Building self-sufficient teams and operating in constrained funding environments w/ Elaine Zhou #106

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.

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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