Putting Technology Back to Work for Better Democracy
I’ve been fortunate to be able to put my talents as a geek to work in the political arena for both a candidate I believe in and a presidential administration that was one of the most transparent, publicly engaging, and digitally forwarding leaning in the history of our great country.
Early on, putting those skills to use came in the form of keeping the internet and Blackberries online so hundreds of field staff in Pennsylvania could organize thousands of volunteers to knock on doors and get out the vote for Barack Obama. Then after we won the election I was fortunate enough to work at the White House where I was part of a great team that managed and developed Whitehouse.gov, the We the People petition system, and implemented a major Citizen Relationship Management system that handled letters to the President, email outreach to constituents, and coordinated events for the Public Engagement team. I concluded my time with the administration carrying those same lessons forward to the U.S. Department of State and empowering our embassy staff in 19 countries with the digital tools needed to represent our country on the front lines of the internet.
It’s difficult to recapture that deep sense of mission and direct impact once it’s over. Working at the White House, especially for a President you support so completely, is the pinnacle of a career for most people. But through those lasting connections I built with my Obama-family back in 2008, I think I’ve found a team and a mission to do just that for the next chapter of my career.
TJ Hurst was a Field Organizer for Obama for America in 2008 in Philadelphia and in my role as Technology Director for the state, he and the field staff were my #1 customer. I got to know many of the amazing folks on that team and they’re hands-down some of the best I’ve ever worked with in the business. In many ways, supporting a presidential campaign is a lot like supporting a startup. There are times where you just have to roll up your sleeves to get something done, otherwise it won’t happen. Unbeknownst to me in 2008 I was building the skills needed to support a career after life in the administration. A “Yes We Can” attitude permeates everything the Obama alumni family does.
After a few months of decompressing and globetrotting following 8 years of hard work, I received a call from TJ. The next thing I know he was pitching me on Jefferson’s List and a couple of weeks later I was signing-on to be their Chief Technology Officer!
The product started from an idea he had whose time has come: aggregate publicly available election data and match that up with a social network of campaign talent to fundamentally disrupt the way we hire staff and execute political campaigns. Or as he and his co-founder Dan Siegel put it: “Give candidates more tools than ‘I know a guy!’”
I’m excited to be working back in the city where I started out in politics, bringing my technology and team building talents to bear on a mission that reaches far beyond just the product. If we do our jobs right, we can impact the ecosystem of politicos for the betterment of us all.
There is no doubt that this will be a lot of hard work with the added anxiety of the risks associated with a startup. But there’s no place I’d rather be: working alongside good friends toward a noble goal that’s much greater than what we could otherwise achieve on our own. And what better place to do that than the birthplace of our constitution in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Consider supporting us by getting in on the action early. Check us out at JeffersonsList.com to sign up for beta access. We welcome your feedback and input on how this tool should be shaped as we perfect our software tool in support of perfecting our nation.