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A 18-year Tech Veteran at Tencent Talks about What it Takes to be Successful as an Engineer

Chenchen Gu is an expert at Tencent, having worked for more than 18 years in the video technology field.

As part of her role as a technical expert in her field, she is now hoping to share her know-how and pass her experience on to help young people succeed in technology.

“I am dedicated to learning more each day.”

Q: It’s been 15 years since you joined Tencent. Have you always had the desire to have a career in technology?

A: I joined Tencent after graduate school and never wavered in my career pursuits. Since then, I have focused on research and development (R&D) in video technologies for products like QQ and Tencent Video. Today, I am responsible for the R&D of video technologies for Weixin, including Weixin Video Call, Weixin Channels and Weixin Moments.

I’m very interested in the field and regularly spend time learning more about it to broaden my knowledge. I’m dedicated to learning more each day.

Q: Growing from a campus recruit to a technical expert, would you attribute your success to hard work or talent?

A: I think you can only talk about talent if you work hard enough. Video technology is a field requiring knowledge and the accumulation of experience over long periods of time. You need to be patient and diligent to have real technical breakthroughs and achievements. What seems to be a gift, in many cases, is the result of long-term efforts and dedication.

Q: How do you keep up with the speed of technological developments and still continue to make something that surprises the world?

A: I believe the recipe for success is to be down-to-earth. Technological breakthroughs are not just a sudden burst of inspiration. They come from long-term R&D accumulation and the day-to-day hands-on use of related products.

One of our breakthrough innovations, Hybrid Resolution Video Coding Technology, was inspired by our daily work. Since traditional video coding is based on a fixed resolution, we found that block artifacts and some other quality problems may easily arise in the videos that include scenes such as a sparkling lake or a stage with flashing lights.

What we have developed is a new technology that can decide the optimal encoding resolution for different video content within a given bandwidth. It can make still scenes look clearer and reduce compression distortion for scenes with complex motion and texture. As far as I know, we are the first in the world to apply this technology in real-time video call services.

Q: Do you feel pressure in your daily work?

A: The pressure mainly comes from the massive number of users and their diverse needs. Weixin has a tremendous user base with vast differences in devices and networks. Different users also have various needs. Since our services are for massive numbers of users, the code we write may be executed tens of billions of times each day. Even if there is only a small chance of an issue, the impact can be significant. We must pay attention to reliability as we develop new technologies to improve the overall user experience.

“It’s all about what kind of person you want to be.”

Q: Do you think a person’s character will have a big impact on their work?

A: I don’t think a person’s character will determine everything about their work. Our characters can be changed over time.

When I was younger, I was an introvert and easily got nervous when I talked to people I didn’t know. But as I gained more experience, I needed to communicate with colleagues in different departments and sometimes cooperate with external parties to share knowledge. To be successful, I had to work around my introverted character. I did this by practicing, as well as learning from those around me. The key to success is to determine what kind of person you want to be and go for it.

Q: What kind of person do you want to be?

A: While I have been working for many years, I still remember that when I was first engaged in video coding research, a teacher told me, “Strive to be a good person, to do things reliably and to pursue knowledge.” I take this as my motto and remind myself to be upright, responsible, and curious every day.

“Let technology and people progress together.”

Q: What kind of outcomes do you expect from your team?

A: For our team, the purpose of developing new technologies is never to show how good we are, but to improve users’ experiences. We always focus on developing technologies that are truly beneficial to users and their needs. Our technology is constantly improving by undergoing tests and applications in different products.

We hope to develop more critical and innovative key technologies, which would be the core competencies of our businesses. These technologies could also help us create the next-generation video products.

Q: How do you prepare your team to develop technology for next-generation video products?

A: We all grow experience while developing new technologies, which in turn empowers us to develop better technologies to create next-generation products. My goals are to set the correct direction of technical research and try to minimize the cost of trial and error in the process of exploration. It is also important to let my team members deploy their talent so that they can show their expertise.