Change.org welcomes Elaine Zhou as new Chief Technology OfficerDec 3, 2020
Our new CTO wanted to save lives as a doctor— and then she discovered she could do that as an engineer.
As an organization at the intersection of technology and social justice, we build tools that empower everyday people to make the change they want to see in the world. To help us bring that vision to life, we recently brought on board Elaine Zhou as our new Chief Technology Officer.
Born in Guangzhou, China, Elaine and her family came to the United States in 1992. Growing up, she wanted to be a doctor, and was in medical school in China before coming to the U.S. Her father passed away shortly after they arrived, so Elaine took on the responsibility of being the breadwinner for her family at the age of 20. She needed to earn money quickly, so she switched careers and began studying engineering while learning English and adapting to the norms of her new country.
Letting go of a dream to become a doctor — a dream she’d had since she was a little girl — was difficult. But breaking down why Elaine wanted to become a doctor, she discovered that she could still achieve her goals as an engineer. She wanted to do something that helped people and provided a greater social impact.
Elaine started her engineering career at PeopleSoft where she honed her engineering fundamentals in a company that really valued people, culture, and teams. Later in her career, she drove building a Facebook-like social network for the technologically underserved (at the time) LGBTQ+ community. Intrigued by the power of AI, Elaine later tackled the monumental task of getting Artificial Intelligence to interpret the diversity of human handwriting in all of its many forms.
What does this mean for her work at Change.org?
At Change.org she saw the opportunity to bring this all together – culture, community, and the super scale of equitable AI to support a nearly unlimited number of individual, authentic interactions and shared experiences intended to accelerate positive change.
According to Elaine, Change.org’s engineering team is on track to become the same top-calibre team you’d find at Amazon, Microsoft, and Google, but with a genuine mission of changing the world. Our unique position attracts the best who want to become great while doing good. To say Elaine’s plans for Change.org are ambitious is an understatement. Elaine is inspiring her team to develop cutting edge technology with the same quality and speed of the best commercial organizations. She is fond of saying “non-profit doesn’t mean that you can’t be industry-leading” benchmarking her efforts and aligning with the industry’s best.
Elaine’s addition to the team represents Change.org’s commitment to accelerating our impact on Anti-racism and Anti-oppression as her unique skill set fuels our ability to make the power of change more accessible to more people through our technology. And yes, we hope to save many lives in the process.