CEO shares inspirational advice

Carissa Tsui and Kasmira Lada CEO Deborah Liu is motivating students to pursue their dreams and maintain a growth mindset after her speech at Palo Alto High School in the Media Arts Center on Wednesday. 

Deborah Liu speaks to students in the Palo Alto High School Media Arts Center and sophomore Julian Hong (left) helps facilitate the discussion. Liu is the CEO of and has held various positions in large Silicon Valley companies, including Facebook, over the course of her career. According to Liu, she had little idea what she wanted to do when she was a high schooler. “It was really hard for me to to figure out what I wanted to do with my life,” Liu said. “This is an opportunity to show the next generation that anything is possible.” (Photo: Celina Lee)

The event was hosted by The Communique Club, founded by sophomore Julian Hong. According to Hong, the club’s mission is to invite accomplished speakers to speak at Paly.

“We thought Ms. Liu would be a great speaker because she is a CEO of a large company and she has a lot of influence in Silicon Valley,” Hong said. “We also really admired her work as a woman in the workplace.”

Most of the event was in a question-and-answer format, allowing audience members to interact with Liu on a more casual and personal level. Liu discussed subjects including becoming a CEO of a large company, dealing with being of a different race and gender than others, finding a good work-life balance, fostering a creative work environment and more.

According to Liu, perseverance and trial and error are important for growth.

“Failure will happen to you at some point,” Liu said. “Terrible things will happen, and the people who bounce back, those are the people who succeed the most.

Liu said her main goal in coming to Paly to speak to students was to inspire them to dream bigger.

“I grew up in a small town in the Deep South, and I just never saw anyone who looked like me,” Liu said. “And so it was really hard for me to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. So I think this is an opportunity to show the next generation that anything is possible.”

According to sophomore Lara Dumanli, Liu’s words were insightful as Dumanli herself is interested in a career in business.

“I thought it was really interesting when a student asked ‘How do I become a CEO’,” Dumanli said. “She [Liu] explained that being a CEO is a lot of the time just luck and opportunities–catching that right opportunity at the right time.”

Born in North Carolina, Liu worked in Silicon Valley for many years. As the CEO of as well as a board member of Intuit and Women in Product, she has worked at companies including PayPal, Facebook and eBay. Liu said she hoped to show students that anything is possible.

“Success is not about whether you hear a ‘no’, it’s not about the stumbling block, it’s about if you turn it into a stepping stone to a thing that you want,” Liu said. “One of the things I hope you [Paly students] will do is to not shy away from challenges and not to cushion yourself and to actually fight for that.”