Photo: Flickr/Dan Farber
The best hire Mark Zuckerberg ever made was poaching Sheryl Sandberg from Google and making her COO. For four years now, she’s run the business and operations side of Facebook, allowing Zuckerberg to focus on product and strategy.
At first, Zuckerberg tried to be discreet about his attempts to hire Sandberg.
But then, he basically cornered her on Google’s plane.
A longtime Facebook exec calls the subsequent partnership between Zuckerberg and Sandberg “a blessing from the gods.” Zuckerberg spent more than 50 hours wooing her away from Google, where she had built and run the online-sales organisation. According to a New Yorker article by Ken Auletta, after meeting at a Christmas party in 2007, they had several sit-downs over the next couple of months—first at a café in Atherton, near Sandberg’s house; then, because that was too public, in Sandberg’s kitchen (at the time Zuckerberg was living in a tiny apartment with barely any furniture). When the tech elite flew to Davos for the World Economic Forum that January, Zuckerberg rode with Sandberg and the gang on Google One—the 767 owned by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The two spent the flight huddled conspiratorially—a fact that did not go unnoticed within Google. In addition to her being phenomenally good at the job Facebook needed doing—building and managing a global corporation—Zuckerberg found another attribute appealing: She was OK being No. 2. Most of the executives Facebook considered for the COO slot admitted that they would eventually like to be in charge. Facebook already had its CEO, so this was a nonstarter.