In elementary school, Sheryl Sandberg was already hard at work honing the leadership skills that she would later bring to bear as chief operating officer of Facebook.
According to Sandberg's forthcoming book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, she had two charges -- her younger siblings -- whom she taught to "follow me around, listen to my monologues, and scream the word 'Right!' when I concluded."
"People laugh at these accounts, but to this day I always feel slightly ashamed of my behavior," writes Sandberg, "which is remarkable given that I have now written an entire book about why girls should not be made to feel this way, or maybe this partially explains my motivation."
Lean In, an advance copy of which was obtained by The Huffington Post, presents Sandberg's views on what men and women could do differently to help women advance in the workplace, with personal anecdotes drawing on her tenure at Facebook, Google, McKinsey & Company and the U.S. Treasury. Though some of the anecdotes may already be familiar to close followers of her career -- as she herself notes, female business leaders generally receive far more scrutiny than their male counterparts -- we've combed through the text to bring you highlights about Sheryl Sandberg before she was Sheryl Sandberg, COO.
Sandberg Took Charge As A Child
In addition to enlisting her siblings as her personal cheerleading squad, Sandberg writes that she "allegedly spent my time organizing shows that I could direct and clubs that I could run."
"To the best of our knowledge Sheryl never actually played as a child, but really just organized other children's play," Sandberg's brother and sister told guests during a speech at Sandberg's wedding. "Sheryl supervised adults as well. When our parents went away on vacation, our grandparents used to babysit. Before our parents left, Sheryl protested, 'Now I have to take care of David and Michelle and Grandma and Grandpa too. It's not fair!'"
Tip O'Neill Asked Sandberg If She Was A 'Pom-Pom Girl'
During a high school internship working for a congressman in Washington, Sandberg was introduced to House Speaker Tip O'Neill. Sandberg recalls the speaker patted her head, told her boss, "She's pretty," and asked Sandberg a single question: "Are you a pom-pom girl?"
Even Sandberg Received A 'C'
In her freshman year at Harvard University, Sandberg's political philosophy professor assigned the class a five-page paper that students had one week to complete. As Sandberg had written only one five-page paper in her life at that point (which she'd had a full year to complete, at that), she "panicked":
I stayed in every night, plugging away, and based on the time I put in, I should have gotten an A for effort. I got a C. It is virtually impossible to get a C at Harvard if the assignment is turned in. I am not exaggerating -- this was the equivalent of a failing grade. I went to see my dorm proctor, who worked at the admissions office. She told me that I had been admitted to Harvard for my personality, not my academic potential.
She Crashed Harvard's Network, Just Like Zuckerberg
On the whole, Sandberg's experience with computers in college bears little in common with Mark Zuckerberg's. While he spent his tenure at Harvard writing code for TheFacebook.com, she used the university's computer system only once during her four years.
In 1991, that required traipsing across campus to the university's sole computer center and then inputting data via magnetic tapes. Sandberg recalls that when she went to finish her calculations for her senior thesis on "the economics of spousal abuse," she "took down the entire system" -- just as Zuckerberg's Facemash website crashed Harvard's servers when it launched in 2003. ("I beat him to it," Sandberg notes.)
She Was An Aerobics Instructor -- For Four Years
Her takeaway from the experience (which, in the 1980s, naturally included "a silver leotard, leg warmers, and a shiny headband"): Fake confidence until you feel it. Sandberg remembers that forcing herself to smile through the routines eventually left her feeling better.
Though she doesn't mention it in Lean In, a 1990 Harvard Crimson article about long lines for undergraduate aerobics classes quotes "Sheryl K. Sandberg '91," who "has been teaching aerobics for four years."
Sandberg Was Divorced By Age 25
In encouraging women to lean in to their careers and not compromise before they must, Sandberg recalls the pressure she felt to get married at a young age -- her parents told her to "get the 'good men' before they were all taken" -- and recounts how her first marriage went awry.
Sandberg married her first husband when she was 24 years old. But "the relationship quickly unraveled," she recounts. "By the age of twenty-five, I had managed to get married ... and also divorced. At the time, this felt like a massive personal and public failure. For many years, I felt that no matter what I accomplished professionally, it paled in comparison to the scarlet letter D stitched on my chest." (Sandberg has since remarried.)
In August 2011, Erika Trautman co-founded Flixmaster, a company dedicated to providing users with the tools to build their own interactive videos. Trautman chose the right time to build such a company, as the popularity of interactive videos has exploded, appearing in ventures such as a promotion for One King's Lane and the trailer for critically-acclaimed video game "Dishonored." Most recently, Trautman secured a contract with Sony Creative Software and seems intent on bringing interactive videos to the mainstream.
Alisa Chumachenko founded Game Insight International in Moscow in 2010. Since then, her company has hit the jackpot in phone games, with its most successful mobile app, Paradise Island, at one point reportedly making "$1 million a month" on Android phones. Game Insight reported $50 million in revenue in 2011, the most recent numbers available. Now Chumachenko has set her sights on expanding. Her company recently added a San Francisco headquarters and created its own publishing website to give mobile game developers very lucrative opportunities. Best of all, out of the company's five leaders, four are women: Chumachenko herself, COO Olga Skvortsova, VP of business development Darya Trushkina and marketing executive Alexandra Pestretsova.
Kellee Santiago co-founded thatgamecompany in 2006. According to the company's Facebook page, it creates "artistically crafted, broadly accessible video games that push the boundaries of interactive entertainment," and Santiago has succeeded with four spectacular games that do just that: the Cloud, flOw, Flower and Journey. Her company has been described as "fresh" and "intimate," and its games have won myriad awards: flOw and Flower were both named Best Downloadable Game of the Year at the Game Developers Choice Awards, and flOw received a BAFTA nomination for video game innovation. Better yet, the games have turned a profit. While Kellee talks about a focus on "experimentation" in an interview with Gamesutra, she admits that the games Flower and flOw have made money. "Sony did release their top 10 downloads for 2009 and Flower was number 9," she said. Santiago recently stepped down from her post as president of thatgamecompany, leaving her plans open for the future. She told Gamesutra that her departure was "amicable." Since then, she's helped organize the Independent Games Summit for the 2013 Game Developers Conference and tried her hand at angel investing…and we're waiting eagerly for more.
Cindy Gallop's four-minute TED Talk, entitled "Make Love, Not Porn," was one of the most talked about parts of TED 2009. The talk addressed a common problem: Many kids these days are using Internet porn to learn about sex, but the sex portrayed in pornography isn't realistic. Gallop's startup, also called "Make Love, Not Porn," sought to address the problem by getting users to crowdsource the differences between "porn sex" and "real sex." The site became so popular that Gallop has now launched Make Love Not Porn TV, a site (still in beta) of user-submitted porn that shows how to succeed at real-life sex. Gallop's other startup, IfWeRanTheWorld, turns "good intentions into action" by connecting people who want to do good deeds with those who need help with simple tasks -- whether people want help finding their dog, registering their nonprofit, or fixing their flat tire. And lest, after all this, you believe Gallop is boring, check out her Black Apartment, which has been profiled in Dwell, The Atlantic and New York Magazine.
Big data is quickly becoming a big deal -- so it's no surprise that recently data visualization has been in high demand. But while many data visualization companies focus on the business needs of for-profit companies, Kim Rees has found another niche for her startup -- focusing on the business needs needs of nonprofits. Rees's startup, Periscopic, follows the motto "do good with data." It has produced work for the Fortune 500 companies Google, Yahoo! and Proctor & Gamble, but mostly concentrates on the nonprofit world, helping organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Wildlife Foundation and UNICEF. Rees thinks Amnesty International and Interpol are in the biggest need of a redesign, according to an interview with Communication Arts. "Both have the need to grab folks by the emotional jugular and incite action but neither provides compelling visual information or narrative," she said.