+00:00 GMT

Unlocking Empowered, Self-Sufficient Teams: A Deep Dive into 'First Team' Strategies

with Monica Bajaj

January 30, 2024


Monica is currently VP of Engineering at Okta where she leads the Developer Experience portfolio for Customer Identity Cloud (CIAM). She is responsible for building a frictionless developer experience for Consumer and SaaS Apps thus securing billions of logins every month. Her expertise spans technology, operations, global expansion, and product launch in areas such as Consumer/Enterprise, Infrastructure, Business Intelligence, DevOps, and Security. She has taken products into the global market by launching localization and globalization programs delivering multi-million dollar growth.

Previously she has held senior engineering leadership positions at Workday, Perforce, Network Appliance, and UKG. She holds a Masters in Computer Science from IIT Mumbai. Monica is an active supporter of diversity in STEM, has launched several Women in Technology initiatives, and is now an exec sponsor for Women at Okta. When not obsessing over technology, she can be found spending time with Boy Scouts, enjoying hiking, and supporting the cause of mentorship and uplifting women and young girls.

"The first team concept was launched at my level and then I went through this journey and I realized like, 'Oh, this is very powerful.' First, it was confusing that I need to put my team aside and take my peers as my first priority, but then I became more curious and then I was intrigued by the results and I'm like, 'Oh, this is so powerful. I need to put this in my own organization.' So I started with my directs like, 'Hey, we have studied about this. We did a whole session and walk them through some real examples. That's where it was like, 'Oh, we need to implement this and see it.'”

- Monica Bajaj   

This episode is brought to you by incident.io

incident.io is trusted by hundreds of tech-led companies across the globe, including Etsy, monday.com, Skyscanner and more to seamlessly orchestrate incident response from start to finish. Intuitively designed, and with powerful and flexible built-in workflow automation, companies use incident.io to supercharge incident response and up-level the entire organization.

Learn more about how you can better identify, learn from, and respond to incidents at incident.io

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: sfelc.com/peerGroups


  • Defining the “first team” concept & three characteristics that lead to success (3:22)
  • How applying a first team approach impacts relationships (6:05)
  • Why adopting these principles improved the quality, trust & maturity of eng teams (8:30)
  • What conditions were met to set up the relationship between teams (12:09)
  • Nuances of incorporating a first team approach at different levels of your org (13:48)
  • How the first team facilitates faster pivoting as new priorities arise (16:31)
  • First team frameworks for successfully & quickly onboarding new teams (19:08)
  • An example of this concept applied to an architecture context (20:20)
  • Why “first teams” support / encourage bottoms-up initiatives (23:47)
  • Strategies for leadership to implement first teams @ different levels of their org (27:38)
  • Recommendations for regaining cohesiveness as a first team (29:17)
  • Rapid fire questions (31:28)


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/

Dive in
Building self-sufficient teams and operating in constrained funding environments
Nov 22nd, 2022 Views 919
Who Is Your First Team?
By Noah Olberding • Oct 9th, 2023 Views 270
A Deep Dive Into Angel Investing for Engineering Leaders
By Nichole Wischoff • Jun 28th, 2022 Views 486