MBA Alumni Spotlight: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Harvard MBA ‘95
Mark Zuckerberg may be the biggest and most recognizable person behind Facebook, but there’s a whole team of executives behind the scenes making sure that the social media giant is paying dividends to investors. One of these executives is Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook Chief Operations Officer (COO) and Harvard Business School alumni. According to her bio, Sheryl received a BA summa cum laude from Harvard University and an MBA with highest distinction from HBS.
Born in Washington DC in 1969, Sandberg and her parents moved to moved to North Miami Beach, Florida, when she was two years old. She attended North Miami Beach High School, and was a standout student there, graduating in the top 10 in her class with with a 4.646 grade point average.
After graduation, Sandberg enrolled at Harvard College, where she graduated in 1991. At Harvard, she was awarded the John H. Williams Prize for the top graduating student in economics as well as co-founded Women in Economics and Government student organization.
Larry Summers, who was Sandberg’s mentor and thesis adviser at Harvard, then recruited her to be his research assistant at the World Bank. In that role, Sandberg worked for on health projects in India dealing with leprosy, AIDS and other afflicting conditions and diseases.
Following one year at the World Bank, Sandberg worked as a management consultant for McKinsey & Company until 1996 when she chose to once again work for Summers, who was then serving as the United States Secretary of the Treasury. At the Department of the Treasury, Sandberg’s main focus was on forgiving debt in the developing world during the Asian financial crisis.
After the Clinton administration left the White House, Sandberg started the next phase of her career in Silicon Valley when she joined Google Inc. in 2001. Sandberg served as Google’s Vice President of Global Online Sales and Operations from November 2001 to March 2008. During her time at Google, she was responsible for managing Google’s advertising and publishing online products, as well as the company’s consumer products.
In March 2008, Facebook announced that it would be hiring Sandberg away from Google to be the company’s new COO. At Facebook, Sandberg’s primary role became finding ways to make the social media platform profitable through advertising, something Sandberg and Co. achieved by 2010. Overall, Sandberg’s role at Facebook has her overseeing the company’s sales, marketing, business development, human resources, public policy and communications operations.
Sandberg is also an accomplished writer. She is the co-author of the recently released Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy with Wharton School professor Adam Grant. Sandberg is perhaps best known for writing Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead and Lean In for Graduates. Lean In explains how professional women can achieve their career goals in the male-dominated business world, while also encouraging men to contribute to a more equitable society. The book outlines various barriers that prevent women from taking leadership roles in the workplace, barriers such as discrimination, blatant and subtle sexism, sexual harassment and societal gender roles.
According to her bio, Sandberg is also is the founder of the Sheryl Sandberg & Dave Goldberg Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to build a more equal and resilient world through two key initiatives. The foundation is partly named in honor of Sandberg’s late husband and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Dave Goldberg, who passed away in 2015.
Just six years after officially joining the Facebook team, she became one of the world’s youngest female billionaires, according to Bloomberg. There’s even been a small, yet visible rumor spinning for months that she would become the next of Silicon Valley’s success stories to actually run for political office. Sandberg also serves on the boards of Facebook, the Walt Disney Company, Women for Women International, ONE and SurveyMonkey. She currently resides Menlo Park, California, with her son and daughter.