We’re two weeks away from OC5, with lots of great panels, technical talks, and more. To help attendees plan out their schedules, we’ll be highlighting various speakers on a rolling basis between now and the show, so stay tuned to the blog to see what’s in store.
In the spirit of our fifth Oculus Connect, we’re asking each speaker a series of five questions, reflecting on their own entry to VR and where they think the next five years will take us. First up: Oculus Rift Product Manager Lucy Chen!
What was your very first experience with VR?
Lucy Chen: Funnily enough, it was my first week at Facebook when I signed up for a Rift demo. Facebook recruited me as a Product Manager, and you get a few weeks to shop around teams to find one to join permanently. I was intrigued by AR/VR but didn’t know much about it at the time.
I walked away from my demo blown away by how immersed I felt and confident that the technology was the future—there wasn’t any chance I wouldn’t be part of the journey.
Why did you join Oculus/Facebook?
LC: For a bit of context, I’ve always been someone to push the frontiers. I studied Global Affairs at Yale, a brand new major, and ultimately did my senior project for the State Department on internet openness in China. My first foray into tech was LinkedIn where I helped launch LinkedIn ProFinder, a marketplace for hiring freelancers, which was Reid Hoffman’s venture project at the time.
Fast forward to 2017—a recruiter at Facebook reached out to me when I was living in Bogota, Colombia. At the time, I had taken another leap of faith and was backpacking across South America as a digital nomad, working as a Product Manager for a startup and building my career coaching business. Turns out my varied experiences across investor relations, banking, consulting, analytics, and marketing was valuable to people! Needless to say, I was really enjoying my life and wasn’t looking for a change.
In the end, in the spirit of staying open-minded, I went through the initial interviews to meet more Facebook Product Managers. I had such fun conversations doing product cases, and the interview process was so well thought-out that pretty soon I found myself in a final round interview sitting across from Kevin Weil, the Head of Product for Instagram at the time. It was humbling to see a senior leader in the interview room, not interviewing, but shadowing another interviewer.
Twenty-four hours later, Facebook gave me a call back, and soon after I took another leap of faith and signed my offer. A week after arriving on the Facebook campus, I tried the Rift, and the rest is history!
When did you first realize that VR could change the way we connect with each other?
LC: I bought a Rift for my parents for Christmas, and seeing them in VR was so humbling. My parents grew up in China before immigrating to the US and didn’t grow up with fancy gadgets, but the power of VR is agnostic of how familiar you are with the technology. My dad has been more of a gamer and follows tech news more often than my mom, so he immediately picked up the basics of Touch—his favorite was Robo Recall.
I also watched my mom shriek and cower at the sight of the T-Rex dinosaur in the intro Dreamdeck scene—so much so that my dad had to hold her still. Her favorite was watching travel videos. She even remarked that it was the future of travel for her and my dad.
They’re getting older, but imagining them defying distance to see things around the world or even connect with friends and family thousands of miles away really made me realize the potential of VR.
Who is your personal and professional hero?
LC: I probably don't credit them enough, but I would have to say my parents. They moved to the US when they were both 26 with nothing but a few English phrases and two suitcases. Throughout the first few years, they saved as much money as they could to send back to their families in China.
Today, my parents have a successful Chinese medical clinic in Pennsylvania. My mom is a doctor, and my dad worked as a researcher at University of Pennsylvania since he arrived in the US, but he also was the business mastermind and financial guru of the family. My mom is total people person, and her patients adore her and have come back to her for years and continue to refer their friends and family.
I would also have to say they raised a great daughter [laughs], but in all seriousness, they always did what they thought was best for me. Most importantly, they instilled a strong sense of grit and ambition in me ever since I was a child. I often think back to when my parents when they were 26. Can you imagine? Taking that leap of faith, boarding this giant flying machine, leaving behind everything to move to a foreign country?
That’s what I think about every time I'm making a bold decision, from backpacking across South America, to starting my own business, and now doing this crazy VR thing.
I’m so proud of where I came from—thank you, mom and dad!
Where do you think VR will take us in the next five years?
LC: Bali. That island is the magical, but it’s also dangerous (trust me, I was almost trapped there last year when the volcano erupted). Oculus is defying distance, and I want to see the technology take us to places around the world that we might not otherwise have the opportunity to visit on a day-to-day basis, whether it be because of physical/health reasons, time, money, etc.
Traveling has had such a profound effect on my life, and I encourage everyone to truly travel—I’m not talking a one-week vacation to some resort, but really immersing yourself with other people and cultures from all corners of the world. But for those who aren’t ready to suit up and live out of their backpack for months at a time, VR may come close enough. Imagine learning about all of these places in history class and getting immersed in a new culture rather than just reading about it. Imagine my mom and dad traveling to Bali, from the comfort of their own home in Pennsylvania.
Can’t wait for the next five years!