SANTA CLARA, Calif. Ė For an hour, 1,500 mainly young Chinese men and women hung on every word from Robin Li. The co-founder of Internet search giant Baidu told them to do what he has done: follow their passions.
"The truth is Iím always happy," said Li in an on-stage interview at the annual conference of the Hua Yuan Science and Technology Association (Hysta) here. "When I was working as an engineer in the Bay Area, I was happy, too--the most important thing is to always enjoy what you do," he said.
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Asked to look ahead ten years, the computer scientist turned CEO said he expects he will still be at Baidu, but perhaps not in a management role. Thatís because his passion is about tracking technology and markets, not necessarily running a day-to-day business.
"The industry is always changing, and thatís probably why I like my job," said Li. "There are always new challenges."
Li has become something of a tech celebrity, Chinaís answer to Steve Jobs. He was mobbed by would-be China entrepreneurs coming into the ballroom at the Hyatt Regency for the talk here, yet on stage he came across as low key. "Heís a very humble guy," one audience member said after the talk.
"I am not very high profile," Li said. "I donít enjoy speaking in interviews.
"Most of the time I spend eight hours at the office, and then another five hours at my home office on the computer--to me there is no difference between work and life because work is my life," he said. ď"f you donít have a passion for the business, you wonít be able to understand all the changing products and technologies and consumer behaviors.Ē
Despite his personal passion, ďthe atmosphere at Baidu is not tense, people are relaxed, but products come out that people like," Li said.
He described the culture of Baidu as "simple: be direct not polite, say what is needed and be reliable."
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