Joanie interviews Elisa Yu, a business coach who started out as a biochemical engineer. Elisa talks about the people challenges she’s faced in running a startup company and being a business coach and what skills she has developed to succeed in these different roles. She also gives tips for leaders from her business coaching practice.
Q: How did you come to move out of biochemistry?
“I did some soul searching and realized I was not interacting with people as much as I would like to. I saw that ‘Field Application Scientist’ seemed like a good sidestep to make that happen.”
Q: What people challenges did you run into moving to a startup?
“There are two main people challenges. One is dealing with the founders. The second is dealing with employees.”
“The main challenge was we all have different personalities and we look at things differently. Throughout the process, we built a level of trust. We could have arguments. We could have disagreements. But we knew we were working to the same goal and we were not going to screw each other.”
“Retention of people is a huge challenge for us. What we realized over the years was to deal with our mindset before dealing with employees.”
Q: When you hire people with good people skills, what do you look for?
“When we hire people, we hire for good fit. Just by hiring the smartest person might not be the best for the team. Sometimes you have a team of very smart people but it’s a very dysfunctional team. Because everyone’s personality clashes, they don’t have a unified vision. It may not be the best for the team to have everyone fit into one mold.”
Words of Wisdom:
“When someone in Silicon Valley calls you to join a startup, it’s not something you say ‘no’ to.”
“You learn on the way when to insist and when to give in.”
“When you say you cannot, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.”