Dead Cat with Deepa Seetharaman
4:41PM Jun 8, 2022
Welcome, Sally. Hey, it's newcomer This is dead cat. We have Katie, here. Tom's here, here and we have our friend, Deepa, who you've heard before. We're going to talk about Sheryl Sandberg. Departure.
Surprise, not surprising departure. It's like the obit that everybody expected for many, several years. But the date of running it was always a little unclear.
I am recording from the New York Times DC bureau. I don't know if what Katie's gonna let me say that on the episode or not she's, you know, a desk away, stealthily taking a source called the moment Good for her. Is it a wedding? headed to San Francisco tomorrow? And was it my Harvard reunion yesterday? So I've been Oh, my God. A lot of real power player over is the best. braggy is anyway, heading
off to San Francisco tonight. It really fell off immediately after that. But
yeah, anyway, Deepa, me you've been covering Facebook for so long it to end to Tom's point, there has been this sense that, you know, just like recession, there have been Yeah, you know, it's easy to predict her departure. If you predict it wrong a billion times. The media is, as is the general masses certainly thought she was about to leave any day now. I don't know what, what do you what do you think of sort of why? Why has everyone expected her to leave? Yeah, forever.
It's a bunch of different reasons. So first of all, she's mentioned it to friends. It's never been clear on timing. But she's always amused like, Okay, I, you know, I'm thinking about leaving, this is something I'm, you know, what do you think I should do next, as always predicated on like, well, you know, she'd leave when there was something really good to do next. And so what, because senior executive role in a different companies, maybe the top executive role or something in politics, and for a while, this is pre Trump is in 2016, there were all those rumors going around about her potentially being a Treasury Secretary candidate. And so, you know, partly it's, it's born out of, you know, her talking around sort of
limitless ambition, right, sort of like, is this as high as I'm gonna go? And so then the media does reflect honestly, her sort of Yeah,
but then there's also there have been so many scandals and that company's history, and then there is this, there has been a lot of speculation about you know, which one of these scandals would finally be the one that would like, that would mean that Sheryl would finally leave. I mean, I remember the biggest of the of them all, for me, is it from my memory. And, you know, in the seven years, I've been writing about a company, it was the same year as Cambridge Analytica, at the end of the year when it came out that she was part of a pretty aggressive lobbying effort against Facebook critics. And so there was a lot of okay, this is Cheryl's. Cheryl's, this has got to be the time when Cheryl leaves this is she's gonna get fired, there was a loss or which period was the same year as Cambridge Analytica, if you remember, that whole year is kind of a blur for me, but I remember that part. And I remember there was a lot of speculation then like, Okay, this is gotta be it, she's gonna leave. And, you know, she didn't, the board stood behind her mark stood behind her, and she continued to do the work. And at the time, you know, she was telling friends and colleagues that she wanted to stay wanted to stick it out, and, you know, fix things. I mean, that was something she really believed that she could do, she could sit there and build better processes and build better ways and tools and detection and kind of get the company back on the right track. But you know, so many years later, three and a half, four years later, we're it's it's still not there.
When did you join Facebook? 1008. And she's always been the number two Facebook executive since she's been there. I mean, she came in Yeah. And she built this tremendous business, right? I mean, totally, I feel like people are split in two directions, whether they should the story of her leaving is sort of a victory lap for, you know, one of the greatest female business leaders of our era versus, you know, this very challenge top company that she seemed to be, sort of represent. I don't know, do you feel that I feel like it was recorded or the tension?
Yeah, definitely. It's really complicated because I forgot where she said this, but she said at some conference, at some point that she felt like she was put on earth to scale organizations like that was her like divine purpose
don't we all feel just like scale scale scale?
And she did it she did. She's like a demigod. You know, it was like some sort of creation by Zeus. was down to like, teach mortals about the virtues and path of scale. And she did it twice my favorite part of the Iliad,
she, she, there's so many times and she did it really effectively. And you kind of have to separate, you know, the functioning of the company of Facebook on a day to day basis. Verse from its impacts for just this one exercise, which is, you know, when people leave Facebook, no matter how they feel about what the company did, whenever I talk to former employees, they kind of lament the fact that the wherever they work next doesn't function, as well as Facebook did, it had weird processes in place and had like a functioning HR department it you know, that they felt like, like employees or managers retrained in some way, I was literally,
I was talking to a classmate. Yeah, who was saying they'd worked at Amazon and Facebook. And surprisingly, they found meta to be much more organized. Yeah, it wasn't sort of, I think, the popular perception, but that doesn't surprise me at all, is the hyper competent company. Yeah, Facebook is sort of
Oh, no, no, no, I think I think you read it totally backwards. Amazon has a place where they like grind you they you know, you have a desk made out of doors, and there's no love between you and the company. until like, the last couple of years, Facebook was the place to work, right? You want it to be there. It was the best, you know, they had the best recruiters, they would pay the best. The stock was obviously great. They had a real nice campus. Yeah, I mean, obviously, everything has changed so much in the last couple of years. But yeah, I mean, maybe take this in a slightly different direction here. I mean, what I find so fascinating about Cheryl, as a character is she sort of has two main qualities that people ascribe to her and, you know, have been both her, her her strengths. And now like her downfall, or whatever you want to call her current position, right. One is that she's incredibly talented at scaling businesses, and specifically the kind of digital ad model Yes, she really kind of, I don't know, say pioneered, but like, worked very well at. And then her political connections, which I think like, very much a mixed, you know, a mixed report card on, like whether or not she really had political skill and connections that she as far as I can tell me, you tell me deeper, but like, I think she kind of positioned ourselves in that in that way as like, Hey, I'm a political fixer. I know all these people in DC, like when Facebook suddenly became this, you know, lightning rod of controversy. Thank God, they had Cheryl there who knew everyone in DC and had, you know, this whole PR apparatus around her to kind of smooth her image and I guess, by extension, the companies, right?
I mean, that was definitely the working theory. I mean, if you like Cheryl, before she got to Silicon Valley worked for Larry Summers, right. She worked in government. She likes to talk about that experience. And it was something she was always really interested in politics. You know, she was a avid supporter of Hillary Clinton. And,
like, we you everything, you know, if Hillary had one, right, she might have set up her life perfectly well, the savvy operator would continue to be the savvy operator. And in some degrees, she made the mistake every most human beings made, which is we thought Trump would absolutely lose, and Hillary would win. And then she was well set up for it. And now we all incorporate that into our lives. But for someone as public as her, it's not as easy to pivot your whole existence to a Trump world,
especially when the platform that you helped build into the giant that it is, is part is sort of implicated in the rise of right wing thought and white nationalism, and all these other things that are supposed that supposedly foisted, you know, whatever, like kind of got Trump where he where he is. So I think that that that is a little bit different than other politically active figures in the valley, because she had a real ownership role in the social media part, the disinformation part, and that kept coming to bite her in the ass.
So one of the interesting things about the her departure is that we saw this gap for I mean, the 24 hour news cycle, it felt like a long gap, but it's really only a gap of about a day. Before we started to really understand why she left, you broke the news that she was also being internally investigated by Facebook, which seems like something that happens to when your stature inside of a company has really fallen. So could you talk a little bit about first, why her stature inside the company had deteriorated so much, and then what was going on with this investigation?
So over the last couple of years, you know, while you you know, while Facebook was just getting hit with all kinds of different like controversies and accusations are getting more and more and more hot water in politics in DC. You saw Cheryl kind of stepped to the side a little bit and Mark, the CEO started to get more involved in the political side and some of that is a natural, it's a it's sort of a natural evolution. Shouldn't have what happens, like sometimes the problems get so serious, the CEO has to be involved. But this is this is also Facebook, it's a little different. I mean, this is a company that up until 2016, was structured as almost two companies, it was like Mark side of the house and Cheryl side of the house. And Mark has
specifically said she did all the things he hated doing. And he liked
that. Yeah, the business side and the fun side.
And for her side, the business side also included policy and politics and all these other things that Mark didn't care about and really ceded control to her fully and she, he just let it run. And then when 2016 happened, suddenly, he started to gradually get more and more involved. And then the company had to reorient because there were a lot of different problems within the product that, you know, we're causing a variety of different issues, you know, around, you know, like, it's making it easy to spread, misinformation and hate speech. And so more people in the company got involved in what they would pay called integrity operations to fix the company. And this is actually where you start to see a little bit of a chipping away of her power. Those integrity teams aren't under Sheryl Sandberg. They're under Mark Zuckerberg, they're in the product division of the company. And they report up through to ultimately to mark everybody reports, ultimately, to mark but Cheryl doesn't really have purview of that, she gets a different team called the strategic response team, which is just, you know, kind of a SWAT team that tackles rising challenges, basically things that threatened to be massive PR fires based like and when they go public. And but then, but she's not involved in some of these larger potential fixes for the platform, these algorithmic kind of fixes. And then, you know, if you look, we last year, we got a hold of a bunch of internal HR data. And we did a whole graphic about this. And there's a point at which in 2014, where 43% of the company reported to Sandberg, who obviously then reports to mark but a 43%. Like she was the individual outside of mark that had the most number of reports. And then you see, that shrank to about 31% last year, and that, though, she was still the person with the most number of reports, but it's a pretty big decline. And it is, you know, she increasingly, all these other divisions of the company are getting more and more people like there's like the metaverse, obviously. But the guy that is now the CEO of the company, Javiera, livan starts to get more, he's really ascending in the ranks at the exact same time. And so there's suddenly you get the feeling, maybe she's not number two, and the way that she was pre 2016, she's sort of one of the lieutenants. And that, you know, she starts to become less and less visible during key moments and key crises crises. So last year, when we reported, we started reporting out what we call the Facebook files, which is a series of documents from Francis having, she wasn't really part of the response to that even though there is a story about teen girls being affected by by, you know, Instagram and feeling, you know, like a, like, lowered self confidence for a variety of issues. I mean, this is sort of you would
think that the Lean In women would have dried up, you would think so, are we? Well, first, as an aside, it's very funny to me that this company thinks that integrity is something that should inconsolably be addressed by algorithms or whatever. Um, but I mean, are we to infer that there was a loss of trust in Sandberg? And if that's the case, when did it happen and why
we know that there, there were moments of increased tension between her and Mark. I mean, there are times where he outright told her after the Cambridge analytic, a story first broke, you know, he blamed her for the public Fallout and the public strategy. And she told me she front run the New York Times. I don't believe that was her decision. I think that was somebody else on the PR team. But she certainly I mean, she approved it, I think, right. That's her. That's her.
Facebook got out ahead of the New York Times, and Cambridge analytical, which almost ended up validating it. Yeah, the story that I think several of us on the podcast don't believe in, or at least I'll speak for myself, I don't think is a big deal anymore. But Facebook almost convinced other reporters, that it was a huge deal by playing dirty with the New York Times. And so it's like, a terrible PR strategy. So the media is fixated on it, and therefore we're fixated. Yeah. So
when you say Deepa that Mark blames her for it. I mean, Cambridge analytic aside, because that one does sound a bit complicated. What else specifically, did he think she bungled? Was it that there wasn't a competent PR strategy that her connections in Washington weren't enough to assuage? You know, fears from from senators that they didn't put enough interns under, you know, who was it Who was it that their kid was a? an intranet? Facebook? Sure which Senator was it
is Chuck Schumer's kid, wasn't it? Chuck Schumer? Yeah, Chuck Schumer. Yeah, exactly
didn't have enough. Chuck Schumer's kids interning Facebook, for Sheryl, specifically to kind of make all this go away much faster.
Um, I think it was a lot of it was the, the architecture of the public response, right. So if you remember that period, they were silent publicly for about five days before they, they really said anything about it. And then they, he also blamed her, I think, for not managing the political response. So they started getting an incredible amount of heat from Democrats. And do you see and it just, and this is, by the way, coming on the heels of the Russian interference scandal, so people are still angry about that. And then this happened. And so they're, it's just escalating. And so he didn't feel like she, she this is at least my understanding from the sources I talked to you he didn't feel like she really managed the Facebook's response to those challenges. Appropriately, it isn't really clear what she could have done differently. But But both
both just to zoom out, like on their personnel, it's like both mark and Cheryl are sort of stiff communicators in very different ways. Like he's sort of, right, like the weird sort of, I don't know, 30
scripted community, but when she wants to be she can come across as very warm.
There are people that will you have conversations with where it feels like they're really trying to, like, win you over. And I don't know, she she's like, totally willing to like talk to 10 reporters and say nothing and just sort of put on a little performance, but it's not a personal interaction you're having with her at all right? I mean, she doesn't
touch if somebody's doing, you know, air foiling on Instagram, during the fourth of July. I'm
not sort of designing earlier. I'm just saying they're both people that feel like they live in a sort of plane above you sort of delivering they're very deeply you feel differently, or
I don't know, I guess I've had, I think she can come across as very warm. I think I agree with Katie's assessment, which is she's often pretty scripted. She's really disciplined in what she says and doesn't say, you will, if you listen to enough, Sheryl Sandberg, speeches and interviews, you will hear similar anecdotes like again and again and again,
the same quote in her departure interviews, you
know, just like any politician, right, so
politicians that are good at like, making you feel like it was authentic? Well,
I think that, you know, what a lot of people would say about somebody like Nancy Pelosi is that when you're one on one with her, you've never felt more engaged. But she gives a lot of very scripted speeches. I don't think this is unusual.
I want to I want to get to the Cheryl legacy in a second, because there's a lot to kind of mine from there. But But Katie did have this question. I think we were leading to with the leg distance from Zack, which was like, with the straw. And you know, what, specifically with this investigation of her, you know, trying to use her Facebook resources to set up well, we don't
want to just speak with speak to what the Wall Street Journal's reported, which was Facebook was investigating her and so yeah. Or is it? Is it safe to infer that Facebook is investigating her when because she's lost so much stature in the company, nobody is giving her the goodwill to even think that she could not have done something wrong. They have to launch the formal investigation. And then two, is the was the formal investigation launched perhaps as a way to push her out. Very few people want to stick around a company that's investigating them.
So I think there's still so much about this investigation. We don't know. We don't know, we know about its existence. Right? And that's what we reported. And we don't know. We there's just a lot we don't know, we don't know who called for it. We don't know what it means yet. So I would just want to say we saw again, we're still like actively reporting and trying to understand that part of it. I think it's it just on the to the statue question. It is interesting. I mean, she if you look at the Facebook proxy, she has an enormous amount of latitude to use corporate resources for personal reasons that she can use. It's clearly written in the proxy, but she can use a private plane on the company dime for personal reasons, a private plane, and she has security that she catch all the time. For personal reasons for for professional reasons, whatever I mean, so she gets a lot of resources and we know that there are a lot of times where I've you know, I've gone to some of her personal events and then seeing Facebook employees there so sometimes you know, Facebook employees will go and support her when she's doing like a, like some other kind of event like a personal type of an event. And that's been happening for years. So I am not sure what a sparked these investigations, one of which is into her personal sort of her activities at Facebook, including the use of corporate resources for her wedding and the other, which it has to do with, you know, using, I guess, a Facebook email address and talking directly to the Daily Mail to try to kill a story about her then boyfriend Bobby codec. And so I think there's, I think you just it is it is curious that I would love to understand why that investigation is starting now, especially given how much latitude she's given been given for years. Right.
Right. I think what Katie is getting as the investigation is almost a sign of her weakening statute, the company more than the investigation itself is some don't necessarily, especially
in light of the fact that she does have the latitude to use Facebook's resources for personal use.
Yeah. And so this kind of brings me to this other sort of journalistic question about it, which is, I genuinely feel for any reporter and I've been in this case of a major executive stepping down, and you have to come out with a story as quickly as possible. And you basically have to like, and it's reasonable to and the, you know, like audiences want to read it reporters, editors are demanding it. And reporters are basically like, shaken. This, you know, the tree of sources familiar with the matter, to like rain down as many like acorns of anecdotes to give some explanations to what happened. And we're sort of stuck in this, like, first draft of history scenario, where we may look back at this in a couple of weeks, and find that it was completely irrelevant. Yeah, that, you know, the investigation was a formality. It had nothing to do with anything broader, you know, we can maybe make connections that there was some sort of, you know, signifier of this being her fallen stature in the company, or it literally was just ain't no thing. Like she just woke up one day and was a journalist.
Burnout. I thought there were other themes in the video was released anecdote
in the story. And look, you guys were very cautious about it. And I have utmost respect for the journal in not sensationalized it was a
story about the departure. So we're picking him on,
right. Yeah, I'm
not criticizing it. I'm just genuinely asking, as you were reporting this out, you come across this anecdote, we don't really know yet whether that was the cause of anything. I mean, how do you how do you reckon with that, because that is, you know, an interpretation that people will draw from the story.
Yeah, I mean, I guess I would just say that this is like live or working with live ammo, I guess, you know, we're constantly reporting this is a real time really fluid reporting situation. We don't know what we don't know. And we're trying to learn as much as we can. This investigation is pretty unusual, though. And it is something that we've been hearing about, and I think it is that in and of itself is worth informing people. I mean, we lead with burnout, we lead with the fact that she was talking to in the headline and in the lead, that she was burned out and telling people that and that she felt like increasingly disconnected from things like the metaverse or a lot of other reasons in there. But the investigation, I don't know, it's news. So it sort of we include it too, because it's, but we don't know how significant
it didn't if she hadn't left the company. I think the fact that she was being internally investigated, would it in and of itself have been a good news story. Oh, definitely. Yeah. Yeah.
I mean, I don't think context of the explanation. Yeah.
to Tom's pointing in the context, of course. But I mean, let's not forget that that is news. And would be reported, even if she'd stayed.
Yeah. And so I think the fact that it's news is, I mean, that's kind of where we're, it's tricky.
It's tricky. And by the way, I mean, that was something you'd heard about, obviously, prior to her announcement, like you guys had been kind of dicking around on that. And then when her announcement happens, you're just sort of like, oh, well, we have this reporting, like,
kudos out, right, or was that investigation out, but the investigation about the wedding was new? Yeah,
that's I mean, we had written about the codec investigation. And then
what was the codec investigation again,
so she, and a few years ago, when she was dating Bobby codec, there were a couple of different occasions where the Daily Mail was about, was about to write a story about a restraining order that one of his former girlfriends had against him, and that and that she called the Daily Mail to basically plead her case and try to inform them and persuade them that it wasn't true or that there were, there was a lot more to the story and that they that and try it, guess try to get them not to publish the piece. Right. I think that's maybe the easiest way of saying it.
I mean, it as much specificity and comfort as you can debug, get a sense of like, the spinning that's going on behind the scenes between the different camps. And are you seeing any sort of concerted effort by those aligned with Cheryl, are those you know, quote, unquote, aligned with Mark or the company to try to push a narrative that is going to be you know, X planetory in a way that one wasn't a huge failure one wasn't a huge asshole. Do you see it? Let's put it like this. Are you seeing that kind of formation set up as this is happening? Because you know, Facebook is such a powerful company it is, you know, quasi governmental. You know, it has former government PR people running their communication shop like, yeah, how, you know, how much is the politicking of this figuring into the narrative right now?
Yeah. I'm smiling because I'm trying to figure out what I can say.
Right? I mean, in some ways he's asking,
he's thinking about deepest formulating an answer whose more quasi governmental Apple or Facebook? What do you guys think? I feel like Apple is better at it.
Yeah. You know, Apple better than I apple on those clothes. Yeah.
I mean, Facebook is hiring, you know, Nick Clegg to head their PR. I mean, you know, they certainly recognize that they need to have as much political connection and import as possible. I just
like Apple uses Tim Cook. And like, it's he's a CEO who can actually, he should run the State Department, I swear to God, I mean, he's, he's a CEO can actually meet with people and have these sort of difficult conversations, I think, in a way that Mark Zuckerberg cannot,
because Apple has real power. You know, that was always I felt like the true revelation about these companies at you know, with the stock market correction is like one is still worth over a trillion. And the other one is, you know, piddling 400 billion, right?
I mean, Apple leaks, less, it's more professional, they have way more control over the message. I just think they can operate in China much messier. Like, well, in some ways,
yes. They have this huge manufacturing company. Anyway, so depot back to question.
So okay, I'll say this. I mean, like, you've already seen the story kind of shift a lot in the last few days. And so whether that's reflective of what's going to happen going forward is, you know, I guess, TBD. But we can talk about what's happened. So like the day she actually does that, she announced that she's gonna resign. It's there are so many like kind of coordinated messages wishing her while talking about her influence all the ways in which she shaped the company forever. Mark puts out a very long statement, just embracing her and congratulating her, the two of them, who were partners in this and how she sort of helped him navigate become Bill cook Facebook into what it is, and you know, and then they know that he does the same thing. And the next day with employees had a q&a, according to some of the lead transcripts of that q&a that have been floating around. So they are the Facebook has very much tried to be like these two are a unified front. But then at the same time, you know, you see when, when we're discussing, you know, no one's really talking on the record about these investigations. But Cheryl's PR person did provide us with a comment about 24 hours after our story Ran is saying Cheryl did not inappropriately use corporate resources to plan her wedding, and the word inappropriately was, is in there. It's a quote. And so I don't know what new statements are going to come out as more and more of the reporting, you know, kind of gets is surfaced, but things are already sort of subtly shifting and that it's only been a few days. So I think that's the best I can do for Utah month, that particular answer, I think you're gonna see a lot of different aging response
they put out okay, first of all, the conspiracy theory that they announced this when the Johnny Depp, Amber Heard trial was out. You seen. I know, all the Facebook reporters seem to hate this theory. I know, you think there was too much teed up for that to be I mean, it's felt like they were burying it. It's one of the biggest social media news stories like this is all over my tic tock feed, I assume all over Facebook. And you're telling me they don't know that this is going to be a big news vortex?
Yeah, I mean, but then it's not as if Cheryl stepping down would not have drawn attention, like no matter what was happening,
but the goal was I the suggestion is this was meant to bury it by
right. I think if they were going to bury it, wouldn't they do it on like, Saturday or Friday night at 11? Yeah.
Yeah. Because there's a whole press corps that is dedicated to trust writing that Facebook, you know, like, and there are a lot of reporters who even if they're not dedicated to writing about Facebook on a daily basis, they have sources there, they talk to people there, they're trying to uncover something. It's like one of the most scrutinized companies in the world. And certainly, of all the companies I've ever covered the most scrutinized and so I don't know. I yeah, I don't know that there was
I'm sorry, you're being so diplomatic about this. But that is the stupidest fucking heresy theory. I can imagine. You're trying to tell me that there that there are that there? Were reporters that were on the Facebook beat that because of the Johnny Depp Amber Heard verdict came in. They were like, I just dropped it. Yeah, not cover Cheryl. I'm sorry. I
wouldn't rise that.
I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Jason. I know you probably think this is a big deal about Cheryl. But literally, there is no one doing analysis on Amber herd and Johnny Depp right now if I don't do this story. I mean, that's so that is just like the blinkered mindset of people on social media that, you know, change their minds as to what they care about on like a five minute timer. But in the moment that they care about, I think nothing else matters. So awful conspiracy theory, I don't mean to say something like, you know, Cheryl was hoarding baby formula or something like that, that would be a little bit more like enticing and realistic to
me. What did you make of fortune? Fortunately, we ran a headline saying that Roe versus Wade had some sort of you see this very well, they
said that she wanted to leave to work on her foundation. And she felt galvanized because of the potential end of Roe versus Wade and the need to like, think about women's reproductive health. So which is very, um, brand. And she That's what she said in the interview. That's what she said.
Yeah. And I think I mean, I can see, I think there's not one reason anybody leaves a company after 14 years. Right. I mean, like, that's that I think it's certainly leaving liberates her to do more of that. Is that why she left? I don't know. i That's not we we didn't hear that we had heard is largely some of the other issues we talked about, like around burnout and just feeling like she didn't really care. And
I think that I think the fortune story was based on the interview she liked. It wasn't like they talked to 12 people familiar with the matter? No, it was because she sat with him and said, This is why I'm doing I do think
the public communication I mean, the mark post her posts about it. Yeah, they're very boring. Like, don't think, I don't understand. Don't ever want to tell more.
Ever get a spicy, like, torture announcement? Have
you ever don't want the media to endlessly speculate about other things?
Have you ever seen that strategy deployed? Like I've, I can't remember it. But have you ever seen the strategy where the company puts a lot of gory details and interesting, cool stuff. In their departure press release, I have never seen it.
The first draft of the shale resignation was just the middle finger emoji. That's what she was gonna put. And that was it was it and then she was gonna be gone the next day?
Well, I feel like you could be you know, I feel like if you worked on a particular product, you could sort of have like a last like tour about like, the inside story of that. And then you, you have more of a like, you have something you finished so that people can't really use this capstone
is not really done with Facebook. First of all, she doesn't leave her job until the fall. And secondly, she's on the board. She's still there. You know, I don't think that she's left her job role as like a very powerful executive inside the company. You know, the the person that's going to take the CEO job after her isn't going to have her same type of power and influence on mark that she did at the at her height of her powers. Right. And that's the way it but she's that she's
still another, another six dimensional chess theory would just be, you know, she, she sees the world and like, the markets are gonna get worse and leave Facebook. What before it's like a true bloodbath. And if you know, the economy really does go into a recession, and this is chicken 2.0. Isn't
your wealth still tied up in the stock to a great degree, like, if you look at the proxy statement, she's still paying shares. And they've over like five to seven year periods. So leaving now it doesn't actually sound like she can leave in
your peak, like if she was such a six dimensional chess player, left last November?
Yeah, she's she's still like, at the mercy of the stock market for a lot of her well, yeah,
yeah. I mean, the thing, the thing about it that I find, you know, challenging as a reporter, and just as a person trying to make it out is that she is also just a human being. And people are complicated. And there's often like a constellation of reasons legitimately, as to why she decided to leave the job when she did, you know, like, she probably was, you know, feeling marginalized than she literally was bought by Zach, she was less interested in this direction towards meta. She'd also been doing it for 14 years. And maybe, you know, there's a straw, whether it's the investigation or something that hasn't been announced yet, or reported yet. And all of it together are legitimate. And it doesn't have to be one thing or the other.
I guess, like, when I think about it that way, if I were working with the New York Times, and one day I woke up and because of a series of things my boss blamed me for, you know, she was like, you've been doing a lot of reporting, and we'd like you to do a little less of it. We have a great role for you in reading audience comments. And I did that for a while. And I'd survived this to your pandemic where I'd worked a ton, but been marginalized anyway, and then I thought that my company was also investigating my expenses. At some point, I would think you With Beckett, Beckett, the difference being that I'm not a multimillionaire. I'm sure you can find,
you know, you just think that sort of how much we know is fundamentally limited by sources. And that yeah, this is not like something where they're just everybody like Zack is on background. Cheryl's on everybody's just like, given their spin against each other. So you get to the truth. I think
it's this one's just hard. It's really sensitive. There's a lot of different moving parts. i Yeah, it's, it's, we're trying, I mean, all we can do
to them by their buttoned up. I'm just I mean, they're it's,
I don't know, they are in there. Yeah, they are. But I was, it was interesting to hear, like around when Cheryl was like, the day that she decided to step down there. There were the company also said it had nothing to do with the bobby Kotek matter or that and that that particular review on to that subject was was closed. And that is a tacit confirmation of the story from you know, a couple of months ago on Bobby, which is so there's there's something like the the there's a little drip drip of of information coming from the company in public I, I don't expect that to ever turn into like a gush where they suddenly started talking.
And but also, to be fair, no, I think it's legitimately something that took a lot of people by surprise. And so when something is so close hold, it's hard for there to be a lot of good leaks, because most people don't know what they're talking about. Yeah. So if the only people who really know what happened are Sheryl Sandberg, Mark Zuckerberg and for other human beings, you have to wait for those further human beings to talk to enough other people for the information to come out. Yeah. Or for Deepa, to infiltrate that four person circle, pour true serum down the throat of one of those people, and then sit there and take notes while they spend three hours telling her everything that happened. And while that is a best case scenario, I don't I don't know how realistic it is.
It's standard journalistic procedure. It's like what I do all the time.
someone's house poison them. Yeah,
obviously. I it's gonna be really hard. I, you know, I It's a challenging story to get more to get more out of, and we're trying, it's just, and but it is. It's really complicated. And it is also complicated, but this idea that like, is it, there's a lot of like sexism in coverage of Sheryl Sandberg. And there's, she's extremely sensitive to that. I thought one of the things that, you know, had kind of made her feel burned out and very increasingly disconnected was the fact that she felt she was particularly singled out for criticism at the company, even though she stopped the CEO and she doesn't make all the decisions there. And, you know, some of these upcoming TV portrayals, like I think Claire Foy is in one of the projects their job where she's going to play Sheryl Sandberg. She's really nervous about those things. I mean, she's, she literally told one of her advisers that there's no scenario where a powerful businesswoman isn't portrayed as a quote, raging bitch, right. Like she, there's a lot of criticism that she's feels she's endured, particularly because she's a woman. And she feels like more is coming. And I think that's also which is almost certainly
true. I mean, because it's true. Like, there's almost no scenario in which like, a really successful CEO is not portrayed as a raging asshole if it's a man, but society responds well, to raging asshole dudes, right? So if you watched like, you know, a movie where the leader of the company is slamming doors and pounding on the table and screaming at people and throwing computer monitors over their heads, we like celebrate that a little bit. Women did that. Yeah, we would be like, Wow, she should probably be fired. Rather than Wow, Jack Welch was cool.
Well, this like gets into like the other, you know, moving off of why she stepped down, but like the larger questions about her legacy, and what she kind of represent as an executive in tech, because I thought, you know, so much of what even when she was being revered as a bit as an executive, there was a not even small tinge of sexism to it. I've always thought the idea of like, you know, companies need their Sheryl Sandberg, right? That's the archetype. You know, the hot headed brilliant CEO needs the, you know, a woman to ground him and teach them about the like, sensibilities of business was probably very limiting.
Yeah, everyone, everyone needs a mom, you need a mom to tell
you like how to manage your checkbook was basically the role of Sheryl Sandberg and you know, I'd be interested in your opinion having covered her and seeing high powered, you know, women in politics to Katie mean, having written about it, like, you know, I would imagine certain you know, Cheryl also capitalized a bit on it, right? I mean, lean in was a huge PR push on her image based very much on you know, her being a high powered, successful female executive. I think there was a lot of criticism that it wasn't really attainable unless you were extremely wealthy. And it was sort of like an unimaginable paradigm set to force onto not rich women, specifically not rich white women. But at the same time, I don't know, to me, it was, like her image, whether she contributed to it or not felt sexist through and through. Yeah.
Specifically on the question of lean in, I've, we could just do a whole different podcast on sort of the post metoo era and how it seems to have come to a close, and that we're moving into a far more regressive era and American society, you know, in a larger way, that's beyond Sheryl Sandberg, and you know, beyond Ember heard, or Johnny Depp, but on her on lean, and specifically, what was so interesting about that is that she had the financial power, and she had the sort of like social and political standing within extremely powerful company, to use that platform to say women are treated like shit at work. And can we all just agree on that. And so that was, I think we forget that that was actually a very big deal. Because women, female executives, up until that moment, had basically always had some version of having worked at Fortune Magazine, and worked on the most powerful and business lists, I can tell you with great certainty that almost every narrative was, yeah, it's a boys club. But you know, what, if you just work hard, and you know more, and you come in more prepared, you can do well, and I'm so grateful to whatever company it is, I work for, that they gave me that opportunity. And Sheryl Sandberg came in and was like, I'm grateful. But let's be real. And that was such a weird, it was a big watershed moment. And this outpouring of thing, cause everyone finally said it. Now, like all movements, did it need to be refined? Did it need to account for class disparity for racial disparity also, for the fact that not everybody wants to get ahead by placating men, which was a big part of the me to sort of like the book, the lean, I'm sorry, excuse me, that was a big part of the loneliness strategy, which was placate men. Of course, those things, were always going to eventually come into question, but I don't think we can dismiss the fact that she used her platform to say something that nobody else had yet said.
And now she's sort of destroyed by the current political environment where, obviously the right hates that, for what you know, for sort of regressive reasons. And the left hates it, because it wasn't
enough reasons. Well, left hates it both regressive reasons. They can't ever be acknowledged. Right. Yeah. pretends not to be sexist. And then, also, yes, then they're progressives who are like, we should have done more, she should have said more.
Yeah, right. And so it's a terrible time to have sort of what's probably still a popular among most Americans message, but she can't even get it. She's She's sort of abandoned it. Right. I mean, she's sort of moved. I mean, she's still celebrates it. But she's not saying anymore, you know,
well, she said it in her goodbye. And I continue to say it's sort of like, does the message make sense in this moment anymore? And is there a way to? Is there a way to revamp the message?
Yeah. Like, the big criticism of that is, you know, she doesn't, she ascribes a lot of responsibility on individual women to basically you know, show the kind of pluck and Moxie and, and kind of push through the barriers and have hope and thrive and, and then help other women do the same thing. But she doesn't address some of the, like the major structural changes. And I think she has talked about a publicly as that that being a problem, right? Like when she wrote option B, that was her second book on on grief after her husband died. This is something that had come up in a couple of different interviews and had come up in a different in, like her subsequent commentary, which is, you know, I didn't think enough about class. I didn't think enough about those kinds of things when I was writing this book, and she acknowledges that it's a lot more complicated than just any individual woman's will. Right. So, but it that adds to the complexity of her legacy, you know, she's not like, she, she's not a she's a feminist icon, sort of, you know, she's businesslike on sorta, she is all those things. She's also really, there's a real undercurrent of complexity, because there's a lot of people who disagree with what she did her messaging and what she ultimately accomplished.
What is she she do now? I mean, do you think Sheryl Sandberg just becomes a reply guy on Twitter? We can start seeing or fighting on Twitter, yeah. But like Elon, you know, just wondering, I feel like these execs get bored and then all of a sudden we see them on Twitter like i i would love to see that that would be a real personality reversal. But
I think that she will she again, she isn't really leaving the company for a while and then she's staying on the board. So she's still attached to Facebook. She's never going to at least at least will she's on the board. You're not going to really see her Anything that's just not gonna go rogue Marc
Andreessen sits on the board and he's been able to, he tweets all sorts. Oh, I don't
mean tweet, tweets, anything spicy about Facebook, right? Like, but yeah, Cheryl was
not a poster. I don't think she has,
um, it seems like the No way. But I see a good revery would
I would wonder, there's been a lot of speculation and also just want to modify one thing I said, it's not that nobody had ever said what she said before, it just didn't nobody really powerful who was a woman had said it because everybody is generally afraid of the backlash and being punished for it and eventually
built a movement by right. Right
was right. Because certainly, there have been women, you know, for, I would say, possibly more than decades, saying that they were treated like garbage in the workplace. But um, I wonder about the prospects for her political career, because that was always going to be sort of priest 2016, that that was going to be your exit from Facebook was going into a Hillary Clinton administration. And then that didn't happen. And now, given all this happened in that, you know, six years, do you think she could still see politics potentially as a refuge or a second act?
I don't know what is on her mind. I know that when I've talked to Democrats and and others that sort of think about her political prospects, it's it just feels, it feels very unlikely, like I, I don't see, you know, she was at the center, she's not the full owner, write the book that actually did not stop with her stop with Mark, but she was the COO, she was one of the most powerful executives at the company was the second most powerful executive at a company that Democrats really, really, really hate, and really think, are is undermining democracy on some level. Right. And that is very hard to come back from, you know, she, Republicans don't trust Facebook, because of some of the censorship issues. And you know, what they perceive to be as unfair, unbiased treatment. And the Democrats kind of the same thing. I mean, like they sort of they don't neither side likes the company. So who is she going to be representing?
Like, she emerged as an anti Facebook candidate, like she would be like the Elise Stefanik. Right. She
seems to hate Twitter now, even though it's like you were the CEO. So it wasn't surprising. When the WhatsApp guys all these people, like they work at the company. You're like, leaving it and then all of a sudden you leave and you're like, oh, yeah, big mistake. She surprised me at all. I mean, I don't know what's gonna happen.
Here's what she can do. This is the Cheryl playbook. And if no one is advisor here on this, I will gladly take consulting feeds to kind of position her next few steps you should become very expensive. Yeah, well, we can negotiate but as you should, but she, she should become a Republican. She should follow the JD Vance playbook, which is now a perfect playbook to run, say the opposite. Everything. Everything that you stood for last couple of years was bullshit. You only did it because you had to infiltrate that group of people. You now believe exactly the opposite of what you said. There is no repercussions, at least as a Republican for doing these things. She could probably be well, she stuck in California, but I don't know. I don't know, whatever is the most vulnerable Senate seat. She could probably run for that as a Republican.
That's I agree with that.
Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah.
All right. My Uber is already on enroute. I have to get to San Francisco. We this is the closest I've pushed a flight in a long time. Under Kaysa ties.
Tom and I have missed so many flights between the two of us.
Yeah, Katie, and I would we would have another podcast. Do another? Another 45 minutes. Just don't lean in.
Thoughts, or I don't know. What do you think you're watching most for? I mean, we're next couple of weeks. Yeah, I
guess. We're just doing more and more reporting. It feels like there's just a lot more to this story. And like there always is just as a complicated person. So there's, if you're listening, and you're sourced, call me.
Well, I mean, thank you so much.
Thank you so much. And congratulations, you guys. You guys are by far.
We do call. None of us are chasing that story.
Yeah. Your stories have been excellent on this. I look forward to your next one. Thank you so much for doing this. And yeah, we'll see you next time people. Thank you. Alright, thank you. Bye Silicon Valley Goodbye, goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye.