Life Lessons Lecture: Wisdom of Choice

  • President, Google Greater China; Vice President Engineering, Google, Inc. and CS PhD Alum '88
Distinguished Lecture Series

Wisdom of Choice

We face many choices in our lives. The choices we make determine what lives we lead, and what we become. This talk reflects on the many choices I have made, and what I have learned from these choices. I will talk about my choices in my profession, in selecting my major and thesis, in leaving academia, in carrying out difficult corporate decisions, in dealing with tough people, in challenging my bosses, in deciding to move to China, in accepting unfair situations, in responding to disappointments, and in deciding to leave Microsoft for Google.

In my reflections, I find that following eight tenets that have guided my decisions:

1. The moderation to avoid extremities
2. The flexibility to decide situationally
3. The pragmatism to pick what battles to fight
4. The objectivity to analyse the trade-offs
5. The self-awareness to set right expectations
6. The perspective to learn from mistakes
7. The courage to let go
8. The wisdom to follow your heart

This talk will tell my stories, and relate them to these tenets. I hope these will help students make wise choices for themselves.

Speaker Bio:

Kai-Fu Lee is a Vice President of Engineering at Google, Inc. and President of Google Greater China. He joined Google in 2005 to start Google’s operations in China. Prior to joining Google, Lee was a Corporate Vice President responsible for advanced natural language and user interface technologies at Microsoft (1998) and was the founder of Microsoft Research Asia, which has since become one of the best research centers in the world. MIT Technology Review called it “the hottest computer science research lab in the world.”

From 1996 to 1998, Lee was the President of Cosmo Software, a subsidiary of Silicon Graphics, Inc. (SGI). At SGI, Lee was responsible for several product lines and the company’s Web strategy. Before joining SGI, Lee spent six years at Apple, most recently as vice president of the company's interactive media group, which developed QuickTime, QuickDraw 3D, QuickTime VR and PlainTalk speech technologies.

From 1988 to 1990, he was an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University, where he developed the world's first speaker-independent continuous speech-recognition system. This system was selected as the “Most Important Innovation of 1988” by Business Week. While at Carnegie Mellon, Lee also developed the world-champion computer program that plays the game Othello and that defeated the human world champion in 1988.

Lee holds a doctorate in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University and a bachelor's in computer science with highest honors from Columbia University. Lee is a Fellow of the IEEE.

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For More Information, Please Contact: 
Catherine Copetas,