Mark Zuckerberg once called Javier Olivan, Meta’s new Chief Operating Officer, “one of the most influential people in Facebook’s history.”
But unlike his predecessor Sheryl Sandberg, Olivan has deliberately kept a low profile in his more than 14 years as Facebook’s growth czar. Originally tasked with growing Facebook’s user base outside of the US when it had just 40 million users, its remit has expanded over the years to include Meta’s advertising products, core infrastructure, marketing, analytics, business development, and trust and confidence efforts. safety. When he officially takes over as COO later this year, he will also inherit Sandberg’s thousands of salespeople and a secret crisis management team called Strategic Response.
Despite all that influence, Olivan (or “Javi” as he’s called by collaborators) has no intention of following in Sandberg’s footsteps. He will have a more “traditional COO role” that is “internally and operationally focused”, according to Zuckerberg† Sandberg made the role of COO about much more than just operations, essentially becoming Facebook’s public voice for significant periods of its history. Olivan, on the other hand, plans to stay in the background.
“Sheryl has been a notable advocate for Meta, working with partners for years to help tell our story to an outside audience,” Olivan wrote in his own message on Facebook announcing the COO change. “With a few exceptions, I don’t expect my role to have the same public aspect as we have other leaders at Meta who are already responsible for that work.”
People who have worked with Olivan describe him as a respected, low-ego, detail-oriented execution machine. They also praise his ability to look around the corner when anticipating the competition. He shuns the press, having only given a handful of interviews over the course of his career.
Originally from a small mountain village in Spain, Olivan studied electrical and industrial engineering at the University of Navarra before moving to the US to earn his MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. He was a product manager at Siemens before joining Facebook in the early 2000s.
Once at Facebook, Olivan became the architect of one of the most successful growth strategies in company history, now with more than 3 billion users between Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. Early on, he led Facebook’s translation into non-English languages and focused on international growth early on. That marked a remake of Facebook for markets with more basic smartphones and slower, spottier Internet access — a playbook that has since been replicated by Google, Snap, and others.
“I’m forcing a lot of guys to use cheap phones now,” Olivan told Time magazine in 2014. “You have to feel the pain.”
He has also played a key role in Facebook’s acquisitions over the years. Before Facebook bought WhatsApp, wrote internally that a popular messaging app turned into a full-fledged social network was “the biggest competitive threat we face as a company.” He also defended the 2013 purchase of the VPN app Onavo, which the company later shut down after covertly using it to collect usage data about competitors. In 2018, he took over the trust and security team “Integrity” tasked with keeping misinformation and other bad content at bay.
In a 2017 post celebrating his 10-year anniversary with the company, Zuckerberg said Olivan is “one of those people who can reliably solve every major challenge we face.” In the short term, one of those challenges will be allaying concerns about the departure of his larger-than-life predecessor, although sources say Sandberg’s internal influence has waned significantly in recent years.
Shared to Meta staff and seen by in an internal FAQ post this week The edge, management gave them instructions on how to respond to questions about Sandberg’s departure, including whether she was leaving because “the company was doing poorly” or because there was “less involvement in the advertising business.” In verbal one-on-one situations, employees were told that Sandberg and Zuckerberg “have the utmost confidence in the leadership team they have built” and that the company “is confident that our apps will continue to be the best place for advertisers” . to reach people and get measurable results far into the future.”
Olivan takes over from Sandberg at a challenging time for Meta’s company. With the company’s stock price down more than 40 percent this year and revenue growth slowing significantly, investors will look to see if its ad team can successfully deliver results in a world with less user data. His growth team has the difficult task of reversing the growth slowdown for the Facebook app as TikTok continues to attract young people. Meanwhile, ex-employees like Frances Haugen are increasingly sounding the alarm about the damage of social media, putting pressure on his Integrity team.
He may not have Sandberg’s profile, but Olivan will carry much of the responsibility that comes with being Meta’s top manager.