Mark Zuckerberg certainly does not look comfortable donning a coat. I met him on another day he had to wear one, leaving his trademark round neck T-shirt in the wardrobe which many suspect has mostly just one type of attire. But that day he was on familiar turf, well inside his Menlo Park headquarters, surrounded by friends and colleagues and all set to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who would have only helped make him more comfortable.
Zuckerberg is not someone who loves attention, especially from the media. When he has to shake hands with the Press and face a camera, he goes well prepared. Still, he does not come across as someone who is at ease. Facing the Senators, he would not have had the luxury of knowing what they would ask, other than the certainty there would be no soft balls coming his way.
As the initial nervousness died down and Zuckerberg gave his testimony, apologising again for not having done what the social network should have, taking a lot of responsibility on himself, Facebook stocks started rising. While Capitol Hill might still be waiting to hear what they want, Wall Street was sure hearing the right things. The Facebook stock ended up over five percent by the time his five hour “inquisition” was over.
This was the one occasion they would have got to really scrutinise the person that is running one of the largest companies in the world – whatever be the scale you want to measure that by. From his usual staccatoed, thought skipping way of talking, Zuckerberg seems to have found a more articulate, more precise way of communicating his, and his company’s, thoughts. He did not betray much emotion and was almost icy with some of the answers.
Zuckerberg accepted that mistakes were made, but ensured that they sounded more like a part of the process which is a very popular Silicon Valley CEO spiel. That seems to have worked. He accepted that things went wrong at his watch, but gave enough indication that he was not directly involved. And he listed all the things that they have done to fix the issues, not really highlighting the fact that it’s all come a little bit too late.
It would be debated if he was pushed enough, and there were clearly times when the answers could have been better. There were times he was caught off guard as well as queries he chose to get pass. There were quite a few ‘we will get back to you with details’, which anyone who has interviewed someone from the Valley knows is just a polite way to saying ‘I have no clue’.
There were many takeaways the world is expecting from the Capitol Hill testimony from policy changes that offer more controls on user data to insight on how much the Russians meddled in the US elections of 2016. If how Mark Zuckerberg could handle the pressure and scrutiny was one of them, then the CEO from Menlo Park seems to have more than survived, despite the discomfort of the stiff collar and blue tie. It was certainly a more mature Mark Zuckerberg that walked out of the Capitol on Tuesday evening.