Friday, October 24, 2014

The maturing of Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg caught the media's attention this week when, during a business and promotional trip to Beijing, he spoke to students at Tsinghua University.  It was not what he said there but how he said it that attracted attention.  He spoke in Chinese, apparently not at all perfect, but a television clip showed that the audience not only understood him, but also laughed and clapped repeatedly at whatever he was expressing.  He explained that he began learning the language in 2010 to be able to speak to his fiancee's, now wife's, parents and relatives.

After surviving the less than positive profile in the film "The Social Network" and the constant attacks of the Winklevoss twins who, while never satisfied with their vilification of or reward from Zuckerberg, seem to have finally moved on after profiting enormously for basically having an idea and doing no work, just rowing, Zuckerberg now seems to be coming into his own.  His earlier image of being an insular and work obsessed upstart has slowly been replaced by a more leveled and aware individual, as he stays open to tweaks of the Facebook platform to satisfy privacy concerns that are often raised.  He began being noticed for philanthropy after a $100 million donation to the Newark, N.J. school system and high profile presentations with then Mayor Cory Booker.  What was seen by cynics then as a one-off effort to improve his image, is now being put into context as an ongoing commitment to charitable giving by him and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan.  Zuckerberg's former role of hooded insularity has now shifted into one which broadly reaches out to those in his industry and beyond to create bonds and opportunities.  He seems to be shy no more, but one must know that he remains a businessman with an intense competitive drive.

So when looked at now, a comparison to a young Bill Gates, another Harvard dropout, is not unheard of, although Zuckerberg now 30, has been growing up much faster, as is required these days.  He joined the advisory council of Tsinghua, apparently referred to as the MIT of China, this week and his talk there was clearly aimed at raising his profile in China.  The New York Times has an article on all of this today, and one anecdote highlights Zuckerberg's growing confidence, as well as an ability to be self deprecating.  He speaks of his efforts to speak better Chinese and to understand it better as well.  Speaking of his wife, he said "One time I asked her, why is my listening comprehension so bad? She said, Your listening comprehension in English is also bad."

I liked that.

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