Exclusive: GitHub’s new VP of Product Engineering tells us developers are right to demand more

Exclusive: GitHub’s new VP of Product Engineering tells us developers are right to demand more

GitHub is a lot of different things to a wide audience of developers, and critical to the workflow of anyone who actively uses it.

A lot has been made of GitHub recently; news where we’d otherwise be content to let the service be. If you believe all that’s been said, the wheels are coming off and nobody at GitHub is listening or reacting. Specifically, a nasty rumor that internal struggles were splitting the company in two — one side wanting to keep GitHub as-is, and the other pushing for it to focus on the enterprise space — was troubling.

Developers didn’t react well, either. GitHub has become a noun for project development, much like Kleenex is for facial tissue. A move toward the enterprise space could mean GitHub as we know it would change dramatically. That’s not acceptable.

Todd Berman
Todd Berman

And the company recently hired a new VP of Product Engineering, which could suggest change is around the corner. Todd Berman has a solid history of creating useful products at big companies. Most recently, Berman was with the NFL as its VP of Technology (and with the now-defunct Rdio ahead of that), and tells me “unless you were in the stadium, my team and I probably had something to do with your experience.”

He’s only been at GitHub a few weeks, but has a good beat on what’s going on with the company. Before joining GitHub (he tells me he had plenty of other offers, but GitHub was his clear favorite) Berman was an avid GitHub user, just like the rest of us.

He could have gone to work for a company such as Ford, making god-knows-what for connected cars. Instead, Berman says “I had an opportunity to come here [GitHub] and impact and influence developers at companies like Ford who are using GitHub as their primary workflow experience, and that’s the coolest part.”

So what about the rumor of GitHub’s internal struggles to concentrate on enterprise rather than its core product? “That’s the wonderful part of GitHub; there isn’t any split on our focus. As a software engineer, I like to work on projects, and the tools I need for that are the same as I need when managing my team here.”

“The reality is that the customer here is the developer. The workflow for 99 percent of what is necessary are going to be the same for small projects as well as huge ones.”

Working at GitHub looks like fun
Working at GitHub looks like fun

Berman also admits he read that open letter damning the company’s recent efforts (or lack thereof) before he’d even joined GitHub.

I read it the day it came out, well before I started work at GitHub.

I think the letter is correct. GitHub isn’t moving fast enough, but I don’t think it’s at the ‘cost’ of anything. It was a huge part of the opportunity I saw here.

When I spoke to a few friends about taking the job at GitHub, their first reaction was ‘okay now you can fix this, this and this’ and gave me the same laundry list as the ‘Dear GitHub’ letter.

I think because GitHub is so important to the lives of so many developers, it’s why we get that kind of passionate feedback.

Do I personally agree with every bit of the feedback? Generally, yeah.

To GitHub’s credit, the company has already started pushing products out that address some of the concerns in the letter. It recently added templates for pull requests, and a clever new drag-and-drop feature for uploading files to repos.

As a developer, a fragmented GitHub is frightening. Under Berman’s watch, I don’t see that happening. He’s ‘one of us’; a guy who uses GitHub, and knows where it needs to improve. And now that he’s in a position to lead the charge, we should expect some great products to come streaming from GitHub.

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