The Engineering Leadership Podcast · Episode 106

Building self-sufficient teams and operating in constrained funding environments

with Elaine Zhou

Nov 22, 2022
We cover how to uplevel your eng team with Elaine Zhou, CTO @! She shares some of her favorite frameworks and strategies for creating self-sufficient teams, amplifying high-performers, performing self-assessments, and hosting prioritization conversations. Plus Elaine shares the story behind how she got involved with, navigating different operating constraints in your business model (from non-profit to VC-funded contexts), and what it’s like investing in high-impact areas with no revenue expectation.
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ABOUT ELAINE ZHOU CTO Elaine Zhou joined the platform for change in 2020. Prior to, she was at Vidado as CTO, and has held leadership positions for over a decade at companies including HomeStore, PlanetOut, IAC and more. She’s been a longtime mentor at Upwardly Global. Follow her on Twitter at @softwired.

"High performance need to be in that fail safe environment so they're willing to explore and to iterate. So really help them to do that, the way that I solve the problem with them is not just that, “You are good, you're good.” Just pump them up. No, it's actually, “Let's look at a problem. I actually agree with your solution and this is why I like your solution.”

Help them to gain the confidence and give them that kind of hard opportunity to try that and you know they will build their confidence so much.”

- Elaine Zhou   


  • Why Elaine got involved with (2:24)
  • The importance of understanding the business / non-profit model for eng leaders (6:29)
  • How business, technology, & financial constraints impact business decisions (9:44)
  • Investing in impact with no revenue expectation (14:42)
  • Strategies for creating self-sufficiency within teams & traps eng leaders fall into when leveling up their team (18:06)
  • Questions to ask yourself during self assessments to determine priorities (22:05)
  • What you should do as an eng leader after transitioning your team to be self-sufficient (28:10)
  • Frameworks for prioritization conversations (29:14)
  • The technical area Elaine is most focused on growing right now (32:23)
  • Strategies for amplifying & supporting your best performers (33:58)
  • Rapid fire questions (38:35)


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