Jun 2, 2022 - Technology

Axios interview: Sheryl Sandberg on her future

Mike Allen
Sheryl Sandberg speaks at the Step Up Together Digital Summit in September. Photo: Getty Images

After more than two decades as a ruler of Silicon Valley, Sheryl Sandberg told me it's getting harder to predict where tech is headed. The trends, she said, will hit "deeper and more quickly than we think ... I don't know those future trends."

Why it matters: Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg built a behemoth of a business out of Facebook. Her planned departure this fall as Meta COO, announced yesterday, comes amid a global reckoning around how technology is used.

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When I asked Sandberg what she had learned, she struck a humbler note than we're used to hearing from tech executives:

  • "In technology, we can't really predict what will happen and how quickly trends will move," she said in a phone interview, minutes after posting her departure plans on Facebook. "Trends happen really quickly. The mobile transition took us by storm and by surprise."
  • "Every technology can be used for bad as well as good," she added. "So you have to build systems early on to protect against harm. Everything we learned from the family of apps [Facebook and Instagram], we're building into the metaverse from the beginning."

She said she sees an "incredibly bright" future for Meta, where she'll remain on the board.

  • "I believe as deeply in Mark as ever," she said.

Sandberg — who went to Silicon Valley after serving as Treasury Department chief of staff for President Clinton — told me: "I'm 14 years into a job I thought I’d be in for five years."

  • In her Facebook post announcing her departure, she said she'll focus "more on my foundation and philanthropic work, which is more important to me than ever given how critical this moment is for women."

What we're hearing: Friends expect Sandberg, 52, to focus for now on philanthropy, perhaps running some mission-driven organization. Then they can imagine her serving in government or running for office.

Zuckerberg noted in his own Facebook post: "When Sheryl joined me in 2008, I was only 23 years old and I barely knew anything about running a company."

  • Zuckerberg added that she "taught me how to run a company ... and she deserves the credit for so much of what Meta is today."

Sandberg made women's empowerment her signature issue with her bestseller, "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead." Then she started LeanIn.Org, an initiative of the Sheryl Sandberg & Dave Goldberg Family Foundation.

  • Sandberg said her daughters should have the same opportunities as her sons: "No one should tell them they can't do it all."
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