The Engineering Leadership Podcast · Episode 89

Operational & Organizational Innovation

with Zhichun Li

Jun 21, 2022
We discuss operational & organizational innovation with Zhichun Li (Director of Engineering @ Scale AI)! We explore the early days of Rapid at Scale AI, different organizational design experiments Zhi’s tested, and many of the principles behind their operational practices. You’ll hear about merging engineering & ops, designing orgs for autonomy, scaling into multiple products, and leveraging different org structures for innovation.
Listen On
Apple PodcastSpotifyBreakerGoogle PodcastOvercastRadio Public
supported by
PlusPlus
An all-in-one technical onboarding & internal knowledge platform
Shortcut
Issue tracking has never been easier. Bring flow to your workflow!
ELC
NEWSLETTER
EVENTS, PODCASTS AND MORE
ELC
NEWSLETTER
EVENTS, PODCASTS AND MORE

ABOUT ZHICHUN LI

Zhichun Li (@zhichun_li) is Director of Engineering @ Scale AI. She built the Rapid team from scratch with a focus on providing the fastest way to production-level quality labels within a day, with no data minimums. As an early employee of the company, she built up the infrastructure for Scale’s supply ops system and scaled up Scale’s 3D Sensor Fusion product.

Before Scale, Zhi worked at Lightspeed China Partners, Facebook, Microsoft and Airbnb with roles in investment and software engineering. She was a producer of VC Pulse, a podcast spotlighting venture capitalists in China. Zhichun was the youngest ever admit to the Yale MBA program, and studied computer science at CMU.

"We tried to basically brand it as like black ops, i.e. the special kind of ops where you get to do 10x work and build a lot of product out of it. And that actually, in a lot of ways attracted very entrepreneurial individuals to want to join.

So I think a lot of it is shaping the brand of the program, helping people understand how important it is and the things that I'll learn.

- Zhichun Li


This episode is brought to you by PlusPlus

PlusPlus is an all-in-one technical onboarding and internal knowledge platform that fast-tracks productivity.

Learn more & sign up at plusplus.co/elc


Check out our friends at Shortcut!

Shortcut is an issue tracker that offers all the functionality, without most of the complexity making it easier for you to plan, collaborate, build, and measure success.

Right now, listeners of our show can get 2-months free on any paid plan.

Learn more & sign up at shortcut.com/elc


SHOW NOTES:

  • The early days of scale & why engineering runs operations (1:44)
  • What is ops engineering (3:48)
  • Why engineering first got involved in ops (6:29)
  • How to brand ops engineering to attract top engineers (8:51)
  • Merging ops & engineering to eliminate silos (10:07)
  • How to merge ops & engineering for the first time (11:39)
  • How team composition evolved at Rapid (12:46)
  • Designing your org for autonomy & customer empathy (17:07)
  • Rapid’s operating principles (18:53)
  • Generating Rapid’s operating principles (23:18)
  • Painful short-term decisions that yielded better long-term outcomes (24:57)
  • Scale AI’s evolution into multiple products (28:04)
  • Behind the scenes of Scale’s multi-product moment (31:04)
  • Leveraging general managers & org structures to drive product innovation (32:43)
  • When to invest in, or shut down a project (36:21)
  • Rapid Fire Questions (37:47)
  • Takeaways (40:41)
more to listen
Discover
EventsVideosSpeakers



Get social

Copyright © 2022 ELC. All Rights Reserved. / Privacy Policy / Code Of Conduct
elc annual 2022
elc annual 2022
October 27-28, San Francisco|Where Engineering Leaders Build True Connections
Learn More
Where Engineering Leaders Build True Connections.Learn more
ELC logo
Home for engineering leaders