Unbowed by mounting scrutiny of her company's Wall Street debut, Facebook's chief operating officer took to the stage at Harvard Business School in Allston yesterday and jokingly, during an otherwise tame speech, asked graduates to click on the site's ads now that the company has gone public.
Even as its initial public offering remained in shambles and with Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin vowing to get to the bottom of how the stock was overvalued, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg remained mum on the social network's woes, instead focusing her address to the graduating class on her personal experience.
In a 22-minute speech, she described her path to success and called upon the graduating class to help create gender equality at the highest levels of corporate leadership.
Sandberg, 42 -- former Treasury secretary and Harvard President Larry Summer's protege, whose stake in Facebook will likely make her a billionaire -- described how she hesitated before taking a job to run the business division at Google after serving as chief of staff at the U.S. Treasury.
Despite being offered more senior positions elsewhere, she took the job.
"If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don't ask what seat. You just get on," she said.
She did the same with Facebook, even as people questioned her decision to work for the then-23-year-old Mark Zuckerberg.
Sandberg graduated from Harvard Business School 17 years ago, when, as she noted, Zuckerberg was 11.
She urged the graduates not to focus on the traditional route of climbing the corporate ladder.
"Move sideways. Move down. Move on. Move off," she said. "Build your skills, not your resume."
And in the only mention of the social network company's financial issues, Sandberg, who later refused to answer questions from the news media, joked that the graduates should keep in touch on Facebook.
"We're public now," she said. "So can you click on an ad or two while you're there?"
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