Facebook exec Sheryl Sandberg: 'Marry the nerds'

Sheryl Sandberg and husband Dave Goldberg at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference in 2014
Scott Olson | Getty Images

To get ahead, it's often not enough to make good professional choices in your job. It helps to make solid relationship choices, too.

So says Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer at Facebook and co-author, with Wharton professor Adam Grant, of the new book, "Option B." In a wide-ranging interview with Hannah Kuchler of the Financial Times, she makes clear that individual success is often best achieved in a stable context. The same way that it's easier to do well in school if you come from a supportive family, it's easier to do well at work if you have a partner who understands and encourages you.

"You can date whoever you want, but you should marry the nerds and the good guys," Sandberg tells Kuchler. "The guys who want an equal relationship. Guys who want to support your career."

When Kuchler asks "how you tell who the good guys are," the exec replies, "You ask, and you ask early, and you are not afraid of offending. If they're going to be offended by the answer, you don't want to date them anyway."

After her beloved husband Dave Goldberg died unexpectedly in 2015, she found solace in spending time with her children and , Sandberg writes in "Option B." Immersing herself in fulfilling and meaningful work helped her cope with her loss.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg how crucial it was to her, professionally as well as personally, to have the encouragement of her "dear Marty," who passed away in 2010 after over 50 years of marriage.

"Marty coached me through the birth of our son, he was the first reader and critic of articles, speeches and briefs I drafted, and he was at my side constantly, in and out of the hospital, during two long bouts with cancer," she writes.

"And I betray no secret in reporting that, without him, I would not have gained a seat on the Supreme Court."

Of course, you don't need a romantic partner to get ahead. There are many advantages to going solo, including increased independence and flexibility, as some of the most high-achieving men and women in history — current Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor and former Justice David Souter, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, billionaire media mogul Oprah Winfrey, Queen Elizabeth I and artist Leonardo da Vinci — have shown.

If you do choose to partner up, though, choose wisely. Figure out who "the good guys" are, the ones who will support and encourage your achievements and . And don't overlook the nerds.

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