except sitting next to each other during Covid.

“Together we have been through the massive ups and downs of running this company, as well as his marriage to the magnificent Priscilla, the sorrow of their miscarriages and the joy of their childbirths, the sudden loss of Dave (Sandberg’s husband), my engagement to Tom (Bernthal, Kelton Global CEO), and so much more,” she wrote.

“He sometimes says that we grew up together, and we have,” Sandberg said. Working by Zuckerberg’s side has been an “honor and privilege of a lifetime. Mark is a true visionary and a caring leader.”

About the Authors

Deborah Yao

Editor, AI Business

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