When Your Superpower Becomes A Liability




Meet Stef Sy, founder and CEO of Thinking Machines (TM). TM is a leading data consultancy, using AI to transform the way governments and conglomerates in South East Asia do business. Stef created TM because she wanted to put the power of data in all employees’ hands, regardless of rank. And she wanted to make better jobs for emerging tech talent in her home-country, the Philippines.

In 2015, when Stef created TM, it had a rock band ethos – a motley crew making beautiful music, often chaotically, where each individual was unique and indispensable.

A few years later, this rock band vibe was getting in the way of TM’s growth. To scale, TM needed to become an orchestra – a place where defined roles and processes enabled harmony. But Stef had always been more of a lead singer than a conductor. She faced a conundrum. No less than the future of her company – her mission and her life’s work – was at stake.

In this episode, you’ll hear Stef share: 

  • 1:43 How she hired her early team back when Thinking Machines was relatively unknown: “It’s a miracle that these people said yes.”
  • 5:29 What it was like to uncover her own hidden motivations and compulsions –  the deeply personal reasons she had started TM.
  • 15:24 Her moment of reckoning: “Either the company changes or I change.” 
  • 23:20 Accepting that her superpower might have become a liability and taking the scary leap of hiring people who would operate in new and different ways.  
  • 30:36 Learning to trust and empower the people she had hired – even when their actions ran counter to all her instincts. 
  • 40:00 Talentism’s 4D model for achieving scale: Do, Decide, Design, and Decode. For more on the 4D model check out this article (4 min read)

Transcript of this episode available here

Learn more about Talentism’s work with founders like Stef at www.talentism.com

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