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UPDATE: 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2011
Harvard dropout and Facebook founder Mark E. Zuckerberg addressed Facebook’s future and the potential for a Facebook office in Boston at a packed press conference outside Lamont Library Monday afternoon.
However, students who attended an exclusive discussion with Zuckerberg in Farkas Hall (formerly New College Theatre) after the press appearance said they were most taken by the fact that Zuckerberg, whose accomplishments and reputation have shrouded him in myth, suddenly seemed “human.”
Clad in jeans and a navy hoodie, the social network guru bumped fists with an excited student to the cheers and the frantic clicking of cameras after emerging at 4:30 p.m. from a meeting with University President Drew G. Faust in Loeb House.
Surrounded by the press on one side and a crowd of students armed with cameras and iPhones on the other, Zuckerberg kept a smile on his face throughout the three-minute press conference.
“Oh, we’re just getting started,” Zuckerberg said enthusiastically when asked what Facebook still had to accomplish.
“The original goals for the company are to make it so that the whole world can be more open and connected. And you know the last five years have really just been about helping people get signed up and stay connected with their friends,” he added. “But I think the next five or ten years are going to be about all of these different products and industries that can be rethought.”
Citing recent developments in social games, music, and television on Facebook, Zuckerberg explained that Facebook would provide a platform through which “different industries can be rethought in different ways so that your friends are there with you.”
In response to a question about why Facebook had not followed in the footsteps of Microsoft and Google and started a Boston branch, Zuckerberg struck a hopeful tone but confirmed that there are no immediate plans for an East Coast presence.
Facebook has opened one development office in Seattle, Wash., according to Zuckerberg, in large part because it is in the same time zone as the company’s Palo Alto, Calif. office.
“We want to really get the culture there [in Seattle] right before we start opening up other offices, but at some point hopefully down the line we will do that,” he said.
Students who swarmed to Lamont to catch a glimpse of Zuckerberg had mixed responses about his appearance, however many of them agreed that he was not as grand as they had previously expected.
“He has very little charisma,” said Jay R. Chakravarty ’15. “I was expecting him to be a lot taller.”
Breeanna M. Elliott ’14, on the other hand, said she was impressed by Zuckerberg’s direct—albeit brief—answers to questions and his down-to-earth, casual manner.
“He wasn’t very assuming,” she said about Zuckerberg.
Following the press conference, Computer Science Senior Lecturer David J. Malan ’99 posed questions to Zuckerberg and Facebook Vice President of Engineering Mike Schroepfer at a panel event that was held in Farkas Hall.
Attendees said that his casual demeanor made Zuckerberg’s ascension in the world of startups seem more attainable.
“I thought it was really interesting that Mark kind of emphasized that he never expected Facebook to become what it did,” said Thomas M. MacWilliam ’13. “[He’s] definitely not the jerk in the movie—he’s a really great guy.”
Students had submitted resumés in advance to the Office of Career Services to take part in the discussion. About 200 were accepted on a first-come-first served basis.
Panelists addressed a range of topics that were based on questions that had been previously submitted by students—topics included Facebook’s approach to privacy, the advantages of start-ups versus companies, and the early days of Facebook, according to Julia C. Winn ’12.
A select group of students from Harvard and MIT were invited to join Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives at a private reception that was held in the Meridian Hotel, according to MacWilliam.
Zuckerberg’s visit to Harvard is part of a three-university recruiting trip along the East Coast that also hopes to attract students from MIT and Carnegie Mellon University.
“There’s a lot of really smart people here,” Zuckerberg answered during the press conference when asked why he chose to recruit at both Harvard and MIT. “And a lot of them are making decisions about where they’re going to work when they graduate in the next couple of weeks.”
—Staff writer Radhika Jain can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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