Sheryl Sandberg thought she was making a mistake. The year was 2001 and she had applied for a general manager of business units position. Sheryl began to doubt if there was even a job there at all. The small technology start-up didn’t even have “business” units so what was there to manage? Furthermore the position appeared to be several levels lower than jobs she was being offered at other companies.
So when she finally met with the company’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, she kindly explained that the position meets none of her criteria. Then the CEO of Google looked at her and replied, “Don’t be an idiot.” That’s some pretty solid advice. “Get on a rocket ship,” he continued. “When companies are growing quickly, careers take care of themselves. But when companies aren’t growing… that’s when stagnation and politics come in. If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.“
And that’s exactly what Sheryl did.
Eric was right. When companies are small their workers can grow into new positions. Managers are created instead of replaced. People have more autonomy, feel more involved, and everyone can learn new skills and take on new responsibilities without stepping on each other’s toes. It’s more than a zero sum game. You don’t need to knock someone else off the ladder to get ahead because there’s plenty of room for everyone to climb.