He may be legally blind, but that does not prevent him to live life normally and even achieve great things.
Jack Chen is a lawyer. He works as Google’s legal counsel in New York, overseeing legal matters related to Chrome. He has degrees in Computer Science from Harvard and Berkeley.
When he was young, Chen had very limited eyesight. However, he was still able to see light, and recognize colors and shape back then. However, when he was 16, he had his eighth or ninth surgery in the hopes of improving his eyesight. Unfortunately, due to complications of the operation, he completely lost his eyesight.
He told Bloomberg in an interview:
“My optic nerve was damaged in earlier operations in one eye. In the remaining eye, during a critical part of the operation, my head involuntarily moved, and there was some hemorrhaging. My retina broke apart.”
Still, his condition does not stop him from doing normal things. He travels every day to work from his home in New Jersey to his office in New York City. To do this, he takes two train stations and the subway, and walks on the chaotic sidewalks of Manhattan.
Prior to his work on Google, he interned at AT&T. Later on, he became a systems engineer at Xanboo Inc., a New York-based startup involving internet home security systems. Then, after earning his J.D. degree at Fordham Law School, he worked for two years as a patent and trademark attorney in New York law firms.
He became Google’s associate patent counsel in 2010. So for six years now, he has been commuting daily to Google’s New York office. He said that he memorized a mental map in order to navigate his route.
At work and most his life, he needed to solve problems without depending on his sight. He depends on his hearing instead. He gets his work done with the help of screen reader and the VoiceOver function on his phone to read text out loud. However, this can be time consuming. Therefore, to speed things up, Chen sets the technology to read at 620 words per minute. At this speed, sounds seem like gibberish to untrained ears.
Outside of work, he is very active in sports. He has previously competed in five triathlons and two Ironman triathlons, including a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run. To do this, he tied a rope to another athlete in the swimming and running portions, and rides a tandem bike in the cycling portion. He also climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa in 2012.