“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
The question that Sheryl Sandberg asks women in her book, Lean In, is likely a question she asked herself many times growing up. As someone who always loved to manage, she was an executive board member for both her senior class and the Walt Disney Company before taking on her current position as Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. Becoming the co-runner of Facebook was not easy; but she wasn’t the first to have such high ambitions.
She had a great role model.
Born in 1969 in Washington D.C., Sheryl Sandberg was the oldest of three siblings. Her grandmother, Rosalind Einhorn, was Sandberg’s inspiration as a child because of her tenacity and determination. Growing up in a poverty-stricken Jewish American family in New York City, Rosalind was pulled out of high school to help her parents during the Great Depression. Despite her hardships, she managed to return to school, graduate from Berkeley, and eventually save her family’s business from financial ruin.
While Sheryl Sandberg’s life may not have been burdened with hardships like her grandmother, she still faced obstacles to get to where she wanted to be. Many people doubted her goals, calling her “bossy” and criticizing her willingness to lead.
“I notice bossy is applied almost always to little girls,” she said. However, she always believed in herself despite other people’s doubts.
She saw the challenge as an opportunity.
After graduating from Harvard Business School, Sheryl Sandberg worked at Google as its Vice President of Global Online Sales and Operations. Basically, she was responsible for Google’s ad team, and built it from a mere four people to four thousand.
Her Facebook career began when she met Mark Zuckerberg at a Christmas party. While the guests around her were engaging in small talk, she spoke with him about how to run an organization. By the end of that night, they already had a dinner planned. At the time, Zuckerberg had nearly given up on finding someone to be Facebook’s COO, but Sandberg showed him that she would be the perfect fit.
After her success, Sheryl Sandberg wrote her book, Lean In, and started a movement under the same name. She encourages women to break down the barriers, both personal and societal, that prevent them from achieving their goals. She also shares with people the balance that she found between raising two kids with her husband while running a massive company. Because of her achievements, both Time and Fortune Magazine have named her one of the most influential people in the world.
Not everyone strives to be a multi-manager like Sandberg, but anyone can learn from her confidence and perseverance. Do you want to be a great politician, mother, or bird whisperer? Or perhaps all of them at once? From aerobics teacher to Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg never let anyone stop her from doing what she did best. She pushed through the noise, and helped thousands of women tune out their own and hear the truth.
And what about you?
Who is your role model, and who will you be a role model for?
What are you most passionate about? What dreams have you abandoned because you thought they were too crazy?
Leave a comment and share your story with us!
I’m Christine Lin, and I’ll be a sophomore at New York University’s Stern School of Business. During the summer, I like to rock climb to make up for my sedentary Texas lifestyle while taking the occasional yoga class. In my free time, I make music and play with the two most stubborn dogs in the world, Leo and Coco.