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Silicon Valley Remembers Dave Goldberg, Who Died Unexpectedly


When the family of Dave Goldberg held a service to mourn his death yesterday, it was private. But the death prompted a lot of grief in public, particularly in Silicon Valley. Goldberg was CEO of SurveyMonkey, and perhaps best-known as the husband of Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg, and died over the weekend at age 47. NPR's Aarti Shahani covers Silicon Valley. She's on the line. And was this a man who was very well known throughout Silicon Valley?

AARTI SHAHANI, BYLINE: Extremely well known. He was at SurveyMonkey, as you'd said. And I didn't speak to anybody at his company. But prior to that, Goldberg was a huge figure at Yahoo. A co-worker from back in those days talked about his own daughter and how she was getting into tech and going to grad school at Stanford. And Goldberg took her under his own wing and talked shop with her about the people he knew who he could introduce her to. So, you know, he was definitely part of the old boys' club, but he wanted to let girls in. Another guy, also from back at Yahoo, remembered this one time Goldberg actually chewed him out on the phone. He was delivering some bad news. And then, like, an hour later, Goldberg called him back to say sorry. And the guy was surprised because Goldberg was far senior to him, and he really didn't have to apologize because seniors don't do that.

INSKEEP: So a man who reached out in Silicon Valley, and I got the impression he was really well known here in Washington as well.

SHAHANI: Oh, extremely. I mean, President Obama posted a condolence note saying, you know, he was heartbroken and that Goldberg was one of those leaders who was really about empowering other people not about grabbing the limelight. And Sheryl Sandberg, by the way, his wife, also posted a note late yesterday. She talked about her husband being her best friend and her rock, and she also posted a really lovely photo from their wedding with them holding each other.

INSKEEP: You know, you mentioned that he wanted to let girls into the boys' club. Of course, Sheryl Sandberg, his wife, wrote the quite famous book "Lean In." Did her husband have something to do with that?

SHAHANI: Oh, you know, very much so. Goldberg was central to her theory about how a woman can lean in in the workplace. You know, one of her points is that, in her life, behind this very powerful woman, you know, she chose right with a deeply supportive man. Sandberg had been married once before. And she wrote about how she'd felt stigmatized being the divorced woman, but it didn't seem to faze Goldberg. And also he would nudge her. Like, when she was considering the job at Facebook, he told her to ask for more money. And his estimation of her was higher than that that she had of herself, which is very gratifying.

INSKEEP: Is that unusual in Silicon Valley?

SHAHANI: (Laughter). It sounds unusual to me. I mean, I think that the kinds of men we hear about here, it's a different kind of icon, right? So for example, Steve Jobs is famous for dumping his pregnant girlfriend. I just finished reading this new bio about Elon Musk, and there's a detail there about how he fired his female personal assistant who'd worked around the clock for him for years. But, you know, people say Goldberg was a really good guy. And, you know, I haven't seen this kind of wholehearted, just uncomplicated grieving in Silicon Valley before.

INSKEEP: Aarti, thanks very much.

SHAHANI: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR technology reporter Aarti Shahani. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Aarti Shahani is a correspondent for NPR. Based in Silicon Valley, she covers the biggest companies on earth. She is also an author. Her first book, Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares (out Oct. 1, 2019), is about the extreme ups and downs her family encountered as immigrants in the U.S. Before journalism, Shahani was a community organizer in her native New York City, helping prisoners and families facing deportation. Even if it looks like she keeps changing careers, she's always doing the same thing: telling stories that matter.