The responsible development of XR technology requires a diverse community of voices to help build it. To celebrate the limitless number of perspectives in the XR industry, the XR Association sat down with Pearly Chen, Vice President at HTC.
Below is an excerpt of the interview with Chen, which has been edited slightly for brevity and clarity.
1) Can you tell us about yourself and what you do for HTC?
I currently serve as VP of Business Development at HTC, having held various leadership positions at HTC in the past 10 years working alongside the cofounder and chairwoman of HTC, Cher Wang. This is the part of my work that I enjoy most: investing in and supporting founders building on the forefront of immersive technologies with a bold vision and kind heart. They are the pioneers that will help enable our vision of building this next iteration of the Internet: an open, secure, benevolent metaverse of the people, built by the people for the people.
2) What’s your XR story? How did you come to work in this position?
My first career was with Goldman Sachs, one that was incredibly intense and stimulating, but I gradually realized that the prospect of rising through the ranks to one day become one of the partners occupying the corner office did not seem to inspire me. I knew that I needed to chart a career path with a more tangible sense of impact on society…and that’s when I was introduced to Cher. She invited me to travel to Vladivostok, Russia, where the APEC CEO summit was hosted that year. She represented Taiwan as one of the 63 members of the APEC Business Advisory Council, each appointed by the 21 leaders of APEC economies. Amongst being surrounded by world leaders in business and politics, I saw a role model in Cher as a pioneering woman in technology grounded in humility and the vision to make a positive impact on people’s lives. Upon returning from that trip, I quit my banking career and joined her as her Chief of Staff. She’s an extraordinary entrepreneur, visionary and pioneer in technology and a trailblazing Asian woman. She entirely inspired my foray into tech and this adventure with HTC that went from innovating smartphones to pioneering virtual reality globally.
From day one of VIVE’s journey in 2015, we have invested broadly in the areas of education, healthcare, arts & culture, and many foundational pillars that will enable our vision to bring profound impact to society through transformative technologies like XR, help us better connect with ourselves, others, and the human experience. For me, the metaverse is about empowering more of us to get more from the time we spend in our digital experiences, and in turn enhancing our real-world existence. I feel grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the shaping of this new frontier of personal computing.
3) How do you manage your work-life balance?
Motherhood is an integral part of me and I learn every day from parenting my three young children. They also give me a deep sense of purpose and optimism, because we are truly builders and investors of their future. However, balancing motherhood with a high-demand career without a strong support system is really difficult, if not impossible. In addition to having a supportive spouse who is proud to be an equal parenting partner, which is critical, I also owed it to my trusted, long-term domestic helper to have been able to continue to pursue my career. That’s something that people don’t talk enough about: mothers (and families) desperately need better access to better support to be able to continue thriving as individuals, and as contributing members of society.
4) What advice would you give to people, women, and mothers working in the XR industry?
The technology industry promises to offer a more level playing field through access and flexibility, especially in the XR space where we have front-row access to immersive technology that removes the limitations of time and space. I can hop onto a video call, but also into virtual environments like VIVE Sync where collaboration can feel much more natural, enjoyable and fun through a shared sense of presence.
To me, XR and the metaverse represent the idea of abundance. There are so many opportunities for women to participate at the forefront of this fledgling industry as great storytellers, world builders, entrepreneurs, creators, designers, product developers, educators, imagineers and more. I am hopeful that this next evolution of the Internet will be more inclusive than the previous; I would love to see everyone, particularly women and mothers, to at least get curious, and ideally get involved as a new career path, fueled by this sense of abundance and optimism for the future.
5) Over your ten years, do you think there is more openness or receptivity to being a woman in the tech industry?
Things are changing and momentum is on our side. Of course, we are still not equal and progress can sometimes seem frustratingly slow. There are a lot of stereotypes and unconscious discrimination, and glass ceilings can still feel very real even today. Government and business alike need to more consciously advocate for, and reward inclusive leadership qualities, and that advocacy and sponsorship need to come from the top level of leadership. As an investor, I’m always deliberately looking for opportunities to invest in women founders, to inspire young girls to take an interest in a career in technology. Representation matters, and we all need to consciously do something in our power, big or small, to move the needle.
6) What is your experience and thoughts on discrimination?
I have no first-hand accounts of racial aggression, possibly because I had not grown up here in America, where I mostly lived a life as an established professional. When the horrific wave of anti-Asian racism and violence arose, I really had to dig deep to educate myself about the historic context and just how prevalent racism is even against the “model minority”, including those that have achieved social and economic success.
I would like to choose optimism in believing that racism and discrimination, along with many other deep-rooted, systemic challenges plaguing America, can be overcome with education, dialogue, and civic engagement. Any perceived differences that divide us as “us versus them” are so minuscule and negligible from the grand scheme of things. Love is the answer — that’s what we all need to be teaching our children: love for ourselves, for one another, and for our planet*.
*Case in point for democratizing access: the “overview effect”, a cognitive shift of developing a global consciousness through looking at Earth from space, is a life changing experience that was once only available to astronauts; now, through virtual reality, anyone can benefit.