Office Hours: I’m Senior Product Manager at GitHub. I’m Andrea Liliana Griffiths. AMA!Featured

Hello Elphas!

I’m Andrea Griffiths, and I’m Senior Product Manager at GitHub.

Before joining GitHub, my career path was quite the journey! I went from the military to construction management, and eventually landed in the tech industry 🚀. As an immigrant Latina and US Army veteran, I've faced unique challenges along the way.

For self-care, I enjoy spending time with my sons 👩‍👦‍👦, sweating it out in hot yoga 🧘‍♀️, and hitting the golf course ⛳.

If you've got questions or want to chat about transitioning from the army to tech, making big life decisions, nailing product management 📈, developer relations 👩‍💻, stepping out of your comfort zone, building communities 🌐, working with folks from around the world 🌍, or anything else, just shoot! I'm here to share my insights and experiences. 😊🌟

Thanks so much for joining us @andreagriffiths11!Elphas – please ask @andreagriffiths11 your questions before Friday, September 22nd. @andreagriffiths11 may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Thank you very much for the opportunity @ElphaStaff
Hi @andreagriffiths11! Such an amazing and inspiring journey! There are many PM training programs/certificates on the market, how would you comment on them as an insider? Do you think it is worthwhile for beginners to explore these learning opportunities?
There is a lot, a lot of content out there. I'd lean into free resources first, here is a list of some useful ones, of course not exhausting: Certainly, here are the resources without formatting:- A community-driven platform that publishes articles and insights on product management.- Offers a variety of free resources, including articles, webinars, and podcasts, on various product management topics.- edX: Provides access to product management courses from renowned universities and organizations. Some courses offer a free audit option.- Aha! Blog: Provides a wealth of free articles and resources on product management and strategy.- Product School's YouTube Channel: Features a collection of free webinars and talks on product management by industry experts.- Roman Pichler's Blog: Features articles and resources related to agile product management and Scrum.- Pragmatic Institute Resources: Offers free templates, guides, and articles related to product management and product marketing.- Ken Norton's Essays: A collection of essays by Ken Norton, a renowned product manager, covering various aspects of product management.- Marty Cagan's Blog: Marty Cagan, a well-known figure in product management, shares insights and articles on his blog.- The Clever PM Blog: A blog focused on product management topics, offering valuable insights and tips.- The PM Library: An online resource with a curated list of books and articles on product management.- Product Institute: Offers free templates, guides, and courses on product management topics.
Hi Andrea! As someone considering a transition into product management, what advice would you offer for building a strong foundation and making a successful shift from a project management role? Thanks for sharing :)
Hey Danielle, thanks for the question, it's all about the basics/fundamentals. It's a good idea to dive into strategy planning and really beef up those skills. It can make a world of difference and helps set a strong foundation for success. Best of luck to you!
Thanks so much for making yourself available for these office hours! I have many years of experience in marketing and communications in the educational nonprofit sector, but I would like to move over to corporate product management. Do you have any advice for someone switching careers at the mid-senior level?
Hi @nleapheart, I just wanted to say thanks for your hard work in education. Your transferable skills are pretty wonderful, especially coming from the non-profit world. You've already got that knack for rallying people to achieve a common goal, which is a big part of product management. When you're looking at new roles, my advice would be to tweak your resume to match the job's specific needs. It might sound a bit odd, but it's like translating your skills from one language to another – making them fit perfectly. For example:Transferable Skill: Data Analysis and InsightsNon-Profit Experience: In my previous role at a non-profit, I routinely analyzed donor and volunteer data to identify trends and preferences. This analysis informed our fundraising strategies and volunteer engagement efforts, leading to more effective campaigns and increased support.Using it in Product Management: As a product manager, I can leverage my data analysis skills to dissect user behavior and product usage patterns. By examining metrics such as user engagement, retention, and conversion rates, I can gain valuable insights. These insights can drive data-informed product decisions, helping prioritize feature development and enhance the user experience. In essence, my proficiency in data analysis enables me to make informed, strategic choices in product management.I hope this helps and best of luck in your new career!
Thank you so much! I truly appreciate your insight and advice.
Hi Andrea! Thank you so much for taking the time to help others. What inspired your transition into Product Management and did you have a mentor to guide you along the path?
Thank you for the question! I was fortunate to have a manager who believed in my ability to step into this role. I enjoyed the role I was in before, but honestly felt that I could be of much more impact by owning the responsibilities in the product path.
Thanks for your time and advice @andreagriffiths11! I am curious how you went about such significant career transitions and if you have any top tips about how to go about making them. I am looking to transition industries/roles, and I am having trouble getting my foot in the door!
Absolutely, it's like a chicken-and-egg situation, right? You need experience to become experienced, but you need a job to get that experience. It's all about taking what you already know and figuring out how it fits into the industry you want to be a part of. Just like I mentioned to @nleapheart, you'll have to do a bit of translation to show people how your experiences make you a top-notch candidate. Wishing you the best of luck!
What skills would you recommend to someone looking to break into product management? I worked in the nonprofit industry for more than 15 years and looking to make a shift.
Hi Selene, you already have a lot of skills that can directly translate into PM. The key is to narrow down the specifics. What side of product are you looking into? Is there a particular tech you are most curious to learn? Thinking about the tools you've used over the past 15 years, what worked? What had a user experience you enjoyed? These are questions that can help narrow down how to translate your existing experience into a new career. Best of luck to you; you've got this!
thank you for your time @andreagriffiths11! I’m in product myself too, CPO at an early-stage start up. I’m, besides many other things than work, also a very happy mother (1.5yo daughter). What are some things you do to balance out time to be present with your kids, as well as free up time to extend your knowledge and skills as a product professional? (Not looking for a magic bullet btw - consider this a question I also ask for mental support 😝)
Thanks a ton for the question! I really wish there was a magic solution to this, but we'll have to settle for the non-magical ones. 😄 It can be a real challenge, I've learned: as much as possible, don't forget to take care of yourself. Now, hold on before you think I'm a terrible mom; let me explain!I've noticed that I'm a better parent when I make self-care a priority. Things like time blocking, learning to delegate, and ensuring I do activities that keep me sane (like yoga or spending quality time with my partner) are just as crucial as being fully present with my kids. In fact, these things help me be more present because I value my time as much as theirs. Now that my kids are a bit older, they're not as into hanging out like they were when they were little. So, here's what I do: I actually schedule dedicated time with them. Yep, it's right there on my calendar every single day.This is the time when I pick them up from school. Even though the school is just a 5-minute drive away, I deliberately take an hour. It allows us the space to enjoy a relaxed snack, chat about their day, and for me to simply be a mom without any distractions. Blocking this time off on the calendar has given me an immense amount of psychological safety, I don’t feel like I'm blocking my team because they know that time I’m not available. I realize I have an ideal scenario and privilege, working remotely and being so close to their school. Long ago when I actually had a big commute making time for the special time was still a priority. If it helps trying to block that special time for you to fill your cup and special time for them, and no it won’t be perfect, and sometimes you have to change when and how, but intentionally saying “this is our time” has really helped me. When it comes to professional development or pursuing other interests, I make a conscious effort not to book things on weekends. However, there are those Saturday mornings that get a deliberate spot on my calendar. The last time I committed to no Saturdays was when I was pursuing a certification. In my mind, it was a 9-month sprint and done. I chose something that, I believed, was truly important and would significantly add value to my career. And it has.As much as I'd love to learn how to play an instrument, become a better golfer, or finally finish that punch thread craft project, those pursuits have been deprioritized. They fall under the category of "nice to have" rather than "must-have." Not a magical recipe, but a way I at least feel more on top of all fronts.By the way, you're doing an amazing job, Mama! 🌟
Thanks so much for your time, Andrea!I would love to learn more about how you've handled career transitions while being a parent. Have you ever faced challenges in that? Do you have any advice or learnings you could share with a new parent here? 😅
Cassi, it's wonderful to have you here! Let's be honest, being a working parent is freaking hard. Full stop! One of the eye-opening outcomes of motherhood, at least in my experience, was the realization that my actions and choices had a profound impact. It wasn't just about me anymore; there were little eyes watching, learning, and depending on me to set the example. They were counting on me to be the best version of myself.Now, that's quite a bit of pressure, isn't it? 😄 But here's what I firmly believe: When you're working towards a greater good and genuinely take pride in what you do, your children can sense it. They can see your dedication and passion, and this can potentially influence their own career choices in the future.If you have a village to lean on, don't hesitate to reach out to them. It doesn't make you any less of a good mother, and your kids will love you just as much. I've personally struggled with asking for help, even from my partner, but I eventually learned the hard way that there's bravery in seeking assistance. Growing up in a rather dysfunctional Latin family where roles were defined in what I consider a toxic manner, I'm now raising two boys. I hope that if they choose to become parents with a partner one day, they do it as true equals and without guilt.You are doing great, mama.
Hi Andrea, thanks for sharing. I was curious to know when you knew it was time to change course? 😊
Having my second child sent me into a tailspin. I had to return to work immediately (thanks to the less-than-ideal American healthcare laws), but the passion and drive I once had for my job had vanished. I knew I needed to work to support my family, but what I was doing no longer felt fulfilling enough to justify the sacrifice of sending my infant to daycare.I could have chosen to stay where I was, but the added pressure became a catalyst for deep self-reflection. Many nights spent nursing my child forced me to confront some fundamental questions: Was I truly happy in my current role? Was this field where I felt the most challenged and fulfilled? Was I still growing professionally? Was there even a destination I wanted to reach within this career path?The answers to these questions ultimately led me to start learning how to code and actively explore a career change with purpose and intention.
Thanks! Sounds like you had an impactful career journey.
Thanks for making the time, Andrea! You've got such a fascinating background – what are some parallels or transferable skills you see between your experience in the army and your PM career? And was PM an obvious path when you were in the army?
Thanks for your time Josefina. Absolutely! When I think about my time in the Army and my gig as a PM, I see some connections. In the military, I learned how to lead and talk to people effectively, which is useful when I'm managing teams and working with others as a PM. Plus, being able to roll with the punches and make decisions on the fly has been a big help.Back in my Army days, I was a pretty young non-commissioned officer, and I had to make snap decisions in stressful situations. That experience really sharpened my ability to think fast and make smart choices when things got tough. It's a skill that's been super useful in my PM career.As for whether I thought about being a PM when I was in the Army, not really. It wasn't something that crossed my mind at first. But, as time went on, I realized that the military taught me how to think strategically and solve problems, which turned out to be a perfect fit for a PM role. So, even though it wasn't an obvious choice back then, my Army service set me up well for this career path.
Hi Andrea! Thanks for taking the time. How did you upscale in what is quite a technical product with no apparent technical background
Thank you for your question, Briana. Your question reminded me of one of my favorite quotes, Richard Feynman's, "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool”.Entering the tech world with a non-technical background was undoubtedly a challenge, not only because I had to gain the trust of those who had to see me as a technical person, but also because I had to overcome my own self-imposed limitations. Throughout my career, I've approached every opportunity with the awareness that there are unknowns, and it'll be hella foolish to pretend I know it all.One experience that stands out illustrates the essence of this challenge. I encountered a persistent bug in a large open-source project that had been plaguing users for months. The initial response from the team, many of whom were unpaid maintainers, was to find a hack to mitigate the issue and normalize its existence.However, this moment served as a revelation. I realized that this problem wasn't just a challenge for someone like me, without a computer science degree, but also for experienced individuals with impressive credentials. It became a crisis of belief. Rather than dismissing it as an easy fix (find the workaround), I embraced it as a personal challenge that pushed me far beyond my comfort zone. At that time, my coding experience was primarily with Ruby, while this project used a completely different tech stack. Nonetheless, I persevered, solving a problem that by all purposes everyone had given up on. This experience taught me the power of determination and a willingness to tackle challenges, even when they seem insurmountable. This is the beauty of tech, what’s new and fresh now, may not be that tomorrow…a testament to the idea that continuous learning and a fearless approach can bridge gaps and enable personal growth in the tech industry, regardless of one's initial background.
Thanks for offering your time and knowledge here @andreagriffiths11! If you had to start your career in product management all over again - what would you do differently or what advice would you give yourself?
I love this question! Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Personally, I'd recommend anyone starting out to seek the support of a mentor. The power of people invested in your success is immeasurable. While there's plenty of theory about Product Management, great books and certifications, the real-world insights from an experienced PM can be a game-changer. This role requires finesse and interpersonal skills, especially when delivering not-so-great news. For me, I'd spend less time putting decision-makers on a pedestal and trust that my vision and ability to explain context are enough. I often joke that the most interesting thing I've learned in the past two years is that there's no "wizard behind the curtain." While there are big decisions and high-level strategies that we might not know about, ultimately, we're the ones in control. Crafting the vision and contributing to it, even as a beginner, brings value because our experiences are unique. Learning to trust my voice is still a work in progress, and that's where having a more experienced mentor to validate assumptions and guide improvement is incredibly valuable.
This is helpful thanks! I've been thinking about shifting into the Project Management field.
Hi @andreagriffiths11!Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions here. I am interested in switching from Project Management to Product Management and I was wondering how you learned your technical skills to become a Product Manager? If you could speak more about that transition, that would be great.Thank you so much in advance.
Hi @marissajoakim, thanks so much for asking! Moving from Project Management to Product Management was a real mix of learning experience – some formal stuff, some (loasds really) just me figuring things out, and lots of hands-on learning. For me, the big shift was all about "strategy." I went from a role where I was doing a bit of everything to one where I was in charge of planning and setting the strategy for our projects. It's been a trip, and I'd be happy to chat more about it if you're interested!
What are the top 3 advice you would give to someone who would want to transition into PM/PMM from data analytics (with no background in the product field)?
Thank you for the question! Here are three tips: 1. You're already a PM in some way, even if it's not your job title. You've probably managed stuff in your life. Why not dip your toes into Product Management or PMM projects at work, even on the side? It's a smart way to get some hands-on experience. You could also check out open-source projects that need PM skills—they're a great way to learn while giving back to the community.2. Your data skills are a hidden superpower. Product Managers and PMMs are crazy about data to make clever decisions. Make sure people know you can crunch numbers, find cool insights, and use data to supercharge products and marketing.3. Be patient with yourself. Switching careers takes time and effort, so keep at it, and don't be too hard on yourself. You've got this! 🚀😊
Thanks for offering your time and knowledge, Andrea! What is an example of a good project for a Product Manager to have in their portfolio?
Hey Melissa, thank you for taking the time to send a question!A great project for a Product Manager's portfolio doesn't have to be tied to a specific feature or ship. But what you're after is showcasing your knack for leading projects from start to finish and working smoothly with different parts of the company. This means you can handle complex projects, help with important programs, use data to improve processes, and coordinate activities across various teams.If you choose one specific project for your portfolio, it should also show how you’ve managed to explain tricky stuff in simple terms, deal with roadblocks; used project tools effectively to get things done, no matter if the projects are tech-heavy or not.Here is an example of a framework you can use when thinking about what the breakdown would look like: Show Off Your Best Work: Include your top projects. Describe them in a way that's easy to understand: what you did, why it mattered, and the results.Skills Spotlight: Highlight your product management skills and any certifications you have. Numbers Matter: Use numbers to prove your worth. Did a project boost sales? Increase users? Show the impact you've had in digits.Visual Boost: Sprinkle in some visuals when it helps tell the story. Occasionally a chart or image can explain things better than words.Stay Fresh: Keep that portfolio updated. Don't let it gather digital dust. Add your latest wins to show you're always growing and achieving.I hope this helps!
Hello @andreagriffiths11Nice to e-meet you and thank you for offering your time to help others out.I am starting a new PM role soon, and I would appreciate some insights into how to nail it in the first 30 days.Context : The fact that the company operates in an entirely new domain that I have never worked in before, as well as it being a startup makes me really nervous and apprehensive.Additionally, please if you have time for a quick chat, that would be awesome.If not, responding here is great as well 🙂
Congrats on the new gig! It's an exciting time, especially in the startup world. Remember, they brought you on board because they believe in you. The startup pace and processes will become clear as you go along, and if there are other PMs, it's a good idea to reach out and pick their brains. In your first thirty days, focus on listening and learning. Don't rush to change things without understanding why they're in place. Since this domain is new to you, get hands-on with the product—use it, break it, and really get a feel for it. Experiencing the user's pain points will give you great insights. I love this resource from the influential PM book by Ken Sandy: your instincts; you're there for a reason. So, do lots of listening in your first month, and you'll start making crucial improvements in no time. Here's a link to my calendar, I'd be happy to have a virtual coffee and chat more. Best of luck, you got this!
Thanks Andrea for those valuable nuggets!I’d be sure to implement those, and will take you up on that virtual coffee chat offer 🙂
Thank you for sharing your insights, Andrea! What are your thoughts on getting out of your comfort zone? How do you reduce the anxiety just before a big meeting ?
@allisonk, I absolutely resonate with your question. Having delivered numerous talks in various settings, both small and large, I can say that every single time, just before stepping onto that stage or clicking "join" on that Zoom call, my palms get sweaty, and I worry, a lot. It happens, no matter how prepared I am.But here's the deal: it's in those first few nerve-wracking minutes that I start to settle down. I remind myself that I know my stuff, I've put in the work for this moment, and it's my time to shine. So, for me, the key is to accept that initial discomfort as part of the ride and trust that I've done my homework. Having some anxiety is okay; it shows you care about the outcome, and that's why you've prepared and stepped up to speak in the first place.
As a career transitioner, I'm interested in your perspective on using crises as a catalyst for changing one's career direction. How do you approach significant career decisions, such as switching careers? Specifically, how do you determine whether a change is necessary and, if so, when is the right time to make that change?
I would like to add to this. When switching careers, how did you make these changes to jobs where they would otherwise tell you that you have "no experience"? Was it a person who advocated for you, or did you apply to jobs and explain your transferrable skills?
Hey @marissajoakim, thanks for your question! Transitioning from Project Management to Product Management was a diverse learning journey. It included both formal education and a lot of personal discovery along the way, with plenty of hands-on experience. The major shift for me was all about "strategy." I moved from a role where I had my hands in various tasks to one where I took on the responsibility of planning and setting the strategy for our projects. While I already had some technical skills from my previous role, the significant change was in sharpening my strategic thinking and crafting overarching strategies.
As someone who's made a career shift, your question about using crises as a springboard for changing careers is spot on. When it comes to big career decisions like switching fields, it's all about recognizing your own path. In my own journey, some of the most rewarding choices I made followed major life changes or were geared toward them. They weren't always a walk in the park, but they made the whole "going to work" thing feel worthwhile. While my situation might not match everyone's, it's also not one-of-a-kind.I was dead set on building a tech career at a time when I had hefty responsibilities and people relying on me. I count myself lucky to have had the chance to explore job options, learn to code and even think about starting a business while holding down a stable job. It's a seriously awesome spot to be in. But it's important to stay true to your own path. That means setting your deadlines and checking in on your progress.In my case, a game-changing apprenticeship opportunity popped up. If it hadn't, I might have eventually shifted into a full-time tech gig, but that apprenticeship turbocharged that direction. So, everyone's got their unique path, but the key is to be proactive, stick to your plan, and grab those opportunities when they show up. On a lighter note, one of my all-time favorite meme-like quotes is: "Spite-driven career development." It's a way of saying, "Trust yourself, create your roadmap, and stay on course with an adaptable mindset” and don’t let anyone tell you can’t do this.