Sheryl Sandberg: Almost LinkedIn CEO, Once

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Here in Silicon Valley, it’s all about the social networks. At least, it is if you’re former Google executive-turned-Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

However, there was a brief bit of a chance in Sandberg’s career that could have turned her ship to a social network of a different variety. And instead of being number two at the helm, as she is with Facebook, she could have run the company outright.

We’re talking, of course, about LinkedIn. As Sandberg describes in an excerpt from her new book, Lean In, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman approached the Google executive in mid-2006 to inquire whether she’d be interested in a career change. Or, at least, a corporate change.

“I thought it was a great opportunity, and after five years in the same position at Google I was ready for a new challenge. But the timing was tricky. I was thirty-seven years old and wanted to have a second child. I told Reid the truth: regrettably, I had to pass,” writes Sandberg, according to an excerpt published by the Wall Street Journal.

Hoffman himself served as LinkedIn’s CEO from 2003 until February of 2007, when he stepped back into a chairman position and let Dan Nye take the helm. Nye grew the service from around eight million members to 33 million during his brief stint on top.

Hoffman came back into the CEO picture around mid-January of 2009, replacing Nye – who had just barely served two years at the company’s top. However, six months later, Hoffman would be out once again and then-interim-president, Jeff Weiner, would take the helm as LinkedIn’s current CEO.

Hoffman, like before, has stepped back into a role as founder and executive chairman.

As for Sandberg, her experience as Facebook’s COO has also allowed her to benefit from the wisdom of founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg – who, as the Wall Street Journal notes, was all of seven years old when Sandberg herself graduated from Harvard (Zuckerberg himself never fully matriculated through, instead launching Facebook).

“One of the things he told me was that my desire to be liked by everyone would hold me back. He said that when you want to change things, you can’t please everyone. If you do please everyone, you aren’t making enough progress,” Sandberg writes.

 

For more tech tidbits from David Murphy, follow him on Facebook or Twitter (@thedavidmurphy).

By David Murphy, PCMag


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