For all his success at Genentech, at Facebook he was confronted with a radically different world: a freewheeling startup, where 20-something engineers with an inherent mistrust of "suits" ruled the roost.
Ebersman worked hard to learn the business and to fit in. A detail-oriented person who likes to see things for himself, Ebersman spent hours drilling down on Facebook's advertising business, and becoming familiar with the costly, electricity-guzzling infrastructure. After the company decided to go forward with its biggest capital project ever, a giant state-of-the-art data center in central Oregon, he visited multiple times during construction to keep tabs on its progress.
Fitting into Facebook's culture also took some stepping out of what you'd think of as the comfort zone of most finance professionals. Early on, Ebersman led a finance department "hack-a-thon," modeled after the all-night programming sessions that are common among Facebook's engineers.
The result: a multi-year budget that was "hacked" overnight by a still-small team of finance whizzes. It was more exercise in team-building than actual financial plan. "It still took months to finalize it," Ebersman told me in a rare 2010 interview. "It was meant to be a nice tie in with the culture."
Ebersman earned additional credibility with the Facebook troops through an extracurricular activity: He joined Feedbomb, Facebook's in-house top-40 cover band, as its bass player. The band has played at Facebook's 7th birthday party and a number of venues in Palo Alto and San Francisco. (In a band photo on Facebook, Ebersman traded his usual buttoned-down shirt for a Guns and Roses t-shirt.) "Musicians have a lot of respect among engineers," says a veteran of Facebook. "It gave him a fair amount of cred."
Ebersman's strong operational background provides an extra layer of comfort for Facebook and its would-be public investors.
The post-Facebook aspirations of Sheryl Sandberg, the company's high-profile COO, have long been the talk of Silicon Valley. No one expects her to leave any time soon. But if Sandberg opts for a future in politics or public service down the line, Facebook would have in Ebersman a well-prepared executive to step into her shoes. Says Levinson: "There are very few jobs he wouldn't excel at."