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Alibaba CTO Jian Wang
Alibaba CTO Jian Wang at the Washington State China Relations Council annual banquet in Seattle

As Chief Technology Officer of Alibaba, Dr. Jian Wang plays a key role in leading the technical direction of China’s growing internet titan. As it turns out, his past experience with Microsoft has had a major influence on his approach to the job.

After delivering an address at the Washington State China Relations Council’s annual banquet in Seattle Friday night, Wang answered a question about how his experience at Microsoft (where he worked as the Assistant Managing Director of Microsoft Research Asia) affected his work at Alibaba.

JianWang12thManTo hear him tell it, his experience with the Redmond-based company has had a significant influence on his work. In particular, he said, working alongside executives at Microsoft taught him about the importance of getting a team to develop a vision and commit to their work.

“Actually, the way that they look at the world, that’s affected me a lot,” he said. “Everyone knows that Bill (Gates) has a vision to put (a computer on every desktop), but if you think about the company like software, you really can see, it’s not just the people, it’s really about the people’s commitment, about people’s vision. That changes a lot of things.”

His ties to Microsoft weren’t the only connections between Seattle and China that Wang highlighted during his talk, either. He revealed that lines at the Starbucks cafes in Alibaba’s two campuses in Hangzhou, China, are so long during lunchtime that it regularly takes employees “almost an hour” to get their afternoon coffee.

Alibaba also has partnered with Seattle-area companies Costco and Blue Nile to sell items on its Tmall marketplace, and it even worked out a deal to sell Washington state cherries to Chinese consumers last year.

Alibaba, which is coming off a blockbuster IPO, recently opened up an engineering office in Seattle that’s focused on handling big data for the company. It’s one of three U.S. satellite offices for the company, which also has locations in Santa Clara and San Francisco.

Wang also left the event with another connection to the Seattle area: Washington State China Relations Council Executive Director Kristi Heim also presented Wang with a special 12th Man Seahawks jersey with Alibaba emblazoned across the back as a token of thanks.

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