Profiles in Technology: Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg

December 26, 2011, By George Lang

When most of us think of the stereotypical techie, geek, or nerd, an attractive young lady is not the first thing that comes to mind. The normal information technology (IT) expert, poking his head out from behind a computer screen, looks more like… well, just that: a he; more like Woody Allen during one of his more hyper-active sessions on psycho-analyzing women in general.

No, there have not been many courageous female pioneers to valiantly pave the way for Facebook’s current chief operating officer (COO), Sheryl Sandberg; former Hewlett-Packard (HP) CEO, Carly Fiorina, to name one standout, and she was fired after only six years on the job (although resignation was the official announced reason for her departure).

Facebook Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg

Actually, HP has been one of the giants in technology for its courage in embracing women in leading roles. Meg Whitman has now taken over the helm for the massive computer manufacturer in place of embattled CEO, Leo Apothecker, who held the position for less than a year. Patti Dunn held the position of chairperson of the HP board before being ousted in 2006 for spying on her colleagues. To say the least, it’s been a tumultuous decade for the women of HP.

But there is a big difference between Facebook and HP. They occupy entirely different wings of the world’s IT infrastructure. Sheryl Sandberg heads the operations of a company whose technology is complex, but whose main purpose is embedded in social networking. HP is deeply immersed in the extreme technology of computer hardware and software and their complex integration and manufacture, a far more technically challenging wing of the world’s IT marketplace.

Nonetheless, Sandberg is about to be thrown to the wolves of Wall Street. Rumor has it Facebook’s Mark Zukerberg is contemplating an initial public offering (IPO) on the street of dreams sometime before the end of the second quarter of 2012. As COO, Sandberg will more than have her hands full of handling the difficult transition from private to public entity.

We think Sheryl Sandberg has the background and courage to safely guide Facebook through the upcoming challenges. In fact, she has been more than tested during her legacy over the battle for women’s issues in corporate America; a battle she has spearheaded for many years. She has also, “not only built and managed Google’s successful online sales and operations program but also served as an economist for the World Bank and Chief of Staff at the US Treasury Department” (

Sheryl Sandberg sits at the crossroads of an event most male corporate executives would shy from given the chance. The IPO will test her resolve, and it will prove her worth. So, Woody Allen, go ahead and try to analyze that!

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