Monday, March 4, 2013

Ping Fu on APM's Marketplace

On January 4, 2013, Fu Ping had a brief live interview on American Public Media's Marketplace program, hosted by Sarah Gardner. In this short conversation, she reaffirmed that she had no formal schooling for 10 years during Cultural Revolution and repeated the myth of three English words.

The interview can be heard in its entirety here. Below is a transcript:

Gardner: This is the Marketplace from APM. I am Sarah Gardner. If you ever doubt the resilience of the human spirit, check out the new book by a woman named Ping Fu. She is the founder and CEO of a 3D software company called Geomagic. She has been honored by the White House. She has been the Entrepreneur of the Year. And the American government has named her the Outstanding American. All this, after surviving a hellish childhood in China during the Cultural Revolution after her parents have been sent away to a reeducation camp. Her new memoir is called Bend, Not Break -- A Life in Two Worlds. Ping Fu, welcome to the Marketplace.
Fu: Thank you for having me.
Gardner: You said the Red Guard used to force you to recite the words "I am a bug. My life is worthless." Did you believe it at the time?
Fu: After I repeated it many times that I was a nobody, I started to believe it.
Gardner: You essentially had no formal education from the time when you were 8 years old until about the time you were 18. Were you learning anything during that time?
Fu: I did learn a lot of things when I was working at factories. So, I think myself as a maker because I learned how to build radios, TV sets, speedometers for cars.
Gardner: You faced a lot of adversity during that time. I mean, you were gang-raped when you were 10 by some teenager boys and Red Guards. Your sister almost drowned  You saved her. How did you survive all that?
Fu: I think it was my sister, you know, I felt responsibility to take care of her. Without her I don't know what I would do. I probably would be killed or be much careless about protecting my own life. With the little girl next to me, I have to survive.
Gardner: Now, eventually after the Cultural Revolution, universities are opened up again. You said you had a ferocious apatite for learning. What did you do?
Fu: I was like a sponge. I wanted to be an astronaut but I was assigned to study Chinese literature. That turned out to be such a blessing. I couldn't believe that reading literature, watching movies, talking about play... you call that study. I want to learn anything and everything that is in front of me.
Gardner: Then you came to this country and you knew three words. What were they?
Fu: help, thank you, hello.
Gardner: Help, thank you, and hello. Amazing. You did get your degree in computer science in this country. You became a leader at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. You are now the CEO of a 3D computer software company whose clients included NASA. Now, that's like the amazing immigrant story.
Fu: I live such an amazing life in two drastically different worlds. I never imagined I would arrive at where I am. Being a little girl wanting to be an astronaut, I couldn't even study that field, and to end up to provide technology that helps secure the safety return of astronauts  I feel like life came to the full circle. I am living in the American dream.
Gardner: When you look back to the hardships of your childhood, how do you think they allowed you to get to where you are today?
Fu: When I grow up, I learned a lot about self-learning, and I learned a lot about adopting to changes, and I have to have a lot of resilience  All those things, self-learning, adopting to changes, and the enduring power of resilience, are the qualities of successful entrepreneurs.
Gardner: What is your best advice for young people in this country who want to become entrepreneurs?
Fu: First of all you have to understand who you are, authentically, and then understand why you want to do what you do. Some people think they want to start a company because they didn't like the work they do, that's the wrong reason. Or if you just want to make money, that's not the reason either.
Gardner: So, making money isn't a good reason to become an entrepreneur?
Fu: I don't think so. I don't think you make money just because you want to make money. You make money because you create value.

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