When not ifSheryl Sandberg to leave Meta is one of the most speculated questions among current and former employees in recent years. Still, the news Wednesday that she will soon be leaving her position as the social media giant’s number two executive sent shockwaves across the company and the rest of Silicon Valley.
In her own words, there are two main factors in Sandberg’s decision to leave now: the fact that Meta’s executive team has been built to make way for her departure, and that, as the leader of the “Lean In” movement, she wants more attention. for philanthropy and women’s rights. “There is no perfect time,” she told me during a brief phone interview on Wednesday afternoon. “It’s a job that has been an honor and a privilege, but it’s not a job that leaves a lot of time to do much else.”
Here’s my full conversation with Sandberg about her stepping down as Meta’s COO, slightly edited for clarity:
Why the timing of doing this now versus some other time?
You know, when I took this job, I remember having an interview with Mark for a long time and then going out to dinner with Mark and Priscilla and [my late husband] Dave, and talking to Dave about how I should only take this job if I thought I could do it for five years. And that was 14 years ago. 14 years in a job I thought would last five years.
There is no perfect time. It is a job that has been an honor and a privilege, but it is not a job that leaves much time to do much more. And I really wanted to make more space in my life to do philanthropy, to work with my foundation. It’s a very critical moment for women, and it’s very important to me and to now have the opportunity to do more about it. It’s also a moment where I feel really, really good about the team we’ve built. Very good. I think Mark and I have built an incredibly strong team.
So it was just to take the team to a place where it felt right to be able to take this step?
Yeah, that’s a big part of it because I care so much about the company.
You stay on the board, so you stay involved there. Do you plan to stay for several years?
I haven’t gotten that far yet, but for now I’ll stay on the board.
The company has always had challenges, but I’d say it’s probably the most versatile it’s ever been in terms of regulation, Apple’s tracking changes, and all these things happening at once. How do you feel about leaving right now, where there’s a huge transition going on with how ads work and everything you’ve built?
When you think of our company, there is never one moment when a chapter ends and a new one begins. This is not the beginning or the end of the ads, this is not the beginning or the end of the metaverse business. But it is a continuum. And we’ve had challenges all the way. We will continue to face challenges in the future. The task ahead of us is to build the current business that people work and do, and also to build the future. And I have great faith in both.
I mentioned during the call for profit that we have a family of apps that 3 billion people use to connect. Companies use that to grow their business and I think it can and will continue to do so. And then if you think about the metaverse, our leader there is Boz [Andrew Bosworth]† And Boz was my partner in the advertising business for a long time. He is very business minded and I think he will do a great job building the next business for the company.
What do you think of the metaverse in terms of the business betting there? It’s a very long term, that’s for sure. But how did you think about that?
The opportunity and the challenge are the same. This is a business that needs to build the next business while running its current business. It’s a reflective moment for me, a time where I look back over the course of the past 14 years and see that we’ve done that before, right? If you remember, we went public without ads. No ads! No ads at all on mobile. And that mobile transition has happened very quickly. We only had ads on the desktop, so we had to run the desktop business as we migrated to mobile. I think this will be an even bigger transition than that, but this is a team that knows how to make such transitions.
Do you have the biggest regret when you look back on 14 years?
We have things that we have learned that we certainly wish we had known sooner. I said in my post that we have a real responsibility to protect people’s privacy, to build security into the products. And I think we’ve made those investments. But of course we wish we had done that sooner. And if you look at what we’re doing with the metaverse now, Nick [Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs] wrote a really good article, and we’re now building that into the metaverse. And I think that’s very, very, very important.