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Pivotal Leadership Moments & Career Decision-Making

with Thuan Pham & Li Fan

March 12, 2024
Pivotal Leadership Moments & Career Decision-Making
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Thuan Pham served as Chief Technology Officer of Coupang from September 2020 until September 2022, and of Uber Technologies, Inc. from April 2013 to May 2020. From December 2004 to January 2013, Mr. Pham served in various Vice President roles at VMWare, Inc., a software and technology company, including as Vice President of R&D – Cloud Management Platform from June 2012 to January 2013.

As an engineering leader, he is passionate about building talented, healthy, and motivated engineering organization and leading it to accomplish extraordinary things. He cares deeply about organizational health and principled leadership and believes these are the greatest drivers for any team to harness its maximum potential.

Mr. Pham holds both B.S. and M.S. degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Thuan's work and career contributions as an American immigrant were recognized by the Carnegie Foundation among its list of "2016 Great Immigrants: The Pride of America" honorees.


Li Fan is CTO at Circle, a global fin-tech firm enabling business to harness the power of digital currencies and public blockchains (Circle is the principle operator of USD Coin). Prior to Circle, Li was CTO at Lime, an innovative technology company that connects and empowers urban living through mobility.

Before Lime, Li was SVP of engineering at Pinterest leading all 600+ engineers to execute technology strategy and deliver company priorities. Li was a Senior Director of Engineering in Google, accountable for Google’s popular image search and was Vice President of Engineering at Baidu.

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  • Thuan’s immigrant / refugee background & its impact on him (2:19)
  • The experience of resetting & starting from nothing as an eng leader (4:23)
  • Pivotal moments during Thuan’s seven years @ Uber (6:59)
  • How Thuan provided hands-on mentorship & teaching leading the eng org (8:21)
  • Challenges faced & lessons learned through hypergrowth at scale (11:29)
  • Scaling infrastructure / processes while scaling talent (13:44)
  • What caused Thuan to stay with Uber & eventually lead him to leave (17:14)
  • Ways in which Uber could have done better (19:48)
  • Thuan’s reflections on what he could have done to change the situation (23:14)
  • How & why Thuan transitioned from Uber to Coupang (26:01)
  • Reflections on what makes a great eng leader 20 years ago & today (29:49)
  • Audience Q&A: What are Thuan’s current motivations & goals? (34:56)
  • Keeping your engineers motivated during times of crisis (36:53)
  • Advice Thuan would give his younger self (38:42)
  • Qualities of a great VP of Engineering & exec team (41:30)


This episode wouldn’t have been possible without the help of our incredible production team:

Patrick Gallagher - Producer & Co-Host

Jerry Li - Co-Host

Noah Olberding - Associate Producer, Audio & Video Editor https://www.linkedin.com/in/noah-olberding/

Dan Overheim - Audio Engineer, Dan’s also an avid 3D printer - https://www.bnd3d.com/

Ellie Coggins Angus - Copywriter, Check out her other work at https://elliecoggins.com/about/

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