COO Sheryl Sandberg is leaving Meta, formerly Facebook, after 14 years. The group is thus losing its last popular figure at the top – and an important corrective for CEO Mark Zuckerberg. By Hannah Schwar

“It’s the end of an era,” writes Mark Zuckerberg in parting. On Wednesday evening, his most important employee announced her departure: Sheryl Sandberg, COO and Zuckerberg’s right-hand man, is leaving the Facebook parent company Meta after 14 years.

This is a heavy loss for the company: With Sandberg, Meta loses the only popular figure at the top who was still able to give the scandal-ridden group a friendly face.

As one of the few top executives in Silicon Valley, Sheryl Sandberg broke down the glass ceiling for an entire generation. Sandberg started out as a Facebook executive when her two children were just two and a half years old. Her career path, which she wrote in the bestseller “Lean In – Women and the Will to Succeed”, encouraged many young women to pursue a career in what was then a male-dominated tech world. This merit is still highly regarded in the industry today – even after scandals such as Cambridge Analytica and allegations by whistleblower Frances Haugen.

The corrective for Mark Zuckerberg also goes with Sheryl Sandberg

However, Sandberg was much more than a nice advertisement for diversity. Above all, she was the architect of Facebook’s economic success. When she came from Google in 2008 and took over the operational business, Facebook was a four-year-old start-up with just over 500 employees and a half-baked business model. The manager built up the advertising business in the first place and made Meta what it is today: a profitable global corporation with annual sales of almost 118 billion US dollars.

Zuckerberg will now have to do without the experienced manager at his side in the future. Sandberg wants to leave the company in the fall to focus more on charitable projects.

The gap she leaves is cause for concern: Meta loses the CEO minder with her. Sandberg has been a key mentor to the cool and sometimes awkward Zuckerberg over the years. The Facebook founder was only 23 when she joined the company at 38. Until recently, both held a weekly meeting in which they gave each other feedback in private. With Sheryl Sandberg, the corrective for Mark Zuckerberg is now also possible.

Editor’s Note: This comment first appeared on Capital.