Sheryl Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer for Facebook, one of the biggest companies in the world.
Its market cap was $US231.6 billion as of March 2015, making it one of the world’s most valuable tech companies behind Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Sandberg is estimated to be worth $US1.1 billion, according to Forbes.
But during one of her first job interviews, a tech CEO told Sandberg that his or her company would “never” hire someone like her.
The Facebook executive shared advice for graduates in a commencement speech given at the Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management. Here’s a snippet from her speech, which Time has published in full (emphasis is our own):
But when I was working at the U.S. Treasury Department, I saw from afar how much impact technology companies were having on the world and I changed my mind. So when my government job ended, I decided to move to Silicon Valley.
In retrospect, this seems like a shrewd move. But in 2001, it was questionable at best. The tech bubble had burst. Large companies were doing massive layoffs and small companies were going out of business. I gave myself four months to find a job. It took almost a year. In one of my first interviews, a tech company CEO said to me, “I took this meeting as a favour to a friend but I would never hire someone like you — people from the government can’t work in technology.”
Sandberg switched over to the tech world after working for the World Bank, which where she worked once she graduated from Stanford with a bachelors degree in economics. She then worked for the US Department of Treasury during the Clinton administration before moving to Silicon Valley and working for Google, where she stayed for seven years before her switch to Facebook.
Sandberg shared her experience to encourage graduates to be brave and bold enough to follow their true desires, even if that means a complicated career switch.
Eventually I persuaded someone to hire me, and fourteen years later, I still love working in tech. It was not my original plan but I got there — eventually.
I hope if you find yourself on one path but longing for something else, you find a way to get there. And if that isn’t right, try again. Try until you find something that stirs your passion, a job that matters to you and matters to others. It’s a luxury to combine passion and contribution. It’s also a clear path to happiness.