Mina Markham is a 30 year-old software engineer who recently left a job at IBM to work for the Clinton campaign. Here’s what she said about that:
Markham said she didn’t even realize political campaigns hired staff engineers. “I didn’t even know that was on the radar; I’ve never been in politics before, so it wasn’t in my realm of experience,” she says. “When they contacted me, I was shocked, and then really, really excited . . . something like this doesn’t happen very often, the chance to be part of something potentially historic. This is the job you dream of having; you can make such a big impact.”
That is one of several stories Alyson Krueger tells in an article titled: How the Hillary Clinton Campaign Built a Staff as Diverse as America. The diversity Krueger is referring to isn’t limited to demographics, as important as that is.
Over 50% of the campaign is female. Of the campaign’s more than 500 staffers nationwide, more than one-third are people of color; nearly 40% of Hillary for America’s senior staff are people of color. Regional press secretary Tyrone Gayle points out that these numbers roughly reflect national demographics.
The story focuses on how the Clinton campaign hired Nathaniel Koloc – cofounder and then-CEO of ReWork – to be its director of talent acquisition and development, the first time a major campaign has had such a position. Typically campaigns use what we often refer to as a “good ol’ boy network” to hire staff…someone knows someone. That not only keeps campaigns insular, it tends to perpetuate a lack of diversity.
Beyond demographic diversity, here’s how Krueger describes the result of Koloc’s efforts:
Each department boasts steals from impressive firms including IBM, General Assembly, Etsy, Yelp, Google, Gawker, Facebook, Kiva, and DreamWorks. The digital team has talent from the New York Times and the analytics team from New York University’s formidable think tank on housing policy. The number of people from within politics is striking—for being so low. Less than half of the analytics team and almost none of the tech team ever held a campaign position.
Krueger points out that enthusiasm for this kind of work stems in part from a change in how young people outside of politics have come to view campaigns.
Obama made campaigns sexy again, opening up the path for her [Clinton] to recruit the young and upwardly mobile. “That’s an enduring post-Obama change,” says Issenberg. “I do not think 12 years ago that people thought working on John Kerry’s or Al Gore’s campaign was cool or interesting. I think the innovation culture around the Obama campaign—which has gotten tons of media attention—[amplified] the idea that the things that happen in political campaigns are innovative and potentially at the cutting edge of fields unrelated to politics.”
All of that is pretty inspiring for an old geezer political junkie like me. It reminds me of the stories we’ve been hearing lately about the Obama administration recruiting the best and brightest from the tech world to overhaul the government’s digital infrastructure.
Eventually most of the young people like Mina Markham will go back to their jobs in the private sector. But they’ll be forever changed in the way that Mickey Dickerson described.
The most sobering thing about my time in government is to really understand on an emotional level that this country belongs to you and me and it is exactly as good as we make it. Grownups are not going to fix it for us and billionaires are not going to fix it for us. We either do it ourselves, or nobody does.
That’s the message President Obama sent to his campaign workers after his 2012 re-election. And it bodes well for our future.