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Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, Has Some Career Advice For You

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SHERYL SANDBERG FACEBOOK COO CAREER ADVICE
AP

Women (and men) hoping for career advice from Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg needn't wait until her book is published next spring.

On the Q&A site Quora, Sandberg chimed in on a thread that asked "What advice would seasoned women in tech give to younger girls deciding to make a tech career for themselves?" offering a lengthy answer in which she laid out her philosophy on how women can pursue a successful career in Silicon Valley.

Her guidance for aspiring female professionals can be summed up in three words: banish all doubt.

"I think the most important advice for girls or women who want to consider a career in tech is really the same advice for all women and girls anywhere -- that the key thing is to believe in your own abilities," Sandberg wrote. "If women believe they can succeed in tech, they will. And so many amazing technical leaders already do."

She noted that many women fail to reach their full potential because they "often underestimate their own abilities," and warned that women in science, math and technology are particularly vulnerable to the "stereotype threat," or performing in ways that conform with existing stereotypes.

"Girls don't think they can do well, and therefore they don't," cautioned Sandberg.

Though she acknowledged that the tech world is "often described as a difficult place for women," Sandberg bypassed any discussion of the hard knocks that can go along with a career in coding in favor of detailing the key ways tech firms are "ideal for women." (Call it an effort to help women "believe they can succeed in tech"?)

Silicon Valleys, Alleys and Forests of the world offer unmatched flexibility and an unwavering commitment to meritocracy, Sandberg argued. In "The End of Men," author Hanna Rosin also suggested tech companies offer one of the best working environments for women because they allow employees some autonomy in setting their hours.

"The flexibility offered in our industry is unlike anything I have seen in any other industry," explained Sandberg, who earlier this year made a point of publicly sharing the fact she leaves work at 5:30 PM to spend time with her family. "In many tech companies, it is commonly accepted that people can work on their own schedules and often work from any location. This makes a big difference when trying to have a career and a family."

Certainly tech companies are known for letting employees work from home and set their own schedules. But Sandberg herself has acknowledged, "flexible" doesn't necessarily mean "balanced:" in an interview earlier this year, she told Makers.com, "So there's no such thing as work-life balance. There's work, and there's life, and there's no balance."

The Facebook COO opened her post by praising advice Facebook engineer Nora Mullaney had offered up before Sandberg on Quora thread, which includes contributions from former Ning CEO Gina Bianchini and Minted CTO Niniane Wang among many others.

"The best way to learn in the tech field is to jump in and build things, so you should go ahead and do that as much as possible," wrote Mullaney. "Don't be intimidated by those who seem to know more than you...Never be afraid to ask questions if you don't understand something. It's a great way to learn. If the person you ask can't/won't explain, it's likely he/she doesn't really understand."

She also acknowledge women will "likely run into some sexism," but stressed, "Don't let it get you down."

"One of the nice things about engineering is that you can usually prove an idea is better by building it," Mullaney added. "Don't be afraid to ignore nay-sayers and just go for it."

Sandberg, who has been an outspoken advocate for women in the workplace, is publishing a book in the new year titled "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead" that she says is targeted at both women and men.

Read more about Sandberg's advice for working women here or here, which includes choosing a mate wisely (and splitting the housework 50/50).

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