Hello Workwell

Meet Anne Griffin, A Woman Working Well

SoulLydia Loizides
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"While my professional life is very important to me, it’s not everything in life. There are certain things, outside of the workplace, that you do not get second chances to experience." – Anne Griffin

Meet Anne Griffin

All around badass. Real title: Lead Product Manager, OpenLaw (ConsenSys Corp.)

Q

Have you always worked in startups?

A

I did not come from the startup world. I worked for six years in the advertising world on the agency side. It was a lot of fun, but I wanted to have more ownership over my career, so I made a move. I worked with some pretty big brand names like American Express, Comcast, and Colgate Palmolive. I started in tech as an intern for Microsoft while I was in college.

Q

What does a Product Manager do?

A

The Product Manager’s role is a cross between strategy and execution of a product. You have to really understand the where, how, and why of a product. Why are we building this? Where will it be successful? How will our customers use this product, and how will we get it to them? You can build something really cool, but at the end of the day, if no one wants to pay money for it, you have a problem.

Q

Tell us a little about your background.

A

I studied industrial and operational engineering in college. I went into it because I decided I didn’t want to program all day. By focusing on industrial and operational engineering, I could still program but also learn things, like ergonomics and operations, and that was far more interesting to me.

I entered the work world as an intern at Microsoft for two years as a Program Manager which is the equivalent of a Product Manager. That was a great experience for me. I learned a lot, not only about how to execute the functional parts of the job but also in terms of the soft skills of product management and the workplace in general. My first job out of college was in IT consulting which was really interesting. I learned so much because I was working on different business problems for each client.

Q

Soft skills and engineering - really? Explain!

A

Soft skills are a big part of my work life. One of the first things I learned from a mentor of mine, who is still at Microsoft, was to be what you would want to see. In other words, represent the kind of environment that you want to see in your workplace. I know that the developers I work with are more likely to push themselves to get something done for you, when they are already very stretched if they respect you and know that you’re creating a good work environment for them and appreciating the work that they’re putting in.

“Represent the kind of environment that you want to see in your workplace.” – Anne Griffin

Q

Have you ever left a company because the work environment didn’t align with your needs and wants?

A

Absolutely. There was one company that, despite my best efforts, became a very toxic environment for myself and my coworkers. It came to a point where choosing to stay there would impact my ability to even look for other employment after the fact. I could have just walked out and handed in my resignation, but I decided that preparing for my resignation was the best option. I had to think: Am I in a position financially that I can afford this? Is this something my spouse would support? What steps do I want to put in motion before I resign? Because once you resign, assuming you give two weeks notice, that’s two weeks that you have to find new employment. I had to think about all those little things, like updating my resume, updating my LinkedIn, and making sure that I started having those conversations with recruiters before I departed so that I was in a better place to walk away. You want to give yourself a good head start because as much as you might feel like you’re financially or mentally prepared for your job search without having a paycheck continually coming in, it’s the day-to-day of not having a job that can cause you to react negatively to your decision. It’s about making it as strategic of an exit as possible.

Q

Right – and does knowing that you have a plan in place help you manage your day-to-day emotional response?

A

Yes! In my situation, a lot of the toxicity had to do with people simply trying to get a reaction out of me. And so at least I could say, “Hey I know you want this reaction out of me and so in knowing that, I’m not going to give you the satisfaction.”

anne griffin new york

Q

What group affiliations do you currently have that are advancing your career?

A

I’m a member of Tech 2025 which is a platform and community for discussing and thinking about emerging technology with everything from AI to Blockchain. Being a member there is really great because I get to discuss and hear other people’s perspectives on emerging technologies. No one ever really walks up to you on the street and asks, “What do you think about the safety of self-driving cars?” Having those discussions really forces you to think about those types of topics in an intelligent way. From a career standpoint, I’ve had the opportunity of writing for Tech 2025 as an emerging tech correspondent. I’m also an Advisory Board Member for Rutger's Big Data Certificate program and the Tech Women Network, which is a community of women in tech that puts on events like the Hue Tech Summit.

Q

As a female product manager and engineer, do you feel that your experience has been different than that of your male counterparts?

A

There are places I’ve worked where even when things are going really well, there seems to be a reluctance to acknowledge my accomplishments, while those that accomplish the same achievements who happen to be white and male will get a promotion or raise. There are these games that exist in corporate America, and I’ve had to look at my career through this lens to understand how to advocate for myself and put myself in the best position possible.

“There are these games that exist in corporate America, and I’ve had to look at my career through this lens to understand how to advocate for myself and put myself in the best position possible.” – Anne Griffin

Q

What does advocacy mean day-to-day for you?

A

It’s not just standing up for yourself but standing up for yourself in a way where it’s thought out. If you know you’re gonna have to fight for something, don’t just run up on whatever it is and start swinging. What is your strategy? What are your strengths? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the people you’re going to be having these conversations with? It becomes about more than just: I’m gonna stand up for myself. It’s: I’m gonna stand up for myself in the most well-positioned place that I can.

Q

You’ve been a customer of Talentedly (parent of Hello Workwell) for over 2 years now, so you’ve been working with a professional coach who has coached you through some of these transitions. How has coaching impacted the way you’ve thought about your career vision?

A

The biggest difference has been shifting to a marathon view of my career. In a marathon, you don’t come out running as hard as you can the entire way. You may have spurts where you’re faster than others, but you don’t just run like crazy till you’re at the finish line. Before coaching, I thought about my career in “the now.” What is going on immediately in my job? How do I succeed in my job right now? And then it began to shift to: what do I do for my next job? And now it’s not even about my next job, it’s about my next, next job. So what am I doing right now that’s going to prepare me for my next job so that I’m ready for my next, next job? I think about what’s currently going on in my industry that I can learn today so that in five years from now, my skills are still relevant. You can put yourself in a position in terms of job title, type of company, or industries that aren’t growing and in five years, you’ll look up and see that you’re really behind. Imagine if you just ignored the internet until you absolutely couldn’t ignore it anymore. You wouldn’t have a lot of the skills required to do your job today that are considered basic skills.

Q

And we know you’re a pretty avid and active learner. How do you prioritize actively learning and developing your skills while having a full-time job, a social life, a husband, a passion for traveling, and everything else that’s on your plate?

A

There are so many programs that are flexible for working professionals now. I did a program through General Assembly which has a flexible learning schedule and night classes. I do have a social life. I do travel. So I did have to sacrifice those things for 10 weeks, but still, a learning program through something like General Assembly is way more flexible than some of the standard university programs where it’s almost impossible to deal with the day-to-day things. Finding something that works with your schedule is crucial. You are sacrificing some of your time to spend on yourself, but you also have to realize how that’s going to affect your career. Communicating your undertaking to those around you is important, so you’re not waiting until you’re looking for your next job to tell people that you took this class once upon a time. You have to think about prioritizing your time around learning skills and topics that will impact your career outside of your day job within the next year, even if it doesn’t seem immediately beneficial. Then, you’ll want to think about how you’ll leverage that knowledge to further your career so that it’s not just another item on your resume. I’m taking a class starting next week on growth for Product Managers through Reforge because my startup will be going through a growth period in the near future. So it’s about identifying areas that you need to learn more about and growing so that you can continue to hit the ground running. Things are always changing. If you’re not learning, you’re not keeping up with the change.

Q

This program, Reforge – tell us a bit about it.

A

It’s based out of San Francisco, and you can take class in-person there or online. And online, you can do it either live or, if you’re really busy, you can pretty much listen to any of the materials anytime which is one of the reasons why I picked the program. People have really great things to say about it and said they are still using what they’ve learned 2 or 3 years after the program. And in general, the flexibility is appealing. Work-life balance is very important to me so being able to continue to learn with programs that also prioritize work-life balance is essential.

anne griffin iceland

Q

What’s the driving factor for how your career has evolved?

A

My sense of purpose. Your specific job or industry may not be your purpose, but how you choose to use that position and platform for your future and to help others is a part of your purpose. Sometimes a sense of purpose can be as simple as "helping people be better," it doesn't need to be some grand scheme like putting the human race on Mars. Helping other people, and especially women and people of color are a part of my bigger purpose, and I make sure to help out people who reach out to me. I also mentor several people I've met through professional groups and LinkedIn.

Q

How would you say that you’re “working well”?

A

In general, mental and physical health are really important to my husband and me. I regularly take vacations. I just got back from Amsterdam and Iceland with my mom. My husband and I go on an annual “Runaway from Winter” trip to get away from the snow and the cloudiness of New York City, which is great because we get to go somewhere tropical but also great for mental health, being somewhere with palm trees and sunshine. And then I regularly workout at home because I don’t want to spend the time going back and forth or motivating myself to go to the gym. I found workout apps that work for me and knowing that I don’t have the barrier of remembering to bring my gym bag or shoes takes away a lot of the excuses.

Learning to pace myself, rest, and not quit is a big part of how I approach my career. Epsom salt baths are a daily part of my physical and mental health. Yoga is a big part of it as well. I started practicing yoga several years ago when my then job offered it for free. I hated practicing yoga when I first started because it was so difficult and uncomfortable, but my body felt so much better after class. My shoulders, back, and hips used to be ridiculously tight all the time, and it felt like almost nothing helped. My muscles feel a lot better practicing yoga; it clears my mind and helps my sinuses drain as well (I'm always congested). Additionally, I check in with myself when my focus isn't where it should be and ask: am I hungry? Do I need to stretch? do I need to go for a walk? Getting up and going for a walk around the block in the middle of my work day has been a small, but critical, part of my mental hygiene in the workplace for the last 4 years. I come back feeling more awake and more focused. While my professional life is very important to me, it’s not everything in life. There are certain things, outside of the workplace, that you do not get second chances to experience. You can’t have that time back.