Frequently Asked Questions
General Information, Eligibility and Benefits
What is the application deadline?
Applications are due by Monday, August 19, 2019 at 11:59pm EST. The selections process begins immediately thereafter. For that reason, extensions to the application will not and cannot be granted.
How long is the fellowship, and what are the start and end dates?
The fellowship runs approximately twelve months, starting in early January 2020 and continuing until December 31, 2020. Fellows have the option of a one-month extension, through January 2021, to write about their experience and to provide extra time for a post-fellowship job search.
Who is eligible for the program?
Individuals with a background in technology, technical skills or currently working on technology law or tech public policy are encouraged to apply. Congressional Innovation Fellows have diverse expertise and backgrounds. Although our fellows have had significant technical experience, including backgrounds in computer science, engineering and cybersecurity policy, the primary requirement for the program is an interest in technology policy.
What are the pay and benefits in the program?
The program pays a $82,400/year stipend. TechCongress pays reimbursements for health benefits, relocation and travel or equipment costs. Other benefits include reimbursements of up to:
$2,500 for relocation
$2,500 for travel and or other necessary work expenses during the fellowship
$400/month for health benefits
I haven’t studied law or public policy. Should I apply?
Absolutely! In fact, this is an advantage. We don't expect any legal or public policy experience, and the purpose of the program is to bring new voices and new expertise into the policymaking process. Congressional Innovations Fellows come from diverse backgrounds. The most important ingredient for success is an interest or background in technology and technology policy.
I'm towards the beginning of my career and don't have as long a work history as the past fellows. Do I have the right qualifications for the program?
Yes, definitely. We have had a wide range of applicants for the first four years of the fellowship. Our first 23 fellows have had several years of work experience, but that is not necessarily what the program will look like as it grows. In fact, we have had several extremely competitive candidates that had just finished school, or were at very early stages of their career. We are looking for candidates with experience working with or studying the technology sector, and who can apply that experience to Congress. The length of experience is much less important than your capacity to help Members and Congress and their staffs understand how technology works and is changing society.
Do I need formal technical training, like a computer science or engineering degree, to apply for the program?
Not necessarily. Congressional Innovations Fellows come from diverse backgrounds. The most important ingredient for success is a background and understanding of technology. That said, all of our fellows have had professional experience working with the nuts and bolts of technology. An understanding of how technology works, and an ability to translate complex technical concepts is very important.
I’m interested in working in on bio, energy, or environmental policy in Congress. Do fellows work on those issues?
Those topics and fields of study are critically important, but they are not the focus of TechCongress. Our fellows focus broadly on the way the computing power is transforming society— issues like AI (including facial recognition and autonomous vehicles), cyber and election security, disinformation, data privacy and security, and defense technology matters. Issues like renewable energy, biotechnology, energy efficiency, grid modernization, climate change, and pharmaceutical policy typically fall outside of our scope in part because other Congressional fellowship programs, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) fellowship, already recruit for that expertise.
Where are the fellows based?
Fellows are based in Washington, D.C. and serve with Members of Congress or Congressional Committees in their respective offices in the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate. You must be willing to relocate to Washington, D.C. to participate in the program. Remote work is not possible.
Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to apply?
You must be a U.S. citizen, legal permanent resident, green card holder, or must be lawfully authorized to work full-time without restriction for any U.S. employer throughout the duration of the fellowship. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients, or those eligible for the DACA program are eligible and encouraged to apply.
Our mission is to build bridges between the United States government and the technology sector. We are looking for people that intend on staying in the United States for their career. If you are a foreign national that does not expect to permanently settle in the U.S., including immediately following the fellowship, this will affect your candidacy.
Selections and Placement
How are fellows selected?
Fellows are selected by an independent selections board using criteria that includes:
Potential for leadership in technology policy
Professional achievements and technical ability.
Commitment to building a diverse and cross-sector technology policy ecosystem.
Potential for future growth and career advancement.
Interpersonal, communication and “tech-translation” skills.
Individual plans for incorporating the fellowship experience into specific career goals.
How is the placement determined?
Once accepted to the fellowship, fellows will participate in a two-week orientation program (see “What does the orientation process involve?” below). After orientation, TechCongress will facilitate meetings with Members, Committees and Legislative Support Agencies to help fellows find their placement. TechCongress will work to secure interviews with any offices that fellows have identified ahead of time that align with their policy interests. All 23 of our Congressional Innovation Fellows have served highly influential Members of Congress or Congressional Committees, and in 2019 each fellow averaged over seven offers for placement.
What will the orientation process involve?
Fellows begin the program with an in-depth, two-part orientation.
Part one consists of small group networking with policymakers, including one-on-one conversations with Members of Congress and their staff. It also includes workshops on the following topics:
Legislative process, including House and Senate floor procedure
Committees and Committee process
Federal budgeting and appropriations
Conducting oversight and investigations
Overall leadership development
Part two consists of visits with tech policy thought leaders at academic institutions, civil society groups and technology companies to explore the range of perspectives on common tech policy challenges.
You can read more about our reflections about what we learned about orientation and our other work on our blog.
What are the expectations of Fellows?
Fellows are expected to abide by all House and Senate ethics rules and the Congressional Innovation Fellows Code of Conduct. Fellows operate much like regular Congressional Staff and are expected to abide by the rules of their placement offices. Additional information is available on the House and Senate Ethics Committee websites, at www.house.gov/ethics and www.ethics.senate.gov. The full texts of the ethics manuals are available:
What kind of work will I be doing?
Fellows work directly for a Member, Committee or Legislative Support Agency for the duration of their residency and could spend their time on technology-related issues like NSA surveillance reform, patent reform, cybersecurity, data security or network neutrality. Typical duties could include:
Briefing Members and staff about technology issues
Preparing for hearings or markups
Meeting with stakeholder groups and building coalitions
What kind activities will occur during the fellowship?
Fellows will report directly to their placement office and assist office staff on relevant duties. In addition, fellows will be responsible for creating a project plan and core deliverable at the completion of the fellowship. Examples of potential projects could include producing an investigative report, legislative proposal or series of briefings on technology policy issue. The fellowship includes a mentorship and professional development program as well as regular events and convenings for fellows with tech policy thought leaders.
What happens after the fellowship?
TechCongress is committed to helping fellows transition after their fellowship. We work with fellows individually to connect with technology leaders and find a home in the technology or the policy community after the program. Fellows have the option of a one-month extension, through January 2021, to write about their experience and to provide extra time for a post-fellowship job search.
How do I find health insurance?
Health Insurance is available on the Washington D.C. Health Insurance Exchange. Fellows have access to the same coverage as Members of Congress and Congressional staff, as part of the Affordable Care Act. TechCongress provides a reimbursement for health insurance premiums up to $400/month.
Diversity Referral Award
How do I refer someone?
Anyone can refer a candidate! The easiest way to refer someone is to nominate them for the program. But tweeting, blogging, forwarding an email, and spreading the word in other ways are effective methods!
Can I refer myself for the program?
You can of course nominate yourself for the program! But only third-party referrers are eligible for the diversity award. Fellows themselves are not eligible for the award. We also will not be awarding individuals who have an affiliation to the TechCongress organization or the selections process, including TechCongress staff and advisors.
How do I qualify for the referral?
Simply nominate a candidate for the fellowship! When a candidate is accepted and begins as a fellow, we will search the nominations form to see if that individual was referred to us. We’ll also ask fellows to identify if they were nominated or referred to the program by an individual.
What if a candidate that I send you doesn’t self-identify as a member of an underrepresented group?
We think that question is best left to the candidate themselves. We will ask them to identify if they consider themselves to be a part of an underrepresented community in the tech industry. According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), “the representation of certain groups of people in science and engineering (S&E) education and employment differs from their representation in the U.S. population. Women, persons with disabilities, and three racial and ethnic groups—blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians or Alaska Natives—are underrepresented in S&E.” TechCongress applies the NSF definition of underrepresented groups to our practice.
What if I’m a recruiter?
We don’t accept applications from recruiters. We welcome recruiters to tell potential candidates that we’re recruiting.
Are resumes from diverse candidates treated differently?
No. All applicants are reviewed under the same process using the same criteria. We also employ an anonymized selections process. Names and identifying characteristics are stripped out to minimize bias using a tool in our application platform, Screendoor. Referred candidates will not be given any special treatment or guaranteed selection and must meet all standards expected of Congressional Innovation Fellows.
Does the fellow get anything special, or just the referrer?
Fellows are subject to the same fellowship requirements and benefits as all other fellows. Only the referrer is eligible for the award.
Are you only recruiting women, underrepresented minorities, veterans, and the disabled?
No, we are recruiting for any talented tech thinkers! Please visit our “What We’re Looking For” page for more information.
Why are you willing to pay for referrals of underrepresented groups but not other candidates?
Inclusion is a core value of TechCongress. We believe that both the tech industry and the U.S. Congress should represent the demographics and lived experience of citizens and residents of the United States. Right now, they do not. We are actively seeking to pilot solutions to build a more inclusive hiring process, and model them for Congress and other civil society groups.
The Founder of TechCongress is a white man from Washington D.C., and many of his networks consist of white men working in politics in Washington D.C. Early research suggests that diversity referral awards are a very effective way to reach networks and communities outside of our own.
Other questions? We're here to help. Email Travis [at] TechCongress.io with any further inquiries. And visit our events page to join us in person.