Relicans host, Aisha Blake talks to Product Leader, Advisor, and Consultant, Anne Griffin about being the only woman and Black person in the room, that one of the worst things you can do is give up your own power by thinking you don't have any, and helping people to leverage LinkedIn better.
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Jonan Scheffler: Hello and welcome to Launchies, proudly brought to you by New Relic's Developer Relations team, The Relicans. The Launchies podcast is about supporting new developers and telling their stories and helping you make the next step in what we certainly hope is a very long and healthy career in software. You can find the show notes for this episode along with all of The Relicans podcasts on developer.newrelic.com/podcasts. We're so glad you're here. Enjoy the show.
Aisha Blake: Hello and welcome to Launchies, the podcast for early-career developers and developers with non-traditional backgrounds. My name is Aisha Blake, and I'm a Senior Developer Relations Engineer at New Relic. Today I'm your host, and I am here with Anne T. Griffin. She's a manager of both people and products, an expert in AI and blockchain as well as an accomplished speaker. Welcome and thank you so much for being here.
Anne Griffin: I'm super thrilled to be here. And I really love what this podcast is about because you said some things where I'm like, wow, that makes me feel really great about myself. I do all those things. But I'm like; I started off not in that place. And before this, we were talking a little bit about what my first job out of college was like and that kind of thing. And I just really want to be on this podcast and be able to speak to those people who are experiencing either out of bootcamp, or however else, or out of college, or any other way that they're getting into development or tech and hopefully be able to help some of them.
Aisha: Awesome. I really, really appreciate that. So let's maybe start off with a little bit of that feeling of what it's like to start out in the industry without that confidence of feeling like I know what I'm doing. I know what I'm about, and I have something to offer.
Anne: Yeah. So the first job out of college, I was the only woman in that specific office. For a while, I was the only black person, which for those of you who are listening to this, you can't see me; I'm very ethnically ambiguous looking. So if I'm the only black person in your office, you have a very big problem. I just remember being like, okay, I'm the only one who looks like this, that kind of thing. I stood out, and I felt pressure like, oh my God, I have to be really good and all this other stuff. And also feeling like there was also a double standard for me about...I felt like when other people work together; it felt like, oh, this is just like bros hanging out talking. But when I asked for help, it felt like there was some deficiency in me and my knowledge and how I solve problems. And some of that was maybe slightly in my own head. And some of that was also projected onto me in the way people reacted when I did ask for help, which now I'm in a place where I know okay; these were super toxic situations.
But I think a lot of people when they're starting out, you have that like, oh my gosh, I'm a little anxious because I haven't done this before. But especially when you're in a situation where you stand out because you come from a non-traditional background or because of who you are, how you look, or other things, it is very nerve-wracking because people, as much as they like to think that they're not biased, respond to you differently and have different standards for your work or how you ask for help when you ask for help. And it can be nerve-wracking, and it becomes like trauma, whether it's a minor level or a major level that you end up carrying into your next job as well.
Aisha: That's such a huge reason why I think it's important for people to, as early as possible, try to find community. Because I've heard that so many times where someone will describe a situation that's going on at work and meanwhile, I'm on the other side of the computer horrified like, no, no, no, they should not be treating you this way. This is not how we do things. And someone who doesn't have the experience or doesn't feel like they have the power even to say something when they're in that situation, it's hard for some people to recognize that they have options and that that's not something that they have to put up with.
Anne: Yeah, exactly. There's this saying about...I can't remember how it's worded, so; please forgive me if it's not going to be eloquent. But the thing is that one of the worst things you can do it's like you give up your own power by thinking you don't have any. And it's this terrible thing where it's like believing that you don't have any power in the situation like, oh, I can't leave this job because I've been here less than a year, or I can't stand up to this person because they're so and so's manager and dah, dah, dah. And obviously, there are situations where you're like, this is going to make my life hell, and I don't want to deal with that. But thinking that I don't have the option to start looking for a job somewhere else, or I don't have the option to transfer to another team or decide, maybe I don't want to do this thing. I don't want to explore a different part of tech. And we give that away.
And I think there are jobs where I stayed longer than I should have, especially at that first job I got out of college. I stayed in that job as long as I did because I thought, well, it's a recession, and what are the options I have? And how bad will it look if I didn't even make it a year in the first job I got out of college? And now I see people changing jobs. I've seen people in this pandemic who have changed jobs two or three times, whether it's because they were in toxic work environments or because of layoffs. And people will ask about it. But it's really not the same where it's like, oh, you're never going to get a good job at one of these amazing companies. It's not this thing that's like a death sentence for your career. And I used to see it that way, and I didn't have a community to talk about it with. So I just internalized all these thoughts on my own and just suffered in silence and in isolation.
Aisha: So how would you recommend folks begin to look for that community?
Anne: So obviously, we're in a pandemic. So in person, if you're not comfortable, I'll say I'm not comfortable doing things in person right now. Definitely online; whether it's different types of Twitter communities, there are different ones. I'm part of #BlackTechTwitter, which is amazing. There are other ones for Latinx people. There are ones for just...I don't think there's a hashtag for it, but there's this group of people where I consider them my sensitive tech community where we all have the same thoughts and feelings that like, I would say maybe the people who are stereotypical tech bros are like, no, you got to grind harder and do this, and this doesn't matter. And it's legal, so who cares?
And then there's what I call my sensitive tech community and people who are more like you whether you find it on Twitter. There's this amazing group I'm in, Sista Circle: Black Women in Tech, that I'm in on Facebook. They also have a LinkedIn community for those who aren't on Facebook. That is really amazing. Basically, there are tons of Slack communities I'm in, which also all these communities I'm mentioning you don't have to find...obviously, everyone here is from different communities. Find the ones that make sense for you and build there. Because the thing is, it's not just like these are the people that are going to tell you, this is normal, this is not normal. These are also going to be the people who help you find your next job if you are in a situation where you need to exit a toxic situation. My current job, I got this because of a Slack group. I didn't know about this job until Slack and someone referred me. And I met my current manager, and we hit it off, and I've been working there almost two and a half years now.
Anne: And I have a manager who's so supportive. We share a lot of the same values, which I'm like, I've had so many bad managers at this point or at least very mediocre managers that I'm just like, oh my gosh, it's such a relief to not have to fear all the things you fear when you have a bad manager. And so building that community is really vital for your full career but also early in your career because you need someone to tell you, "That's not okay. You shouldn't have to do that." Or like, "This is what you should do in this situation." Or, "You can do that, but here are some things to think about repercussions. I'm not saying you shouldn't do that, but you might decide to handle it in a different way than you originally were thinking about doing it. And so those are things where building an online community is really important.
If you're in a place where you do it in-person or whenever we get to a post-pandemic world, hopefully, meetups are great. But I recommend going to meetups that have a vibe that you are like; I would maybe go to this even if this wasn't about tech. Because I found that when I went to tech meetups that were like, this is the best in mobile development in New York City, they were really cool things. And I never spoke to anyone that I took their business card or that took my business card like ever again, not intentionally; there just wasn't anything in common. So it felt weird like, hey, I met you once at a meetup. There wasn't really anything to cause follow-ups.
There's this summit in Philly they'd been doing it remote during the pandemic called HUE Tech Summit, where I've met so many amazing women of color at the HUE Tech Summit. And several of those people I've started going there since their first year, and this is their fifth year now. Oh my gosh, I can't deal with how time is passing. But I met so many amazing women that I am friends with to this day. Both people who...there was one where it was before she even became a developer, and now she's pretty much a dev influencer. And there are other people where they are way already rock stars in their career. And if I need help, I can just text them. And I'm like, oh, this is kind of amazing. I didn't ever think I would be in this part of my career where I would have this kind of community and network. And so I would say, like, that's my advice: go to the places where you feel like you're home, and you would hang out with these people even if they weren't in tech.
Aisha: I love that. Oh my goodness, yes. The thing that I miss most about meetups really is that that's how I found friends. And that's how I think about networking. For a lot of people, I feel like networking is this dirty word. But in my opinion, if you approach it like I'm just out here trying to make some friends who happen to have some overlapping professional interests, it's not only easier, but it comes off as being more authentic.
Anne: It's way more authentic.
Aisha: Yeah. You end up with deeper connections that way.
Anne: It's way better and also takes a lot of the anxiety out of networking. I remember when I first started to network, I would just go to events that sounded super important. And again, I never stayed in touch with any of those people, and it wasn't intentional. It didn't happen because, in my head, that's how networking went. Because also, I never was really taught how to network in that kind of way, and things that I was actually already doing as networking I didn't see as networking. So I was just like, okay, I'm going to put less focus on that. And so once I started being like, I'm going to actually focus all my energy on going to the things that seem like fun, then it actually completely changed networking for me altogether. And it helps me wake up to just because it's not boring and hyper business-y doesn't mean that it's not networking.
Aisha: Exactly. So we've talked about hopefully, in the future, in-person meetups. Twitter as well is absolutely huge. And I know you do a lot of work around helping people to leverage LinkedIn better. Could you talk a little more about that?
Anne: Yeah. So one of the things that I do especially because…I hate to say this, but it's true where it's as people of color, you could end up in a job for ten years because you love it. Or it could be you have no idea when it's going to be time to go. So you don't know what's going to happen. Like, you get a new manager, or something else happens, or there's some incident. Or we have 2020 happen, and suddenly, people decide that they want to write a thesis on what counts as racism and what doesn't.
So the thing is partly because earlier in my career, I didn't necessarily always have the support and guidance; I had to be really good at finding new jobs very quickly. And then also living in New York, I freelanced when I first moved here. And there were certain jobs I had where I was like, okay, it's definitely time to go. And so, I learned for myself how to leverage LinkedIn to actually get recruiters to regularly come to me. And it got to a point where I remember I'd get random recruiters.
But I remember one day I got a recruiter from eBay who reached out to me for a job that was hyper-specific for what I wanted to do in the future. It was like I had made up the job title myself, and I was like, how did this happen? Because I wasn't in a place where I necessarily...it was a product management role that dealt with machine learning. And I was like, okay, I didn't lie about my experience. Because at that point, I was like, I'm interested in machine learning, but I had l zero experience. I hadn't done anything in that space. And I asked the eBay recruiter, "How did you find me?" And they said, "I typed it in product manager New York machine learning into LinkedIn. And you were the second person to come up." Mind you; New York City is a big place. I'm pretty sure there's someone who's a product manager who's done machine learning who lives in this city, but I was ranking higher than them. And I was like, oh, that's really interesting.
And so over the years, I've done a lot of things and tweaked things and learned, okay, this is how you do this. And so I basically packaged that up into a course I teach called Attract Your Dream Job. It's like part course part coaching where I teach black people and people of color especially. Most of the people I work with are in tech to actually use LinkedIn for themselves and understand the algorithm so that they can get recruiters coming to them. There are times where, even just in this pandemic, where I was getting seven recruiters a day. And I was getting recruiters like Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Amazon. I have a whole list actually that's in my phone of all the companies that are like...I'll say the name brand companies who've hit me up at once or more times, even just in the last year. And I teach that to other people.
But part of it is really just like, you can get all the recruiters coming to you. But if you're like, I don't believe in myself; I don't have the confidence; you're not going to get the job. And then, if they do give you the job, they're going to sense how insecure you feel, and you're already a person of color. So they're already going to have the markdown. And they're going to pay you crap for something they should probably be paying you like $20,000 to $50,000 more for that job. And so it also addresses your mindset, talks about imposter syndrome. And so we just go through our past career trauma or even just trauma in the job search. Because getting rejected repeatedly is hard, and that's something where I want people to be able to talk about it.
And I'll be honest, it's very emotional for me and also the people in the course because I've broken down crying talking about some of the things. And I've had people in the course who weren't even saying anything and cry. And then they come to me later, and they're like, "Oh my God, that's literally the exact situation I'm in right now. And I thought I was the only one who's gone through that. And I feel my mental health deteriorating, and it's impacting how I'm performing in interviews." And just knowing they're not alone facing that is such a game-changer.
And so that's what I do where it's like, LinkedIn is like the hey, I can use LinkedIn to get you a new job faster. But on top of getting you the new job faster, it's not just getting a new job faster, but it's also giving you options, so you don't have just one option where you're like, well, I have bills to pay, so I better take it. And then it's also making sure you get paid what you're worth and also helping you address that imposter syndrome and doubt in that process.
Aisha: That's so powerful. That feeling of just being beaten down after a while after you've been searching in order to just sustain yourself has to be life-changing for so many people to, one, recognize that they're not alone in that feeling, and then to actually get some actionable advice on how to work through it.
Anne: Absolutely. And there've been times where I've reached out to some of my students and coached them through...again, I'm not a programmer, but you just coach them through more mindset things to help them get through upcoming programming interviews because I understand it can be intimidating. It can be like, oh, I failed all these other ones. How am I going to get through this one?
And what makes it even worse is sometimes you're trying to build community, and you don't realize sometimes the people you initially put in your community, especially if you're in the beginning of your career in tech, are really insecure themselves, and therefore they can't admit that they're struggling. So they're like, "I don't know what you're talking about. I thought this interview was actually super easy, and I did really well." Or like, "Oh, by the way, I got offers from Amazon, and Facebook, and Google, and I'm just choosing."
And the thing is, they're never going to talk about what it took for them to get there. They're never going to talk about how their mental health was maybe impacted. They kind of project this like, oh man, I just did five extra hours a week of LeetCode or something. And for some people, their mental health is already hanging on by a string. Five extra hours a week is either detrimental to their mental health, or it's literally not possible if maybe you took a bootcamp and you're working two jobs until you get into a tech job. Sometimes that's not an option for you, and people will make it sound like it's just you. Like, oh, did you just start studying? Or maybe you're just not trying hard enough.
And the reality is there are tons of people facing that, and people are too insecure to talk about that it makes them miserable and sad to go through some of these processes. It doesn't make you less good of a programmer, or product manager, designer. But a lot of people are too insecure to admit how it makes them feel. And it makes other people feel like I can't talk about this because it's easy for everyone else but me.
Aisha: Yeah, absolutely. Like I said, to have that space where you're encouraged to say, "Hey, you know what? Actually, I'm not okay. This is really hard, and it's having this effect on me." That's huge. And I just really commend you for creating that for people.
Anne: Yeah. I think people need that space.
Aisha: Definitely. What's your maybe most common step that you have people take in that situation? What maybe is the most common issue that you see that can be addressed?
Anne: Again, there's the mindset stuff, and then there's like the hey, you can do this on LinkedIn, and this will help this. But I think there are two things where one is slowing down enough to identify where you are psyching yourself out, where you are actually doing all the work for the enemy. And I'm like, make them do it. Make them say those things, those terrible things you're saying in your head that you think they're going to say. Make them say it. Don't say it to yourself. You have to be focused on what am I great at? Let me focus on that. Here's what I have to bring. Yeah, I might mess up this part, but guess what? There's always going to be someone in the interview that's going to mess something up. I'm still going to show up. I'm going to do great.
And I've told people like, if you have to do the thing where you create an alter ego for yourself for like this interview self, and this is outside of interview self…And I use this example a lot like Beyoncé created Sasha Fierce as an alter ego. Because she herself is like, "I feel like I'm actually very shy. And I needed this other persona to help me be this amazing diva pop star on stage." And I think a lot of us really know...I mean, even though she considers Sasha Fierce retired, but Sasha Fierce basically birthed the version of Beyoncé we know now.
And I think a lot of us know Beyoncé as a post-Sasha Fierce Beyoncé or Sasha Fierce Beyoncé. And not a lot of us really think about Beyoncé, the homebody who doesn't really want to talk to anybody, period. She just wants to go home and hang out, do regular everyday Beyoncé things that don't involve people or performing or that kind of thing. And sometimes you have to be like, here's how I would act if I showed up to interviews full of confidence, knowing that I can do everything.
And one of the things I've also told people is when Donald Trump was elected president (and maybe you guys have to cut this out. I don't know.) I said to myself, you know if he gets to be president…because there are a lot of people where I was like, maybe they have something I don't have that makes them better at being president. And then when Donald Trump was president, I was like, I think I would still struggle, but I absolutely could be president and do that. And I was like, if he gets to be president of United States, at this point, all bets are off. I get to literally do anything I want to do. It might take me a while to figure it out. But why is everyone else getting to do things?
I'm realizing there's so much stuff out there where the people we think know so much more than us really don't, and it's really just us scamming ourselves into thinking that we don't know the things that we actually know. And then we see somebody else doing it, and we're like, wow, I really scammed myself out of that bag. And that's sad. That hurts. I'm like, don't scam yourself. Don't cheat yourself out of things. Make other people do the work of closing the door in your face. Stop closing doors in your own face because it's not endearing. It's not helping you. And you're like, oh, what if I embarrass myself? Everyone embarrasses themselves. Even Beyoncé has fallen on stage. She got her wig stuck in a wind machine, and we still love her. It's okay. If your wig gets stuck in a wind machine in your interview, stop, handle it, and then keep going. And so that's one of the mindset things where you really have to remind yourself you know things, and it's okay to not know the things. But you just need to sound really confident when you say, "You know, I don't know that, but I'm really interested in it." And that's the thing.
And the other part is really no one can help you in your job search if they don't know you're looking. And people oftentimes feel shame. They're like, oh, I'm looking for a job. I've been looking for so long. I promise you, a lot of people are not even thinking about. Oh, why does that person not have a job yet? So, number one, you need to tell people even if you're like, I have a job right now, and it's just miserable. In private, the people you trust, email those people. It doesn't have to be people in your workplace if you don't trust those people. People you know in the industry that kind of thing or in some of these private groups we just talked about message them saying, "Hey, here's my situation, dah, dah, dah. I'm looking for…" and be specific as possible about what you're looking for, the type of role, the level you're at, those kinds of things. If there's a specific geographical area, say, "This is what I'm looking for." People cannot help you look…
And then also, even if you're like, oh my gosh, but how do I use LinkedIn to leverage that? I can't go through all the things you need to do with your LinkedIn in just this one podcast. But one thing I will tell you is the more visible you are on LinkedIn; the more likely recruiters will reach out to you. So if you're in a position where you can't say, "Hey, I'm looking for a job on LinkedIn," write about something completely different and be like, "Hey, I took a course four months ago in Python, dah, dah, dah. And it was really great. And I did this project from Kaggle." If that's it, write that and get in the regular habit of you don't have to write something really corny on LinkedIn. You can just write like, oh, I'm going to sign up for this course. Or oh, I read this blog post. I thought it was really interesting and posting that.
Because the more you are active on LinkedIn, LinkedIn actually increases your ranking in their algorithm, which means that when somebody searches for your role, geographic area, on whatever specialty it is, it means you're going to be ranked higher when the recruiters come looking for you. And I do know this not just because the eBay person, but I have a very good friend who's in recruitment at a company here in New York City, and they literally text me once a quarter. They're like, "You have no idea how many times you came up in my searches this quarter." So my thing is be visible. Even if you can't say, "Hey, I'm looking for a job," talk about something else because it doesn't matter. We don't need the recruiters to necessarily see, like, hey, Aaron is looking for a job. They just need to see, oh, the LinkedIn algorithm says that they're very relevant for that role, and relevance is actually related to your activity.
So also another thing I'm going to tell you is always reply to your LinkedIn DMs. Even if that recruiter is wildly off about what they're looking for, just reply and say, "Hey, not looking for this, but if you know about…" the type of role you're looking for, insert that name there, "let me know." And if you're usually getting a lot of messages for roles that have nothing to do with what you're doing, then I would just update your keywords on your LinkedIn because that's usually the culprit. So those are the two things where...I know there's a lot, but the two main categories of things people can do.
Aisha: Awesome. Thank you so much. It's a very freeing thought that if my wig gets stuck in a wind machine, I can pause, untangle, and move on with my life. But I want to come back to something that you said about essentially let's not talk ourselves out of the bag. This is something that I talk about a lot when it comes to speaking. Somebody thinks to themselves, oh, I don't have anything interesting to say. I don't have anything that's worthy of XYZ conference. I don't have the presence to be up there with these famous speakers. And I'm like, hold up, that's not your job. It's not your job to decide who gets to be on stage. That is the job of the selection committee. It is your job to present your thoughts and ideas in the best way that you can.
Anne: Yeah, it's really like I'm in a shoot your shot world when it comes to career opportunities, whether it's speaking opportunities anything like that. I used to think the same thing where I'm like, oh, I'm not like this person. I'm not like that person. I spent so much time comparing myself to other people that I thought, oh my God, well, that person is so amazing, and I don't think that way. I don't talk that way.
And I realized that was my superpower was that I don't think like those people, and those people could be at the same conference as me. And like, that's why they would have you alongside with those other people because you don't think that way, and they want to have people that are different. They don't want 50 of the same person. And it's not your job to filter yourself out for them. That's why they have a committee. You are not getting compensated for filtering yourself out of the process. There is no benefit for you. And like I said, we're in a post-shoot your shot world. I get to be anything. I started just saying like, when opportunities came by, I would just be like, I'm just going to put my name in the hat and see what happens.
I worked at this blockchain startup that was part of ConsenSys for a bit. ConsenSys, for those who aren't aware, they're like an incubator accelerator for blockchain, specifically Ethereum-based startups. And ConsenSys sent out this email to everybody like, "Hey, who's interested in doing blockchain talks at Morgan State as like a guest lecture? And I was like, oh my God, that sounds terrifying. And I don't think any university would ever let me speak to their undergrads because I'm not a professor. I didn't go to grad school. I have no idea what I would talk about. And I was like, but maybe they'll have an idea, and it'll be an idea I can bounce off of.
So I was like, I'm going to reply and say, "Hey. I'm interested in this," and so I did. And they were like, "Great, here are the different topics. What do you want to talk about?" And I was like, "Okay, let's talk about Initial Coin Offering scams," because scams are kind of fun to talk about, and so that was my talk. And they were like, "Cool, let's do it." Actually, this was pre-pandemic. I went to Morgan State, did this guest lecture, and everything. And I'm like, holy shit, I just guest lectured at a university. But my first reaction was the university is not going to be like, okay, cool. You go talk to the students about the blockchain things. And also, I had been in the blockchain world for less than a year at that point. And I was ready to filter myself out. And like you said, until someone starts paying me a lot of money, and we're talking about enough money to like I can retire now, I'm not going to filter myself out.
Aisha: There you go. It's exactly the same for salary positions. I came across a job at Gatsby, and I was like, wow, this job description. It's exactly the kind of thing that I wanted to do. This is the work that I'm doing on the side right now. And the only thing was like, oh, but it's a Staff Software Engineer position. And I'm like, ooh, I'm not a Staff Software Engineer. And lo and behold, I go for it anyway. I'm like, what do I have to lose? I go for it. I get the job. And here I am doing Staff Software Engineer work eventually as a staff software engineer at Gatsby. And I'm like, huh, imagine if I had just decided for them that I wasn't capable of this, you know?
Anne: Yeah. That's the thing. It's like, you could have decided for them. But then it's like, what would that serve you? At the end of the day, what does shrinking ourselves do for us? How does getting paid less for performing...It's like having the ability to perform at a higher level but being in a lower title. How is that serving us or anything that we want? And the answer is it doesn't. And it makes our anxiety, I guess, feel good. But then, at the end of the day, it's kind of like a self-fulfilling prophecy where it feeds the anxiety and makes you the next time be like, well, I was right for not applying to that thing or maybe not even right. There's no proof that you were right because you didn't shoot your shot. But you're like, well, we chose not to apply for that one. So we're not going to apply for this one either.
Aisha: Absolutely. And it just keeps going like that. What you said about making ourselves small that actually reminds me a lot of something that a career coach said to me once. She was basically like, "Well, it seems like in this one aspect of your life you're doing all these things, and you're leading communities, and you're teaching and speaking and whatnot. But in this other part of your career, you are making yourself small, and it's really hurting you." And in that scenario, I was not being recognized for the work that I was doing. And I was playing the work I was doing down to myself and not promoting what I was doing, and it made it so much more difficult for me to move forward in that space. And so, I think that really trying not to stifle your own shine in that way is huge.
Anne: And it's hard but identifying why you're trying to talk yourself out of that because that's the bigger thing. It's like, why do we feel like we have to shrink ourselves? And it's usually tied to some sort of past trauma where somebody said something about us in a previous job, or we got one bad review. And we let that one thing define us moving forward. There was, I remember, and this is not to put them against each other, an article once where somebody said, "Well, Beyoncé is no Ashanti." And granted, they are two very different musicians. But it's also like, had Beyoncé been like, "I'm never going to achieve Ashanti's level of presence, and fame, and success," that doesn't make any sense.
And again, it's doing other people's whatever, like terrible stuff they're going to do or whatever they're going to say or filtering they're going to do for you. It's like we're preemptively doing it because we're scared of getting hurt for whatever the reason is that we're scared of getting hurt by hearing no. And it's kind of like training ourselves to be able to say yes to us and let other people be the ones responsible for saying no.
Aisha: Absolutely. Rolling it back a little bit, I want to talk about some of the pieces that you have cultivated over the years. You do a workshop called Human First, Product Second. And I'd love to hear a little bit about how that came to be and what you offer in that workshop.
Anne: Yeah. So this workshop actually started out as a talk. And it was maybe one of my first five talks ever. And I pitched it for Write/Speak/Code. You clearly know what it is, but for those of you listening, Write/Speak/Code is an amazing organization for women and non-binaries who basically want to help them produce more thought leadership pieces. And it's; basically, they have workshops on writing the speaking part and also code things and then combining them all together for thought leadership.
But I put this together because I was like, as a product manager, and as someone who’s like an ethnically ambiguous black woman and this kind of thing, and being in America, and being in tech, but being in an industry where a lot of my ancestors weren't given the opportunities that would have even let them in, even if they weren't barred from being in this industry. And it really talks about how tech for so long excluded so many people, whether it's because of LGBTQ or ableism, or racism, all the isms and how oftentimes those are left out and how that's leading to biases that we see today. And focusing on our human sides first, which for me is partly identity but also identities of people that I don't represent, thinking about how is this serving humans, even humans who aren't our customers but it might impact them? How do we build products that aren't just we're going to ignore everything except for the North Star metric? And as long as it hits the North Star Metric, we don't care about the destruction it leaves in its path.
And so that was the talk I gave, and I decided to expand it into a workshop series, which I gave for the first time this spring with LACMA, which is the LA County Museum of Art with one of their digital teams. And really, it just expands on those points and teaches people about both design thinking and design justice also tech ethics in general. Because some of these people know a little bit about this, but they need more of an intro into like how do I get into more resources? What are some of the deeper concepts in these things so that we can apply them in our workplace? And I was like, how do I make this into a thing that's not just like I go in and do a cute, little 40-minute talk but I help companies where they want a starting place for doing better with their products, and they want to make their products more human rather than just being we are robots, and we just follow the metrics without any consideration of how the metrics impact real humans? And that's really where that came from.
Aisha: Awesome. That's exciting. So between that work with your workshop and speaking and writing, how does all of that work fit into your career right now?
Anne: That's a great question. I'm going to be honest where I think my career really when I say, quote, unquote, "started" where it's like the part where I actually started having fun is when I decided both to stop counting myself out but also just doing the things that felt right. When I first started doing the writing and speaking, there was really no master plan. These were just things that I was like; I’m interested in it, and there's not a lot of people talking about this right now. We're talking about in the way I'm talking about it from my perspective as a product manager and as a black woman. And so that was where that started.
And where it fits in my career is that it's something where I learned that you could have a lot of fun in your day job, but there's no day job you're going to have that's going to let you do all the things that interest you from a professional standpoint. Because your day job pays you to do a certain realm of things, and you're not going to get to do all the things. But how do you get to develop your interest in AI or blockchain or talking about certain topics in those areas if that's not what your company does? And even if you go to that type of company, there's going to be other things that that company is not interested in doing or talking about and that kind of thing.
And so for me, those things make my career feel complete because it's not just like, oh, this will help me get more product management jobs, but it's also like, yeah, showing them I can do this does help my career and getting another nine-to-five or whatever. But also, it really helps me feel complete because it's not like, oh, I wish I could learn that. But do I have to now become a data scientist full-time if I'm interested in AI? It helps me feel fulfilled in the areas I'm interested in without being like, I have to abandon my first love career, which is product management to do these things. And being like, I could be a product manager who does these things and cares about these things without necessarily always being like, I'm in an AI company, or I'm in a blockchain company, or I am a full-time tech ethicist or whatever. I can do those things, and all those things have a place.
And once you start doing the things that really interest you even outside of your nine-to-five, it really helps you better understand what you look for in your nine-to-five and what you're like; I would rather continue to do this separate. And then also, it gives you the outside experience that if you ever were like, actually, I'm really interested in doing this full-time now. You can at least say, well, I'm taking a data science class. I've written these articles here, and here they are. I'm interested in going much more deep in the data science world as a PM. You have a starting point instead of being like, well, I didn't know what to do. And I wasn't interested in being a data scientist, so I just did nothing. And so it makes me feel a lot more complete because it's harder for people to put me in a box because no matter what people let me do at work or don't let me do, I have all these other things that go on regardless of what happens in my day job.
Aisha: I love that. Thank you. So as we wrap up here, I just want to say thank you one more time because this has been a really, really wonderful conversation, and I just really appreciate your time. What's the best way for folks to find you?
Anne: Yeah, you can find me on Twitter @annetgriffin. So that’s A-N-N-E-T-G-R-I-F-F-I-N. Or you can go to annetgriffin.com. So again, that's A-N-N-E-T-G-R-I-F-F-I-N .com. Those are the two best ways to find me. It's the same also for LinkedIn, the Anne T. Griffin thing. If you add me on LinkedIn, leave a message saying you listened to this podcast. Also, that's really good LinkedIn etiquette, pro tip. So I'd love to talk to you, and I just wish all the best for everyone listening to this podcast.
Jonan: Thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it. You can find the show notes for this episode along with all of the rest of The Relicans podcasts on therelicans.com. In fact, most anything The Relicans get up to online will be on that site. We'll see you next week. Take care.