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[Interview] Polycom’s Frank Yuan Talks About China Operations and Mayan Doomsday


As a leader in video conference call solutions, Polycom is well known worldwide for its RealPresence video technology. Headquartered in San Jose, Polycom has been in the business since 1990 and currently services customers from a variety of Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies. They have a presence in 34 countries, including China, where they are currently expanding. We interviewed Frank Yuan to get a sense of their operations here.

1.       You’ve been working for a multi-national company for nearly 6 years now, how has it been different working in China versus working in Canada based on your own experience?

The biggest difference is the pace. When I moved back to China 6 years ago, it was like moving into the fast track immediately. It is bumpy, tough and full of excitement. In Canada, the market is mature and stable. Most people enjoy life and focus on the balance of work and life. While in China, the market is dynamic and highly competitive. One needs to put in 120% of effort to stay ahead of the game. For the young people, there are more excitements and opportunities in China. We work hard and play hard in Beijing.

2.       What is the most innovative thing that Polycom has produced in your eyes?

The core value of Polycom product is to eliminate the distance in the human collaborations. Polycom has introduced tens of products since its creation in 1990. In my mind, there are three products that are truly revolutionary: Soundstation, Viewstation and CloudAxis video network.

Soundstation is the first product of its kind to enable people to have a natural conversation over distance. In the meeting rooms of most MNCs, there is a speaker phone in the shape of triangle. That is the Soundstation. Because of the huge success of the Soundstation, Polycom went IPO in NASDQ in 1996. Even today hundreds of thousands of people rely on Soundstation to have conference calls with customers and partners.

Viewstation is the first fully integrated video end point that is easy to use and affordable for enterprises. The Viewstation enables people to have face to face conversation over distance. Shortly after the introduction of Viewstation, many customers abandoned the former king of video conference industry PictureTel and adopted the solution from Polycom. In 2001, Polycom became the leader of video conference and acquired PictureTel.

CloudAxis video network is again the first of its kind to connect enterprises, SMBs and consumers over video globally. Today we have a global telephone network. In the near future, we will have a global video network. We announced CloudAxis in Oct 2012. Tens of service providers around the world have signed up to the global network

3.       How does Polycom work to differentiate itself from other giants like Cisco?

Focus, agility and collaborations through standard. We are a medium-size company with 4000 employees globally. Our focus is to provide the best audio and video solution for our customers. We introduce new technology and adapt to the customers needs faster. We also believe in open standards to create an inclusive ecosystem for all video solutions to work together, regardless of the manufacture.

4.       Polycom produces an impressive video conferencing system. How much time do you spend on your own system during work and where do you think it can be improved?

I spend about 30% of my time in front of the Polycom video solution. I have good meetings with the team regardless of my physical location. I have meetings in office, at home and on the road. We are trying to make our solution better each day. The key focus is the user experience in a harsh environment. As of today we have a nearly perfect high definition video call in the wired network. We are trying to achieve the same over the lossy wireless network.

5.       Some of the video conferencing systems are relatively expensive —- where is the production cost greatest and do you think it will change in the future?

The product cost is still one of the limiting factors for mass deployment of video conference technology. When we introduced Viewstation, we brought the cost to 1/3 of the original one and market grew significantly. In the near future, we will see video’s endpoint that costs only 1/5 of the current product. It has always been my dream to bring video technology to everybody.

6.       Does it make it more convenient to be a Chinese Canadian working in China? Will it be different if you did not have a Chinese background?

I had a bit of reverse culture shock when I moved back to China 6 years ago. Knowing the language and the culture is definitely a must if we want to be successful working in China. As long as we stay open minded and are willing to learn, we will do well regardless of our background.

7.       It is getting close to “Doomsday”, where do you want to spend your life on that day?

The romantic version is to hold the hands of beloved ones and wait for the time to come. The reality is that I will participate in the Doomsday party of the Great Wall Club. Afterwards I will pack up for my trip to South America, where the prophecy originated from. J

8.       It is 20 days until the New Year. What are your New Year’s resolutions for work and life?

Normally, I do not make New Year’s resolutions. I do wish that people around me are healthy and happy. I want to stay calm and peaceful in the heart in the exciting world.

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