In the Name of Faith, Practice in Life
An Exclusive Interview withEMC Global Vice President Zhou Xizhu
From Oracle to EMC, from general salesman to global vice president,with more than 20years of working experience in foreign companies, he seems like a martial artist with deep fame and gains, and he ownsmany esoteric books.Thisis Zhou Xizhu, the GlobalVice President of EMC. In October 2015, the completion of the merger and acquisition between EMC and DELL was announced. In the end, DELL acquired EMC for67billion dollars, which was called the biggest merger in the history of the tech world. The insiders were all thrilled at the news, but they were also puzzled by the merger of these two giants. Recently, this journalist fromConsumer Electronics had anopportunity to interview Zhou Xizhu. Concerningthe merger of EMC and DELL, the journalist heard another answer.
Left: Executive President of Consumer ElectronicsWang Fushan
Right: Global Vice President of EMCZhou Xizhu
Light and Shadow ｜ A Bunch of Revelations
Opening the merger history of the Internet, it has been said that it’s more like a memoir full of love stories and murders. From the merger between Youku and Tudou, and that between IQiyi and PPS, to the recent merger of Didi and Uber China, they all followed the rules. When we look back at the merger between EMC and DELL, the two scienceandtechnology enterprises seemed to have always been ontwo parallel paths, andpeople could not imagine how they could intersect with each other.
EMC is a storage product company of commercial data with a long history of 36 years, as well as the sixth largest enterprise software company in the world. It has the strongest sales force and service power in the world. In the area of information storage, EMC has kept the leading superiority of being the first in the world for many years, and itsmarket value is about 50billion dollars. DELL rose to fame in the 1990s with its cheap and customizable laptops, and it finished its privatization in 2013ata value of 24.4billion dollars. In the opinion of many, EMC has always pursued high-end customers, but DELL has mainly been involved inthe mass market. According to a survey, when the news of the merger came out, about 40% of EMC users were pessimistic about the acquisition, and about 15% of DELL users held the same opinion. In the 447 surveyed business purchasers, 1/4of users were hesitantabout whether or not to buy DELL products after the merger.
In the face of the doubts raised by users aboutthe merger, Zhou Xizhu expressed his understanding. He explainedthat the merger was accepted by both sides and passed by the Board of Directors with a huge majority. Asthe complementarity of both companies isvery strong, EMC willdelist in the future and the two companies will form the largest privatization operating company in the industry, which will benefit the protection of customer information and the long-term research and development of technology. With the acceleration of technology development, Zhou Xizhu thinks that cooperation opportunities between different technology companies will greatly increase in the future, just like the merger of Didi and Uber China. An irresistible trend has some kind of passive implication, but in Zhou Xizhu’s eyes EMC took the initiative. In the filmThe Grandmaster, several sentences spokenby Zhang Ziyi’sGong Erto Ip Man inspired Zhou Xizhu very much. Gong Er learned from herfather that the three states of martial arts are to see yourself, to see earth and heaven and to see the people. Zhou Xizhu watched this film over and over, perceiving the philosophy in it. He responded with these three states.EMC was a very powerful company before. It had no opponent in the area of high-end storage, and it kept innovating in storage technology. In an environment of global fair competition, compared withother brands, EMC was constantly pursuing ‘see yourself’ and ‘see earth and heaven’, and the merger of EMC and DELL was ‘see the people’. Because of the mass appealof DELL, this is a direction and a regulation, as well as progress for promoting the technology. Facing the booming Chinese market, Zhou Xizhu, who has extensiveworking experiences in foreign companies,addedthat electronic technology personnel must have a more open vision. Nowadays, the world has entered an age of integration, and history has shown that opening up is a way to renaissance and prosperity. For the long-term and healthy development of the country and society, China and Western countries should stand in common and equal competition just like before. He also pointed outthat both sides will not change very much after the merger, but the internal departments will be integrated on the premise that it will not affect the business or the clients. The service quality will not change, nor will the protection of the clients.
With an open and tolerant heart and sublime words with the deep meanings of ‘to see yourself, to see earth and heaven and to see the people’, Zhou brilliantly and invisiblydismantled every problem. When the users hear Zhou’s words, their worries and doubts will surelyvanish.
Sinology ｜ A Guide
In fact, Zhou Xizhu is not only a successful businessman, but also Deputy Director of the National Press Technology, Science and Technology Association, and Deputy President of the Association of Huizhou Merchants. He was also a member of the National Youth Commission. For him, these identities are social responsibilities. He is often invited to give lectures back in his alma mater and other universities. Zhou said frankly that instead of giving lectures, he actually shares his own opinions. After all, he is not a professor or a doctor. After graduating from Tsinghua University, Zhou could have continued his studies, but he thought that a person must go to two universities:the first is the university in the traditional sense, and the other is the University of Life. After finishing his undergraduate course, Zhou made up his mind to devote himself to society.
From Oracle to EMC, Zhou Xizhu developed his career from a general salesman to Global Vice President. He often shares his experience with his subordinates. Instead of copying tutorials, he collects his thoughts in a specific time. For example, he read Chief No.2 once, and he thinks that ‘Being an official is a technique’isthe best sentencein the whole book. He thenfocused itonto the sales industry: ‘Being a salesman is also a technique. A graduate of the Department of Chemical Engineering, he explained that in science and engineering, the first is segmentation and the second is quantification. Everything is easier to masterafter quantification. In his opinion, the so-called technique has its rules, and it can be segmented. Weonly have to try our best to finish every part. For example, before meeting a client, you need to understand that client. Next,how to talk to that clientin each meeting is also a part of sales technique, and a basic skill for a salesman. However, this doesn’t mean that sales is a virtual thing. In the book Tao Te Ching,one passage reads,’The Tao that can be described is not the universal and eternal Tao’. As Zhou explained, common people can’t reach the master level. You only need to finish every part to 80%-90%, but nowadays many sales people will not do this.
Whether in Oracle or EMC, Zhou has faced such large customersas the Ministry of Public Security and the Tax Bureau, not merely one consumer. Both sides will keep contact for many years. In foreign companies, many people think that it’s hard to deal with Chinese clients and government officials, but Zhou thinks that many things have their own laws. In the aspect of communication, he always agrees with a sentence spoken by Ji Xianlin: ‘Don’t tell any lies or all the truth’. He experienced the inside mystery, and that is life. You may find that some salesmen like bragging for utility, but in fact you may need ten or a hundred lies to make up your first lie, and sometimes you may not be able to backit up. You’ll find that the punishment will be very severe. However, you can’t tell all the truth either. Society is still very complex, sothis will be a state to protect your energy. Actually, we have limited time and energy in our whole lives, and thus from the angle of energy conservationwe need to do things with the least amount of energy.Doing better and higher things with limited energy and resourcesmay sound a little unrealistic, but it has guidance value when carried out.
Zhou Xizhu said that the word ‘pretend’ means affectation, pretending to be nice to others. Although the company doesn’t measure that whether you are sincerelynice to others, from the aspect of individual development you really need to be nice to others. He also has such experience. Chinese people often say that one must learn how to behave before doing anything. A good salesperson can get a hundred responses to a single call. After signing acontract, some people will brag outside, which actually hurts clients a lot.Some salesmen will make frequent contact with a clientbefore signing a contract, and then never contact that client again afterwards.Thus, whether sales or management, they are techniques.
Zhou Xizhu’s words are often mingled with English words. Having worked in foreign companies for more than 20 years, he found that English words canbe more concise, straightforward and powerful in expression. However, in his heart, the breadthand profundity of Sinology is the green light that leads him forward. The direction of life cannot be changed, and thatis to bepositive and kind. He often tells this to his employees when giving lectures. WhethertheArt of War, theTao Te Ching orthe Book of Changes,they all explain ways for people to cultivate themselves. All road leads to Rome. You can try every method, but you should never do anything worse than others. Man struggles upwards, and water flows downwards. You have to stick to these directional things. If you do so throughconstant efforts, then no matter what you do in sales, logistics or technology, you will be an admirable person.
Discipline ｜A Lifetime’s Faith
On the step ranking list of his circle of friends, Zhou’s records are almost always in the topthree. Many people’s curves fluctuate, but his steps are usually above 20,000. He gets up at about 7a.m., then walks his dog. He has kept up this habit for several years. Even if he travels to the USA for a business trip, he will make time to go hiking with a group of people. Zhou Xizhu says that foreigners like hiking and they also do a good job. Thedifferent paths have clear mileages marked on them. In Yellowstone National Park or Yosemite National Park, they can walk for several days. Some time ago, Zhou’s sports bracelet awarded him a ‘Medal of the Earth’ to celebrate the fact that he has already circled the earth one time around.
As tothe formation of habits, Zhou attributesit to the influence ofwhat one constantly sees or hears. He was born in Anhui, and the long-standing and well-established Anhui Culture nourished him. At the same time, ashis father was a doctor and both his parents are now more than 90 years old, he thinks that he learned a lot from his parents’ living habits. For example, Zhou’s father liked to have a drink twice every day, but he never got drunk in his whole life. He thinks that he is becoming more and more like his father. He drinks every day, and he also encourages his daughter to drink a little. You can drink, but you cannot drink excessively; you have to control yourself, and this can form your habit. Zhou Xizhu teaches his daughter by personal example, as well as by verbal instruction. He agrees that good habits are like the stars in the sky: they will gather into a galaxy little by little and finallyhelp you to reach success. He added that habits need to be formed when a person is young, and the earlierthe better.
At the end of the interview, Zhou Xizhu showed the journalist the landscape photos that he took in the Dao Cheng Ya Ding scenic spot. Yading is a plateau with an elevation of between 3,000and4,000 kilometers.Hiking the whole route is equal to a rapid march of 50 miles in a short time, which presented an intensive challenge. This journalist couldn’t help praising the crystal blue sky in the photos, and Zhou said wholeheartedly that everything was worth it. The scenery on the trip was very beautiful, but only when you climbed to the top of the mountain could you see the grand, holy, amazing, pureand beautiful view.
Qu Yuan once sang, ‘The way ahead is long, I see no ending; yet high and low I’ll search with my will unbending’. In one’s life, most people may become unsuccessful in the end, but Zhou Xizhu said that Buddhism in practice doesn’t mean that you have to go to Zhongnan Mountain or the temples. He thinks that life and work can be that practice, and they are all-encompassing.If you choose to go to the University of Life, you need to have a good body first. For example, for myself, after walking for a long time, I can perceive the technique in it. This is the body’s habit, supported by strong willpower and some aspectsoffaith. Only in this way can we stay motivated.
There’s a classic line in the film Ashes of Time directed by Wong Kar-wai: “Do you know the difference between drinking wine and drinking water? More wine makes you warmer, but more water makes you colder”. This line is also very appropriate to describe one’s feelings when communicating with others, just like in the conversation between this journalist and Zhou Xizhu. He talked about the merger of EMC and DELL, his working experiences and his living habits. He makes people feel that he is like a cup of wine; not tangy or without drinking pleasure, heismellow and soothing.