Remembering Dave Goldberg, as told in “Lean In.”

Like many others, I’ve been thinking about Dave Goldberg, the CEO of SurveyMonkey who died unexpectedly this weekend.

He wasn’t as well known as his wife, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, although she always credited him for having a critical hand in her success. As she put it, her top advice to young women at the start of their careers was “marry well.”

But her gratitude to Goldberg was for more than generic supportiveness. He was her lab partner in the great experiment of trying to have an egalitarian marriage. The effort also allowed her career to soar, as Sandberg relays it in her 2013 book, “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.”

While they had wealth and privilege, Sandberg acknowledged in her book, they also struggled with what it meant to approach life with an expectation that they would divide chores and responsibilities 50-50.

“We are partners in not just what we do, but who is in charge,” she wrote. She described the daily juggle as a “rickety balance.”

They began dating in 2002. He had sold his firm, Launch Media, to Yahoo and was based there in Los Angeles. She, already married and divorced, was starting at Google.

They managed to start their marriage, even their first year as parents, with Goldberg commuting to Los Angeles several times a week, something he described in an interview with Business Insider as “challenging.”

Throughout “Lean In,” Goldberg is often the one to give Sandberg a little push, such when it came to asking for something at work or negotiating salaries.

For example, when Sandberg was pregnant with their first child and then at Google, she complained to Goldberg about having to walk from her car to the office. He suggested she ask for special reserved parking for expecting mothers, something Yahoo had. She did, and the Google founders agreed.

When Sandberg was disabled after the birth of their child, it was Goldberg who took care of their baby son, eventually teaching her how to diaper.

But Goldberg was still commuting to Los Angeles several times a week. “The division of labor felt uneven and strained our marriage,” Sandberg wrote. It was “marital less-than-bliss.”

They made a decision that struck me as atypical but brave: Goldberg would look for his next job in the San Francisco Bay Area, a “sacrifice on his part since most of his contacts were in Los Angeles,” as Sandberg wrote.

When he was hired to be the CEO of Survey Monkey, he moved the company from Portland to Palo Alto.

They both worked, as she described, on the concept of the 50 50 marriage. At times, she confessed, they fell into gender roles. He did the bills. She planned the kids’ activities. They would sit down every week to figure out the schedule, such as who would drive the kids to school.

Sandberg wrote she wasn’t sure what the future held for them as their children grew older and needed them in different ways.

“Every stage of life has its challenges,” she wrote. “Fortunately, I have Dave to figure it out with me.”

Above: Dave Goldberg, the CEO of SurveyMonkey, who died over the weekend. ( Jim Wilson/The New York Times via AP)



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  • iok

    Still waiting for the details on what happened to him. Seems dangerous that he died in the vacation and she flew back immediately.

    • EllaM

      From other news reports sounds like they were on a brief vacation together, but not with their kids. I imagine her first instinct would be to get back to them, and to family, as quickly as possible.

  • KR

    Not only do we not know where he died. We don’t even know which country he died in. The dearth of information here is really astounding. Something is wrong.

    • Azile

      Given his age and girth, it was probably a heart attack. He died in a private setting, rather than a public event, like in a car accident or similar, where witnesses could be interviewed by the media to piece the story together. The family is not required to release details of the death to the public. The death certificate when filed will disclose cause of death. Their close friends and family who know the details are obviously not talking to the media. Does that satisfy your curiosity?

      • KR

        How do you know these things? Since we don’t even know the country he died in, how do we know it wasn’t a traffic accident? Perhaps it was in a foreign country where traffic accidents are not recorded and death certificates not typically issued.

    • EllaM

      Why does desiring privacy about such a personal matter mean “something is wrong”? You don’t lose the right to have a private life when you become an executive, even though many execs seem to want to be celebrities as well. It seems safe to assume that it wasn’t anything that would require police. Our bodies can fail for many ways, and our best-laid plans to cheat death can go awry. One can be the most fit person around and choke to death on a grape.

      Life’s short and often unpredictable. Make good choices, but know that while they may improve the odds a bit, they won’t protect you completely.

      Rest in peace, Dave Goldberg.

  • Azalik

    “As she put it, her top advice to young women at the start of their careers was “marry well.””

    And then HE MOVES the company to Palo Alto — HOW MANY people did that displace for his 50:50 share; this is plain and simple ‘the 1% feeling so self important’ and then making money off that experience from those who have ABSOLUTELY no chance of being able to replicate the circumstances. I feel sorry for the widow, and the kids, for the loss of husband/ father — nothing more. I am SURE there are millions of others who are much better people than the husband-of-a-famous-person who go unrecognized.