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  • Writer's pictureEdward Gutierrez

Meet the random job expert who transitioned into a manager role in Silicon Valley

A former Army personnel manager & mother of two, Andrea contemplated a career change long before landing a gig at GitHub.

Andrea Griffiths
Pictured: Andrea Griffiths — (left) during her years as a U.S. Army Personnel Manager, (right) Andrea in 2017.

Meet Andrea, a self-described random job expert. After her service as a U.S. Army Human Resource Specialist she held many jobs and admits, “I never really found that one thing that really drove me.” A strong work ethic and a desire to provide for her two sons kept her working but a serendipitous online search resulted in more than she expected.

“I googled veterans + coding” says Andrea. It listed two results, one of them was Operation Code. As she scrolled the Operation Code webpage she learned that the non-profit organization’s mission is to aid military vets and their families learn code and web technology. She decided to reach out via Slack. Conrad Hollomon is Operation Code’s Chief of Staff and he recalls responding to vets as they enter the online community, “It’s very important that we’re proactive in reaching out to people like Andrea who are coming into Operation Code. We want them to know that they’re welcome here.”

Online Communities

Andrea acknowledged to herself and others that a new skill would be difficult to learn. Given that her GI Bill benefits had come and gone (without her tapping into them) she specifically sought career advancement resources which wouldn’t cost a lot of money. A fan of online communities, she delved into research during her limited free time and began to explore. Initially, because she had no previous program experience, she lacked confidence and jokingly says, “I thought there’s no way, if I start messing with computers I’m going to break something.” However, Operation Code then offered to set her up with a mentor, which they did.

According to Mr. Hollomon mentorship is “absolutely critical” in helping someone reach their greatest potential in the tech industry. Thus, matching Andrea with a mentor was not coincidental. Holloman shares the advice he received from a senior tech industry leader, “they said, first, find a mentor.” Hollomon took this advice and believes that mentors can help vets like her focus on what’s most important at the right time.

Meanwhile, Andrea was engaging in online communities focused on everything from open source to coding and she even started a blog about breast feeding advice. When asked, of all topics, why breast feeding? Because Andrea was on her own she shares, “I really didn’t have a clue of what I was doing.” Being a new mom and living far from her parents she figured that other first time moms might be having the same challenges and that the online support could make a difference. With a combination of her online pursuits, mentor support, and do-it-yourself learning her confidence increased.

Career Change

“2017 is a breakthrough year for Andrea,” says David Molina Operation Code Founder. He recalls their early conversations; when David and Andrea spoke it was about her skills and qualifications and possible employment opportunities in tech. Molina states, “she was hesitant about applying but I felt she had a chance with this particular employer.” Molina continues, “so I told her I was absolutely impressed by her drive, persistence, and love for embracing change and that I would email her a tech manager position I had seen.”

Andrea had little idea which company had put out the job announcement until she opened her inbox. The position was Community Manager. The employer was GitHub. Yes, GitHub; the multi-million dollar software company operating out of Silicon Valley. She was initially apprehensive about applying, primarily for family reasons. She shares, “I thought to myself I’m not in my early twenties anymore. A life change for me now is a life change for my family. I have to think of the whole picture.”

After careful consideration and conversations with her supportive partner she applied. Andrea truly credits Operation Code and all the resources they shared with making the difference. She also believed her military background and entrepreneurial spirit made her a viable candidate. But would it be enough to land the position?

Welcome to GitHub

“In November I received the call. January 10 was my first day on the job.” Throughout the four month application process Andrea never really thought she’d get that call. From a humble upbringing in Colombia, to Army enlistment at seventeen, then random job expert, to current Community Manager for GitHub; Andrea’s persistence, courage, and love for people will brighten Silicon Valley. And while she realizes that there are challenges in the technology industry, especially for women and minorities, she believes strongly that she belongs. “This is the place for me. There is room for me to be impactful.”

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