Stan Chudnovsky never took English language classes after he moved to the United States from Russia more than two decades ago. When he stepped into the top engineering role at an early social networking startup called Tickle in 2000, his vocabulary was limited and he was prone to mixing metaphors, which his co-workers dubbed “Stan-isms.”
Mr. Chudnovsky, 45, now vice president and head of product for Facebook’s Messenger, mastered language in other ways. He’s evangelized for years that the key to startup growth is refining and measuring what words and messages hook people to use products—and, even better, invite their friends to do so. With English as his second language, “he had the discipline to simplify things down,” said James Currier, who founded Tickle, which sold to Monster.com for about $100 million in 2004.