Priscilla Chan is among the most intriguing emerging leaders anywhere, and not simply because she’s married to Mark Zuckerberg. As co-CEO of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, she runs the day-to-day operations of the world’s best-funded startup, with $45 billion pledged at its launch three years ago. Today CZI has grown to more than 250 employees, with several offices in Silicon Valley and projects underway in education, science, immigration, criminal justice, affordable housing, and more. Chan has been reluctant to step into the spotlight, given the attention her husband already gets. But over a period of a few months, she had a series of in-depth conversations with longtime journalist Robert Safian, discussing her own unlikely personal story, her relationship with Zuckerberg, and what her organization is trying to achieve. What follows is a condensed, lightly edited version of their discussion.
Quartz: You’ve been reticent historically to talk to the media. Why are you doing this story now?
Chan: We’ve spent a lot of time at CZI thinking about who we are as an organization. We’ve iterated a lot, and we think we’re at a point where we understand who we are and the role we can play.