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Erick Tseng ’01, MEng ’01

Facebook’s mobile man.

In the first years of his career, Erick Tseng put his two degrees in computer science and electrical engineering to good use, working on code and products for McKinsey, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Google.

Erick Tseng

While he still applies that skill set in his new role as a product manager at Facebook, his vision is more of a global one, thinking about how the world uses and applies the hardware and applications he and his teams have developed in the past decade.

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This story is part of the May/June 2014 Issue of the MIT News Magazine
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When Tseng arrived at Google in 2006, the Android platform was in early development. He ultimately rose to lead product manager for Android, and by the time he left the company, hundreds of millions of devices worldwide were using the platform.

But Tseng felt challenging work still lay ahead of him. “I joined Facebook because of the culture,” he says. “It’s inherently entrepreneurial. We call ourselves hackers because we love to move fast and build new, high-impact things.” These things include the Facebook Home platform, which functions as a social operating system for Android devices, and mobile apps for smartphones and Google Glass.

Worldwide, Tseng’s work is also taking root via Internet.org, a partnership among tech leaders that Facebook launched in August 2013 to expand free Internet access around the world. He has led the development of a first step, Facebook Wi-Fi, which offers free access in exchange for a Facebook check-in. Tseng arranged the partnership between Facebook, router manufacturers, and merchants in some 50 countries. In return for participating, the merchants receive aggregated, anonymous analytics on their customers.

“Whether you own a small diner or manage a multinational department store, it’s hard to know who your customers really are and how you can provide them with the best possible experience,” Tseng says. “Facebook Wi-Fi’s merchant insights bridge that gap and provide you with a much deeper understanding of your customer base.”

This development could provide Internet access to many people worldwide who don’t have a smartphone or data plan but might have a Wi-Fi-capable device. “I believe that by growing the availability and prevalence of Wi-Fi, particularly in developing nations where carrier data costs can be prohibitively expensive, we can help get the next billion people online and connected,” Tseng says.

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