We all know what PowerPoint does, right? Think again.
As PowerPoint’s Principal Development Manager Dachuan Zhang explains “PowerPoint used to be a tool to create slides for a presentation. Now our mission is to help people communicate their ideas with each other across an ecosystem of ubiquitous access, powerful browsers and mobile devices.”
Fresh off a two-year stint working with Bing in Beijing, Dachuan has just returned to Microsoft Silicon Valley to take part in PowerPoint’s ongoing evolution. However, he’s not exactly new to PowerPoint – or Microsoft for that matter.
Dachuan was studying for his PhD in Computer Science in the mid-90s when, as he puts it, “the Internet really started exploding.” After weighing academia versus the online gold rush, he opted to take a job at a web browser with a small market share but good potential called Internet Explorer. He served on the front lines of the “First Browser War” when Internet Explorer overtook Netscape Navigator and then moved on to his next challenge with PowerPoint in 1997.
When asked if his tenure officially makes him “Mr. PowerPoint,” Dachuan laughs, “There are so many people who are so dedicated to PowerPoint that I’m still not even close to being the most experienced person on the team.”
After 13 years with PowerPoint, Dachuan transferred to Bing in Beijing. He says, “I wanted to try out the polar opposite experience. I felt it was important to see how cloud services work from the inside out.”
He continues, “In the cloud, things move much faster. In order to do just as good of a job, we must find ways to react to customer needs and market changes. We need to get really good at fast experiments, fast iteration and fast fail. I learned a lot from dealing with these challenges at scale.”
This experience will be essential as Dachuan partakes in PowerPoint’s transformation. He marvels at the new opportunities before the team, “With better Lync integration, we can really improve remote meetings. And better co-authoring support in Desktop and Web versions of PowerPoint helps students greatly in their classes. It’s our responsibility to make PowerPoint excellent.”
Dachuan says that Microsoft Silicon Valley is the ideal location for PowerPoint to evolve as “MSV is lively and very open-minded as we are exposed to a diverse cross-section of tech companies and ideas. That gives us great foresight to the upcoming twists and turns in the tech landscape and keeps us thinking how to continuously improve and find new opportunities.”