Dr. Wu Jun’s Life Lessons for Graduates: Luck, Impact, and Giving Back

  On May 22, local time, Silicon Valley investor Dr. Wu Jun delivered a speech at the graduation ceremony for doctoral students at the Johns Hopkins University School of Engineering. The following is the full text of the speech.
  Provost Ganzi, Dean Schlesinger, professors, guests, and graduates:
  I am deeply honored to return to the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering. First of all, congratulations to all the doctoral graduates who received the highest degree of your life tonight and will start a new journey in life tomorrow. I know you are as excited about the future as I was 20 years ago when I earned my Ph.D. here.
  Today, I want to share with you three life lessons that have helped me throughout my life.

  The first lesson was shared by our old principal, Bill Brady, at my master’s graduation ceremony. He shared with us the story of President Harry Truman, emphasizing the importance of luck in success.
  Principal Brady said that everyone will experience good luck and bad luck, without exception. However, good luck can sometimes lead to the opposite result, and vice versa. So be careful and be prepared. These words later came true for me.
  In 1999, when I started to wrap up my doctoral research, I published several papers in succession, one of which won the Best Paper Award at the European Speech Congress. Lucky for you, right?
  Since then, many research institutes of large companies have invited me to give reports, including Bell Labs, IBM Research Institute, SRI International Research Institute, etc. Good luck seems to be always there. In addition, the job market in 2000 was very good, and my senior colleagues in the laboratory had all received employment letters from large companies. I was sure that I could also find a good job.
  Unfortunately, because I was too confident and did not prepare carefully for the graduation committee oral exam, I failed. From then on, good luck seemed to have left me.
  First, I had to do an extra year of research, and then all kinds of bad luck came one after another—first the dot-com bubble burst, then 9/11 happened, and many large companies froze hiring and began eliminating existing employees. Some employees.
  I have no choice but to wait for these companies to reopen for hiring. Thanks to my supervisor, Professor Kudamp, who allowed me to stay in school for one more year so that I could maintain my student visa.
  While I was waiting for opportunities from companies like AT&T and IBM, I had nothing to do, so I tried my luck online to see if there were still companies hiring during the layoff storm. I discovered that a small company called Google was still hiring, and my experience met their requirements. So I contacted people at Google and submitted my resume.
  Luckily, they got back to me and quickly scheduled an interview. This time, I prepared carefully and all the interviews went smoothly. Three days after the interview, I got the job offer from Google. Interestingly, several big companies started to reach out to me.
  It is conceivable that if their offers had come a few weeks earlier, I would have accepted one of them. But this time, I decided to gamble my luck on Google. As a result, I won the bet.
  Looking back, if I had been very lucky and graduated in 2000, I would have definitely gotten offers from some big companies and settled down in one of them. In this way, I also lost the once-in-a-lifetime Google opportunity. In fact, many of the scientists who interviewed me at those large companies soon joined Google.
  Many people are thinking that the job market is very bad this year. Big companies are laying off workers, which is bad news for graduates.
  But remember, we don’t always have bad luck, and good luck may come sooner than we think. The only thing we can do is to be ready.
  In the future, we will definitely achieve some success, and some people may feel that it is due to their own abilities and efforts, but we must prevent ourselves from becoming victims of arrogance, because bad luck may be waiting in the dark.
  In life, we will definitely encounter setbacks more than once, but even if we are in adversity, don’t despair, because good luck will be waiting for us.
  I asked more than a dozen founders of multibillion-dollar companies what made them successful. They all agreed that they were just lucky.
  I’ve also asked hundreds of failed entrepreneurs what lessons they learned. Almost no one is aware of their problem, they all complain that they are just bad luck. But luck will always favor those who are humble and revere their fate.

  The second lesson came from my senior colleagues at Google, including Amit Singh, Alan Eustace, and Eric Schmidt. They encouraged me to use my imagination and focus on projects that would benefit the most people around the world.
  After I gained a foothold at Google and achieved some success, Amit came to me one day and asked me to develop search algorithms for Asian languages, including algorithms for Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
  I was not interested in this at the time. I wanted to go back to doing research on natural language processing. This field has always fascinated me since I was a graduate student. But Amit convinced me.
  He said that there are 4 billion people in Asia, but we cannot provide them with the same good services as English. You think, if 10%, that is, 400 million people, can benefit from your algorithm, this is tens of millions of times more meaningful than publishing those papers.
  As it turns out, he was right, and more than a billion people still benefit from my algorithm today. Later, Schmidt found out about this and he was very excited. He gave me an unrestricted recruitment quota and let us build a product team for the Asian market.
  When we decide to do something, we usually think about what we want to do or what we are good at, but more importantly, we need to think about what the world needs from us.
  In other words, we need to think about how to make the world a better place. Our success depends on how many people around the world benefit from our work.
  As future leaders of the industry, you must dare to think bigger and broader, and do not limit your potential because you are unwilling to leave your comfort zone.

  The third lesson I learned was to give back.
  When I came to Hopkins in 1996, I carried two suitcases and a few hundred dollars in my pocket, which was all my belongings.
  At that time, it was Johns Hopkins University that gave me a full scholarship so that I could afford my education and living expenses. Hopkins not only gave me the best education, but also gave me countless opportunities and exposure to a large number of top researchers in the field.
  Without the experience of studying at Hopkins, my subsequent success would not have been possible. Therefore, I have always been grateful to the school and supported the school in any way I could.
  When I was a student, I benefited from alumni donations to the school, so I hope that young people in the future will also benefit from our efforts. I know you will all be extremely successful professionally, so I hope you will give back to the school in your own way. Because giving is always a joyful thing.
  Today’s world is far from perfect, and we face problems such as war, disease, discrimination, and climate change. I don’t know if it’s because we were so unlucky to be born in such an era. But I know that complaining won’t help, but action will.
  So, Hopkins graduates, it is your responsibility and your privilege to apply the knowledge and abilities you have learned in school to solve the world’s problems and make the world a better place. I believe that you can do it, you will do it!

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