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The Power of Connection with Facebook’s Jayne Leung

The Mag’s “Power of…” series is a series of interviews that highlight our interviewee’s status as an industry leader. We speak to them about their experience, insight and the “power” of their initiatives in relation to everyday life. In May, we speak to Facebook’s VP, Head of Greater China, Jayne Leung, about the power of connection.

Humans are social by nature. Even an introvert like me.

I was “employee number one”
at the Facebook Hong Kong office in 2010. But I was already a big fan of the social media platform even before joining the team. Through it, I reconnected with many long-lost schoolmates, who are now all over the world. So when I had the chance to work there, I was excited by the opportunity to help people connect with others using technology. I now oversee Facebook’s business in Greater China, leading teams across the dynamic region to accelerate small and big businesses to help them grow through our innovative technologies.

In the early days of Facebook in Hong Kong, that meant working in coffee shops, or even the back of taxis. But I enjoyed tackling these challenges, because I was fortunate to have had wonderful colleagues – we were able to take on so much despite there being a small team because of how tight-knit we were. It was so rewarding to be working toward a common goal, learning and growing together.

(Also, I have been in Quarry Bay since day one, so I have a soft spot for this area!)

But even before that,
I recognised the importance of building connections in the workplace. Building things from scratch has been a recurring theme in my work experiences: working on a regional expansion at tech company DoubleClick and later through its acquisition by Google, and helping US start-up The Rubicon Project enter Asia. I enjoy navigating through the unknowns and improvising along the way alongside my teammates.

True connections are meaningful, and essentially the basis of communities. The word “community” is derived from the Latin word communis, which means “common, public, shared by all or many”. We all know that communities and the connections that sustain them are extremely powerful. But of course, the concept of community has evolved a lot since it became popular in the early 19th century…
“Humans are social beings. They need to feel connected.”
And technology, especially social media, has fundamentally changed the way we connect. Over the years, I’ve heard many incredible stories of how Hongkongers have made connections via our platform, whether it’s support groups for parents of children with special needs, or sharing their love of animals, calligraphy, hiking and other different interests. We launched #SheMeansBusiness in 2016; a programme that empowers female entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses by helping them make valuable connections and access digital tools and resources. To date, we have trained over 2,000 female entrepreneurs in Hong Kong. All of this makes me so proud.

But it's not enough
to simply connect with one another in a small scale – we need to also bring the world closer together. We need to develop social infrastructure to give people the power to build global communities that work for everyone. From email to online forums to social media networks, the world is now more connected than we could have previously imagined. Connections empower us to do things that we can’t do by ourselves, and allow us to support one another and turn to each other for help. So we should grasp the greatest opportunities and leverage each other’s knowledge and expertise to tackle the challenges that the world is facing today, to end poverty, cure disease, stop climate change, et cetera. And no single group, or even country, can do that alone.

Things continue to shift
as we continue to change the way we engage with one another. Sure, Facebook and Instagram have helped people connect with friends, communities, and interests in the digital equivalent of a town square. But we’ve seen people increasingly also wanting to connect privately in the digital equivalent of the living room. While public social networks will still be very important in people's lives for connecting with those you already know, discovering new people, ideas and content, plus the future of communication will increasingly shift to private ones, with the growth of private messaging.
While we attempt to build a world where people come together to take on many big meaningful efforts, in this day and age, it’s much more important for people to gain emotional support from friends or community. We need personal interactions, and the same applies for our work place.

Face-to-face conversations should be the basis of in-office interactions. But using technology is a way to enhance connections and facilitate communication, especially when working across different offices or when people are travelling. In 2016, we launched Workplace to connect colleagues and transform companies by bringing the power of community to work. We like to use Workplace to share ideas, collaborate, as well as to build our internal community. Our Diversity and Inclusion team has also initiated internal programmes such as yoga, craft and language groups for our like-minded employees to join. So, mastering the balance between tech-supported relationships and in-person interactions will help to build strong bonds within teams. I highly encourage fellow leaders to see how technology can support them, too.

Humans are intensely social beings.
They need to feel connected. Recently, for a time, virtual offices and teams became the “new normal”. Personal sharing is one of the easiest and most overlooked ways to strengthen connections, especially when staff are remote. It’s probably the easiest way to overcome the isolation that can creep in when people aren’t together physically. Within our own company, we’ve come up with creative ways such as virtual lunches and meet-ups during the work from home period to deepen –
and energise – our connections in spite of working from different places.

At Facebook,
we say “the journey is 1% finished”. Something can always be better, and that nothing is ever complete. To build things from scratch, hack things out, improve and iterate as we go along – that’s the mentality that drives us. But of course, we couldn’t do without the connections we’ve made along the way that support us in reaching our goals.

Sometimes, it’s how we create that propels us forward. Read about the Power of Design with Benoy’s Trevor Vivian.

Do you work at Taikoo Place and want to be featured in The Power Series? Get in touch.
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