Health Tech: Pearly Chen On How HTC’s Technology Can Make An Important Impact On Our Overall Wellness
Start with empathy. Some of the most inspiring founders build with an unshakeable conviction because they have lived through challenges first-hand and turned them into opportunities to help others. In turn, they build the best products because they feel the customers’ pain like their own.
In recent years, Big Tech has gotten a bad rep. But of course many tech companies are doing important work making monumental positive changes to society, health, and the environment. To highlight these, we started a new interview series about “Technology Making An Important Positive Social Impact”. We are interviewing leaders of tech companies who are creating or have created a tech product that is helping to make a positive change in people’s lives or the environment. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Pearly Chen, Vice President at HTC.
Pearly Chen is Vice President at HTC, heading Business Development & Content Partnerships for VIVEPORT, the world’s first virtual reality content subscription service Infinity for all PCVR headsets and a growing family of standalone headsets. She also manages HTC’s $100 million global accelerator Vive X since its inception in 2016, leading investments in a growing global portfolio of innovative startups (100+) in virtual and augmented reality space.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory and how you grew up?
Born and raised in Taipei City, I had an opportunity to live, study and work in many different places around the globe before moving to the US in 2016. I have always enjoyed embracing new experiences like new chapters in the grand tour of life; learning new languages along the way, in particular, gives me the joy and capacity of more deeply understanding a new culture and its people. This innate curiosity and openness have been the undercurrent of my career and life’s journey.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
After a dreamy year in Paris that concluded my university studies, I started my career with Goldman Sachs in the summer of 2008. After three months of orientation in NYC, I got to my desk in Hong Kong only a few weeks before Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy. It was a shocking time to have been operating from the front row seat of it all, especially as a first-year analyst.
I led an ultra-high intensity lifestyle both professionally and personally for many years from there, but I could not ignore a growing inner voice saying that I did not aspire to become one of those partners occupying the corner offices, and that I needed to chart a different career path that would bring me a stronger sense of impact from my work. That’s when I was introduced to Cher.
I will never forget the five-hour dinner interview I had with Cher’s husband, also a Board Director of HTC, and in its aftermath getting invited to travel to Vladivostok, Russia, to accompany Cher as she represented Taiwan at the APEC CEO Summit. And what an eye-opening experience working with her and meeting world leaders, not just for the extravagance of free-flowing caviars and elaborate fireworks; Cher showed me a model of a successful, pioneering woman leader of influence who is grounded in humility and empathy.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
When I first started out as her Chief of Staff, Cher gave me the mandate of “expand yourself, and expand me.” At her encouragement, I traveled and spoke about technology, innovation and woman leadership at many global summits representing Cher, HTC, and Taiwan, often sharing the stage with high profile business and political leaders. Constantly plagued by imposter syndrome, I was immensely grateful that Cher never doubted my abilities to shine. Still to this date, she would say this to me before I take a prominent stage, “You will be the best speaker.”
It is a gift and a critical career strategy to have a mentor that trusts your ability more than you do and constantly pushes you beyond your self-imposed boundaries. I believe that this is especially true for women.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” even (and especially) beyond your work life. I had an insurmountable fear for open water swimming and road cycling; and the decision to overcome the fear through competing in triathlons was life changing. In training, I swam from beach to beach in Hong Kong and cycled 300 miles on an expedition in northern Thailand. It was a revelation to understand that growth, joy and transformation await on the other side of pain, doubt and fears, if only I mustered enough mental strength to take the first step and persevere. I apply this mantra to every aspect of my life.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Here are a few qualities that served me well:
- Curiosity: Learning is a life-long journey. Curiosity drives me to learn and reinvent myself at every arising opportunity, whether that is moving to a new country, onto a new career, or embracing a new challenge. Curiosity makes me a better listener, investor, mother and makes life much more interesting. I don’t show up to impress, but to be humble, open and curious to be impressed.
- Optimism: Staying positive most if not all the time is a conscious choice. Optimism can transform crisis into opportunities, defeat into growth, and despair into hope. It also makes a critical element of effective leadership that corrals and inspires.
- Conscious love: Being conscious about every thought, decision and interaction with others, and always choosing love and kindness over doubts and fear. Call it naïvité, which my more cynical husband probably would, but it is no cliché that love always triumphs: love of self, others, and our planet is always the winning strategy.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the tech tools that you are helping to create that can make a positive impact on our wellness. To begin, which particular problems are you aiming to solve?
The pandemic has exacerbated stress, anxiety, and loneliness on a global level. There is an opportunity for immersive technology to play a positive role in improving our sense of well-being and fostering a deeper connection to ourselves and others.
How do you think your technology can address this?
Specifically as it relates to wellness, virtual reality has become a science-backed therapeutic tool for mental and physical health, making a difference in areas like immersive cognitive behavioral therapies for phobia and other severe mental illness, physical and occupational therapies for rehabilitation and pain management, and simple mindfulness tools that reduce stress and anxiety. These are just a few examples of how immersive technology can play a role in improving patient outcomes, democratizing access to quality care, and improving our sense of well-being. We want to design a future where immersive technologies positively impact how we feel as individuals and as a collective society by enhancing abundance, kindness and positivity; not the contrary.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
It was Cher who first articulated the vision and building blocks of Vive Reality many years back when we started building VIVE in 2015: it is the vision of converging the best of our humanity with cutting-edge technology to unleash human imagination. This vision has since evolved into Viverse in 2022, which is our vision for the benevolent version of the metaverse that benefits all members of the society. Along this journey, I have had the privilege of meeting, supporting, and learning from founders in our investment portfolio and beyond. They are pushing the boundaries of what is possible with a strong conviction that beyond entertainment, immersive technology that is the gateway to our vision for the future of the metaverse has a profound potential to improve people’s lives and our societies at large.
How do you think this might change the world?
Immersive technology can unleash human imagination from limitations of reality. Virtual reality has the power to transport users beyond the limits of time and space, to inspire awe, new possibilities and enhance the human experience.
Sci-Fi authors have already warned us what the dystopian version of the metaverse looks like, where people live in virtual worlds in oblivion while the real world crumbles. It is correct to worry about the potential negative consequences of any new technologies, which in the case of immersive technology are often feared to be along the lines of addiction, harassment, further invasion to personal data privacy and lesser interest in real world interactions.
Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, can you please share “Five things you need to know to successfully create technology that can make a positive social impact”? (Please share a story or an example, for each.)
- Start with empathy. Some of the most inspiring founders build with an unshakeable conviction because they have lived through challenges first-hand and turned them into opportunities to help others. In turn, they build the best products because they feel the customers’ pain like their own.
- Assemble a team that sees what you see. This is often the most challenging but critical to get from 0 to 1. It takes a tremendous amount of persistence (and charisma) to inspire co-founders, early employees, investors, partners and customers to see what you see. Pick them wisely.
- Identify your North Star. Startup life is hard and lonely, it is often said to be analogous to eating glass or having a door shut in your face daily. The importance of knowing your personal “why” cannot be overstated. Without the clarity of that vision, success cannot be achieved or even if achieved can hardly sustain in the long-term.
- Build sustainably. The best founders know to prioritize self-care, and to build with the heart in addition to the intellect. They take the long view and are consciously hustling while avoiding burnout.
- Keep the ego in check. Building on the frontiers of new technology takes brilliance that’s built upon humility. There is always more to learn, and the mission is much bigger than oneself. Credible founders stay on top of their games by staying humble, grounded and ready to learn from others at all times. They aren’t intimidated to show up as the least knowledgeable person in the room.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
Our journey on earth is short. We have an opportunity to make a dent on the universe through our journey and its impact on others, as well as the legacy that will carry on beyond our time on earth. Let’s focus on making this journey count for our future generations, all while having a lot of fun.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Nancy Pelosi and Ursula von der Leyen. I would love to facilitate a breakfast conversation where the two women share notes about how their respective motherhood journey (Speaker Pelosi had 5 children in 6 years and President Leyen entered politics while raising 7 children) had shaped their leadership capacity, resilience and the longevity of impactful careers.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success in your important work.
Health Tech: Pearly Chen On How HTC’s Technology Can Make An Important Impact On Our Overall… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.