The Engineering Leadership Podcast · Episode 115

Leading through an economic downturn & bridging the gap between engineering & business

with Ryan Graciano

Jan 31, 2023
Ryan Graciano, Co-Founder & CTO @ Credit Karma, shares with us what it’s like to start a company during an economic downturn, how his leadership style had to evolve alongside Credit Karma’s growth, advice for running lean operations, bridging the gap between engineering & business, how to scale the business as the company matures, and identifying & correcting team/org dysfunctions. In addition, Ryan shares some of his favorite successful & failed leadership experiments that helped evolve his leadership style!
Listen On
Apple PodcastSpotifyBreakerGoogle PodcastOvercastRadio Public


As a co-founder of Credit Karma and Chief Technical Officer, Ryan Graciano (@rmgraci) has grown the company’s engineering department from a one-man band into a team of hundreds, developing a technical framework to support the company’s rapid growth. His expertise and innovation has helped bring new levels of usability and sophistication to financial services technologies.

Today, Ryan runs an ever-expanding group of engineers tasked with building out new products at pace while stressing a culture of agility and experimentation, even as Credit Karma reaches new levels of scale. As a leader, he serves as a constructive agitator, looking to break down traditional workplace hierarchies and empowering each member of his department with real influence over the future of the product.

Ryan has a Bachelors degree in Computer Science from the Georgia Institute of Technology and spent five years at IBM before joining Credit Karma.

"When I was earlier in my career, I really thought that the CTO's job was to know the most about the technology. Really, the CTO's job is to hire the people that know the most about the technology and then translate it to the business people who don't speak it at all.”

- Ryan Graciano   

Looking for ways to support the show?

Send a link to the show to your marketing team!

If your company is looking to gain exposure to thousands of engineering leaders and key decision-makers, we have sponsorship opportunities available.

To explore sponsor opportunities, email us at [email protected]

Interested in joining an ELC Peer Group?

ELCs Peer Groups provide a virtual, curated, and ongoing peer learning opportunity to help you navigate the unknown, uncover solutions and accelerate your learning with a small group of trusted peers.

Apply to join a peer group HERE:


  • What the early days at Credit Karma looked like (2:31)
  • Eng leadership lessons learned from the early-stage days (4:03)
  • Ryan’s advice on running lean & determining what matters most (5:42)
  • The inflection point when Credit Karma’s priorities shifted (8:31)
  • Strategies for bridging the gap between engineering & business (12:44)
  • What was most helpful for designing a monetization engine early on (15:07)
  • How Ryan’s leadership style evolved as Credit Karma expanded (16:37)
  • Frameworks for identifying areas of improvement as an eng leader (18:32)
  • Who do you hire first to scale yourself and your eng org? And other scaling principles (20:13)
  • How to identify deficiencies in your system (22:00)
  • An example of how detecting a dysfunction lead to systematic transformation (26:00)
  • Tips for hosting conversations that lead to buy in / alignment (28:29)
  • Ryan’s favorite failed leadership experiments (30:18)
  • Why it’s important for leadership teams to measure & respond (35:50)
  • Matching the vision for the organization to what you want to see in a product (37:04)
  • When adjustments have to be made to the org’s vision (42:18)
  • Rapid fire questions (43:40)


  • The Genome Odyssey - In The Genome Odyssey, Dr. Euan Ashley, Stanford professor of medicine and genetics, brings the breakthroughs of precision medicine to vivid life through the real diagnostic journeys of his patients and the tireless efforts of his fellow doctors and scientists as they hunt to prevent, predict, and beat disease.
more to listen

Get social

Copyright © 2024 ELC. All Rights Reserved. / Privacy Policy / Code Of Conduct
2 Days for Eng Leaders to Recharge & Reconnect. Learn more
Learn More
ELC logo
Home for engineering leaders