Office Hours: I’m the Global Head of Strategic Partners at Expedia and Board Member at Olo and Five Below. I’m Zuhairah Washington.Featured

Hi everyone! I’m Zuhairah Washington, Global Head of Strategic Partners at Expedia. I am on the board of Olo and Five Below. Prior to Expedia Group, I held multiple GM roles at Uber, scaling the DC, MD, VA region to ~$1 billion. I have a bachelor’s degree from UCLA, a JD from Harvard Law School, and an MBA from Harvard Business School. I have been married for over a decade and am a mother of three active kids.Ask me anything about leadership, growing companies, being on boards, and more!
Thanks so much for joining us @ZuhairahW!Elphas – please ask @ZuhairahW your questions before Friday, March 19th. @ZuhairahW may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Wow, thank you for sharing expertise! As a born connector, I have been facilitating lucrative strategic partnerships and collaborations for some time. What career advice would you give someone who wants to become a partnership professional ( on purpose)?
Hi Amelia, Candidly, I never sought out to be a partnership professional per se. I simply wanted to use my strengths (which sound similar to yours!) connecting people, creating value, thinking creatively, acting collaboratively - to drive business value. That has led me to GM and Partnership roles. There are a few books that I've found helpful: 1) The Challenger Sale, 2) Setting the Table 3) Getting to Yes. I hope that is helpful! Best of luck!
@zuhairahw this was very helpful, especially the book recommendations! Thank you!
Wow.. I've very impressed with your credentials and experience... Totally blown away..I have similar backgrounds in the sense that I have worked in Asia, Middle East and now in Europe and I am trying to get on boards and get into leadership roles using my global experience. Can you share any tips on how to join a board(s) and how to land leadership positions using my experience.. Happy to chat more (if you have time, I know you must be super busy)
I am curious about joining boards too. I chair a nonprofit board, serve as a COO for a social benefit enterprise, am a co-founder of a nascent stage startup and am a mom, and would like the opportunity to join larger company’s board. But I don’t know the best way to approach that.
Hi, Allison! I may be able to connect you with someone who specializes in legitimate Board recruitment. Please contact me on
Thanks Maria! Following up shortly.
Hi LolaB!My first board was a nonprofit board. My desire was simply to be of service and to use my skills and insights to advance causes I cared about. I set the intention and wrote it down. Within a few days my boss at the time asked, "Have you ever consider sitting on a board?" Wow! I am a big believer in writing down your goals and sharing them with people you trust. This has worked for me many times in my career. Secondly, its sad to say but the best way to get on boards is to know people on boards. Most board seats (whether on non-profit or public boards) are filled by people who are on the boards themselves or in their network. I would start by looking at your own network and asking for 15 min with people you have a relationship with who are already on boards. Be clear on WHY you want to join a board and WHAT unique you can offer to an institution. Ask for any advice they are willing to offer you as you start on your journey. Lastly, there are so many great organization these days focused on getting more women on boards. Make sure you take some time getting to know these organizations. I've linked a few below: -
Thank you sooo much for these great pointers :)
Dear Zuhairah! Thank you so much for lending your time and expertise!Beyond impressed (and slightly intimidated) with your business and personal trajectory. Much like yourself, I was a practicing corporate attorney (for over a decade) and last year I decided to pursue a tech-based venture (it's a new game-changing digital dating platform). As a non-technical founder, I suffer greatly from the insecurity of being an "imposter" among the Silicon Valley types. I was wondering if you had any sage advice for navigating the tech world with no tech background. I am bracing for fundraising and getting ready to field this question frequently. I have a million other questions but contained myself to this one juggernaut I struggle with.Thank you so much.Katya
PS: Congrats on OLO's IPO!
Hi Katya!Thank you for the note. Not intimidated! None of that here. I am sure you are fabulous and impressive in your own right. :) I can relate to imposter syndrome. There is no better fix for overcoming that feeling than doing exactly what you are doing - feel the fear and DO IT ANYWAY. Bit by bit, over time your confidence will increase as you realize that you are just as smart and as capable as everyone else in SV. You do need to build a strong team around you that shores up the areas you are less strong. There are more "non-technical" founding teams then there have ever been so I think this is less and less of a barrier to funding. I'd focus less on the fundraising element and more on iterating on your product to get to strong product/market fit. There are a few accelerators and programs that focus on this specifically and also are good networking grounds for finding technical co-founders. Founders Gym is one that focuses specifically on fundraising: luck!!!
Thanks Zuhairah! Really appreciate your thoughtful response. Great advice (am taping the mantra "feel the fear and DO IT ANYWAY" above my desk!). Will definitely check out Founders Gym.
Zuhairah! I have lowkey been attempting to connect for years now and am so thrilled you're on Elpha! I am beyond impressed with your entire background -- but especially in your experience building Kahnoodle. I just raised $3M for a couples decision-making startup called Cobble and would love to tell you about it. You're more uniquely qualified to guide us than most—let me know if you'd be open to a quick Zoom chat. xx
Ha! Respect Jordan. I still have a passion for this space and am disappointed that couples dating is still so hard to plan and execute. Feel free to reach out to me via LinkedIN and we can find time for a Zoom demo! Congratulations on the raise!
You're incredible!! Thank you. Will do so now.
Hey Zuhairah!! What an amazing intro: loving all the amazing boss-lady energy. Would love to chat with you about the partnerships role as we would love to partner with Expedia. What’s the best way to reach you to discuss more?Nicole, founder of Avvinue (
Hi Zuhairah, thank you for your AMA! You have an incredible background with 3 degrees from renowned schools and roles at various top-tier companies! Plus, a mother of 3 children?! Wow, I struggle with just one. Time management must be critical to your sanity and success, and I'd love to understand how you juggle it all. What advice and tips can you share as a fellow mother-in-tech for someone who is not very well-versed in time management? What are some baby steps that you recommend to increase my efficiency in balancing work, life, and children?
Hi Angie! I answered some of this above but my first recommendation is to not do it alone. One key element of my career success is having an awesome partner. We've been together for 15 years and we've built a great life TOGETHER. At times my career took a backseat, like when I left my job in PE to move to London with him where he pursued his MBA. Life is long and I play the long game. What I mean by that is my career may look perfect in reverse but it was a journey with its own zig and zags. Each step along the way I tried my best to live with integrity, follow my intellectual curiosity and do some good. Everyone has zigs and zags on their journey, we don't talk about them enough publicly though. I hope to change that...starting with this message to you. :)
Hi @ZuhairahW thanks so much for doing the office hour. I'm curious if you have any advice for mid-career folks (5-7 YOE) exploring GM opportunities in the long term. How did you land your fist GM role? What are something that you had to learn and unlearn? What's considered as a common exit for GMs (e.g. C-suite, investor, etc)? Thank you!
Hi @ZuhairahW! Thanks a lot for being here. Do you have any advice on how to transition from a legal role into an operations-side one? I started my career at a law firm, then moved in-house and have realized that practicing law isn't for me moving forward. However, I haven't had much luck yet with job applications - I feel like recruiters are having a hard time moving past what I've done to what I can do.
Hi Corinna72,Great question. I know a lot of lawyers in this boat. A lot of the skills you develop as a lawyer also are required to be a great operator like attention to detail, strategic thinking, etc. Here a few thoughts: 1. Leverage your network. There are a lot of lawyers who have made the pivot. Find them and do informational interviews. Track their career pivots and see what resonates with you. Ask them to keep you in mind as new opportunities come up. 2. Focus on BD/Corp Dev Roles/Partnership Roles: A lot of these functions require reading contracts, negotiating agreements, working cross functionally with teams, project management, etc. These roles are "soft landing" grounds for lawyers. HR, I&D and Trust and Safety roles are also good options for ex-lawyers. 3. Go to B-school: Not advised given the cost. However, I have seen this work for many lawyers who have decided they wanted to do a hard pivot later in their career. 4. Get an Ops role at a Non-profit; Non-profits are generally hungry for talent and therefore more open to candidates past backgrounds more diverse if they can demonstrate their value to the organization.
Corinna72, I might have an opportunity that'd be interesting for someone with a legal background who's looking to break out into a more entrepreneurial trajectory. Drop me a line if you'd like to hear more.
Hi! I’m The founder of I would love to pick your brain about how we can raise awareness to help customers who need support at the airport! Partnering with Expedia is definitely on our list of goals, and I’d love to talk to you about how we might be able to get there. Please let me know if you have any time this week to chat! Thanks,Julie[email protected]
Hi Zuhairah,Thanks for hoping on this AMA :)First of all, congrats on being a badass woman of color! You’re inspirational. I have a couple of questions for you:1. What drives you to accomplish all that you’ve accomplished?2. How do you manage your career and a family with three active kids? Any principles or tips you have for managing both while meeting your own personal needs?3. Any tips you would like to share on personal branding?Thanks in advance. Cheers!
@Etta154 thank you for your words of encouragement! Answering your questions in order: 1. Knowing that those who came before me were just as smart and capable but did not have the opportunity or freedom to live their full potential, that is what keeps me going and living life urgently. At the end of the day I want to make my ancestors (named and unnamed) proud. I also want to give them the satisfaction in knowing that their life's energy and numerous sacrifices were not in vain. Their lives mattered. 2. Day by day and with LOTS of support. I have a full time nanny, a life partner who is my biggest cheerleader and also an amazing cook and a healthy mother who is retired and is energized by spending time with her grandkids. I do none of this alone. I rarely get alone time but I do try to prioritize exercising regularly (3x a week for at least 20 min) and putting on eyeliner, blush and lipstick daily - it makes me feel pulled together and ready to take on the world. :)3. Do the work first. I didn't focus on personal branding until very recently. If you prioritize doing great work you will have no issue creating an authentic and strong personal brand. If you prioritize the brand before doing the work, you will never create an authentic and strong brand. Do the work first.