Jun 3, 2022 10 min read

Sandberg Leaves Facebook: All You Need To Know

Sandberg Leaves Facebook: All You Need To Know

After 14 years, Sheryl Sandberg is leaving Facebook. Are the rumours true of a breakdown between Zuckerberg and Sandberg? Or is it the pivot to the Metaverse with no role for Sandberg? Or, simply, it's just that time? Here's a collection of the best stories that the Internet is telling.

Sheryl Sandberg to Leave Facebook

Back Story:  Sheryl Sandberg has been the COO of Facebook for 14 years. More importantly, she was Mark Zuckerberg's right hand and instrumental in monetising the world's largest social network.

“People asked me all day yesterday, ‘Why now? Why now?’ Why now is because it’s time to write the next chapter of my life,” Sandberg told Facebook staff.
Facebook revenue was c$150 million in 2007, the year before Sandberg joined. Last year, it was $118 BILLION.

Sandberg's tenure at Facebook is a tale of 2 halves. In the first half, Sandberg was instrumental in making Facebook a money-printing machine.

The second half is defined by 2 major events: in 2015 her husband passed away unexpectedly, followed a year later by Donald Trump becoming president, the Brexit referendum in the UK and the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Emergence of digital ads

The hiring of Sandberg away from Google was seen as a major coup for Zuckerberg. Sandberg's role at Google is explained in The Ugly Truth (a book about the inner workings of Facebook by Sheera Frankel):

Sandberg had been in charge of Google’s in-house ad auction known as “AdWords” and of another program, called “AdSense,” which was used by publishers to run text and graphic ads on sites across the internet. The biggest innovation was Google’s use of search data to spit out ads directly related to a user’s query. Type in “Hawaii flights cheap,” and an auction immediately ran behind the scene for vendors to bid to place their ads for Honolulu budget hotels, swimwear, and surfing lessons within search results. It was the purest and most powerful way of directly pitching products to someone already in the mood for shopping.

Here's the thing: When Sandberg joined Facebook, she was the adult in the room. Mark Zuckerberg was only 23 and she was 38. At the time, it was seen as a major coop for Zuckerberg to bring Sandberg into the Facebook team.

  • Kara Swisher described Sandberg as Zuckerberg’s “very hip mom”.

The 1st half - defining digital ads

In the beginning:  In the early days of Facebook, especially around the time of the $100 billion IPO in 2012, there was a big question about whether Facebook could actually make money.

  • It’s incredible to believe it now, but back then digital ads was a fledgling business model and considered to be “unproven”.

When Sandberg joined she brought in discipline and processes and experience to an organisation that was largely run by college grads.

It also marked a clear demarcation of duties. CEO Zuckerberg was the geek who concentrated on product development and the underlying tech whilst COO Sandberg focused on making money and handling public relations. Sandberg brought a gravitas and credibility that opened doors to advertisers that had previously been closed to Zuckerberg.

In the early years, Sandberg’s profile grew outside the company. She was on Oprah, promoted the role of women in the workplace, published a book called Lean In * and became, arguably, the most famous COO in America.

The 2nd half - misinformation era

Fake News:   In 2016, the world changed for Zuckerberg, Sandberg and Facebook. The social media giant was on the back foot as the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke about user manipulation in the run-up to Trump’s election and the Brexit referendum. Both were directly tied to the Facebook business model that connected user data to advertising revenue.

For both the Trump and the Brexit campaigns, Facebook data was secretly harvested, manipulated and exploited to influence voters to support the political campaigns. Nobody can say for certain if it was enough to sway the democratic process in the USA and in the UK.

However, we can say with 100% certainty that both campaigns won!

Legacy of the most famous COO in America

Legacy:  What will Sheryl Sandberg be remembered for?

Whilst it is used by almost 3 billion people every month (that’s more than 1 in 3 of the world’s population), Facebook will never shake off it’s connection to human rights abuse, the proliferation of fake news, the polarisation of society, the rise in mental health issues and teenage suicide, and election interference.

Throughout this period, both Zuckerberg and Sandberg have denied and deflected away from the reality of the harm caused on the Facebook platform. When talking about Sandberg, Scott Galloway said, "other execs at Facebook have lied more, but none have lied for longer."

This will be Sandberg’s legacy.

She will always be seen as the key player in creating the business model that fuelled the downside, as well as the upside, of Facebook. Because the fact remains, that for all the good that Sheryl Sandberg did throughout her time at Facebook, she was in a position of power and influence to have made material changes to address these issues, and she didn’t (or so it appears).


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w/Further Reading

A Collection of News Stories About Sandberg Leaving Facebook

Leaked transcript: What Mark Zuckerberg told Meta employees about Sheryl Sandberg’s exit
The CEO’s comments offer insights into the company as one of its most formative and prominent leaders is leaving.
Why Sheryl Sandberg Quit Facebook’s Meta
One of the world’s most powerful executives became increasingly burned out and disconnected from the mega-business she was instrumental in building. That dovetailed with a company investigation into her activities.
Sheryl Sandberg was under investigation at Meta for using corporate resources to plan her wedding, report says
Meta, Facebook’s parent company, was reviewing Sheryl Sandberg personal activities as recently as May, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Sheryl Sandberg’s complicated legacy at Facebook
For much of her first decade at Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg’s public stature grew alongside the size and influence of the company she helped run. As second-in-command to Facebook cofounder Mark Zuckerberg, she oversaw the massive growth of its core advertising business while positioning herself as an…
Sandberg to leave Facebook after 14 years. And more...
Newsletter #80: When Sheryl Sandberg joined Facebook, the social media giant was a $150 million a year business. Now it’s a $118 billion business. This week Sandberg called time. Plus: Mastercard’s facial recognition payments, Twitter is fined and Elon wants everyone in the office.
Sheryl Sandberg’s career-defining moments
From “Lean In” to Jan. 6 and everything in between.
Sheryl Sandberg Made Facebook Into a Giant—But At a Cost to the World
For shareholders, Sandberg was a superstar. Unfortunately, that wealth came at great cost to our society, writes Roger McNamee.

Wikipedia - Sheryl Sandberg

w/Further Listening

‎Pivot: Sheryl Sandberg’s Next Move on Apple Podcasts
‎Show Pivot, Ep Sheryl Sandberg’s Next Move - Jun 3, 2022

What Next For Meta, Facebook and Zuckerberg?

The big question is what happens next. Few details have emerged, other than Sandberg's role will not be directly replaced. Instead, her duties as COO will be redistributed amongst Execs across Meta Platforms.

Here is some of the latest speculation:

Time for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to loosen his mechanical style and show more heart so he can become a real leader
The 5 things the Meta boss must do after Sheryl Sandberg’s departure.
Shares of Meta, Facebook’s Parent, Rise After Sheryl Sandberg Announces Exit
UPDATED: Shares of Meta Platforms climbed 5.4% Thursday, coming after longtime COO Sheryl Sandberg — one of the most powerful women execs in the tech industry — announced she was stepping down from…
What we know about Javier Olivan, Facebook-parent Meta’s new COO
Formerly the company’s chief growth officer, Olivan spearheaded one of the most powerful teams within the tech giant.


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