I’ve begun a new chapter of my career in Washington. After four and a half years at the American Civil Liberties Union, I traded in my activist pitchfork and Twitter account for a suit and tie. Last week, I started working for Senator Wyden as a TechCongress Innovation Fellow.
I’ve been in Washington D.C for eight years, and although I’d interacted with Congress a bit during my time here, Congress always seemed like a bit of an alien institution. People dressed differently, spoke differently, and, it seemed, were always short on time. I’d been lucky enough to be invited in a few times to brief Congressional staff, I’d attended hearings, and followed a few bills, but I never really understood how the place worked. I’d long suspected that there was a lot happening behind closed doors that I didn’t understand, and that was where the real action was.
The TechCongress fellowship is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to try something very different, to spend a year learning about this fascinating and important branch of our government and also a chance to serve the public.
This is going to require a pretty big shift. I had a very public role at the ACLU - I spoke to reporters practically every day, I gave public talks, and used my own soapbox as a way to drive the public debate. It will be very different in Congress. It isn’t about me anymore, it isn’t about my own personal brand, and I no longer have an independent, public voice. For the next year, I’ll be supporting a U.S. Senator and helping him to achieve his policy goals. Instead of being the person in the spotlight, I’m going to be playing a supporting role to someone far more important than me. While it’s certainly going to take me a little bit of time to adjust, I can’t think of a more interesting and important time than now to go and work Congress.
Wish me luck.