Year of Graduation: 2016
Current Position/Location: Campaign Manager, Amy Walen for State House of Representatives, Seattle, WA
Please give a brief description of your current position.
I am currently the Campaign Manager on a State House race in Washington. My work involves fundraising and field organizing, in an effort to ensure my candidate is elected. I collaborate with our campaign consultant on campaign strategy and conduct voter contact by canvassing (door knocking) in the district to share my candidate’s campaign platform and encourage constituents to vote for her. I am also responsible for recruiting and training volunteers, social media messaging, creating fundraising call lists, managing my candidate’s calendar, and attending meetings and events with local advocacy organizations in the community.
What path did you follow to get to your current position?
I have not followed a linear path in politics and surprisingly, I never took a political science class in college. While I did several things my senior year of college that set me up for success, in all honesty I moved to Portland, Oregon, without a plan. I wanted to live in a new state and chose a city where I had never visited and didn’t know anyone. I worked at a few temporary positions before being hired as Finance Assistant on Governor Kate Brown’s 2016 campaign. This position launched my career in politics in Oregon and enabled me to network with politicos around the state. After the election, I worked as a Legislative Assistant for a state senator. With the end of the legislative session, I went on to be a Constituent Services Specialist for a City Commissioner in Portland. I enjoy doing informational interviews and connecting with organizations doing work for which I have a passion. When I recently moved to Washington, I was able to use my network to quickly find my current position. I have been fortunate to have several remarkable positions during the short time span since I graduated college, and I appreciate that the political cycle provides the opportunity for gaining experience in a variety of areas whether on a campaign, in the legislature, or working for an advocacy organization through short-term positions and continuous career changes.
What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
I would encourage students interested in this career path to take risks and pursue meaningful work. It is important to be open to change. I was raised a conservative Catholic, and never would have thought I would be on this side of the political spectrum. Having an open mind and learning about issues before taking stances and making decisions is crucial. We are all capable of change and must remember that policies affect real people. Working together to consider all perspectives, especially of those who are most impacted by the issue or problem, leads to better policies and solutions that benefit all of society.
I moved to Portland without a plan and while people think of politics happening primarily in Washington D.C., there are plenty of opportunities to pursue political or campaign work at the state and local level that are just as important. Volunteering on a campaign (or with any social justice organization) is incredibly valuable experience and connects you to those most marginalized by society and the issues most important to voters. I think it is essential to understand what matters most to people and to have empathy along with broad real-life experience beyond academia or professional positions. I would also encourage all students to study abroad! It is an amazing opportunity and one that you will never regret. Lastly, I would encourage students to continue to take advantage of trainings and leadership development programs after college with organizations such as EMILY’s List, Camp Wellstone, New Leaders Council, Institute for a Democratic Future, and Emerge.
What skills are important in your field?
- Aptitude for organization
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills
- Comfortable with and confidence in speaking with strangers and door knocking
- Ability to multitask and prioritize in a fast paced environment
- Enthusiastic attitude and an eagerness to gain experience in political campaigns
What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your position?
I am passionate about working with and for Democratic women and find this to be the most rewarding part of my position. I am grateful to have found opportunities for mentorship in working with women who are leading the way in politics. I think it is exciting to strategize and socialize with several of the most powerful decision makers in the state - all with a shared goal of advancing progressive policy. It is an incredible experience to have your candidate elected after months of hard work and to see them succeed in advancing policy and passing laws that were a part of their campaign platform. I find it most rewarding knowing that my work on campaigns supports women leading equitable change for society by being elected to public office.
I find the freedom and flexibility of my schedule to be both the most appreciated and challenging aspect of my position. Working in politics can be very demanding and can promote a culture that doesn’t value self-care. While I may not work standard business hours in an office setting, I am at meetings in the community throughout the day and I often work evenings and weekends for events and door knocking.
I am also expected to be available via phone and email. I believe in balance and think it is essential to establish personal boundaries and prioritize self-care, even and especially while pursuing a path in politics.
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
Several activities and experiences that I participated in at CSB/SJU were helpful in preparation for this path. I first learned about feminism as a Hynes Scholar and went on to serve as Community Representative on the CSB Senate. In both of these activities, I found a group of inspiring women I could learn and grow with, and quickly became close friends with several of the women. Feminism is now a core value of mine and the uniqueness of working solely with a group of women to solve problems and accomplish tasks has been foundational in shifting my perspective and setting the goals I aspire to achieve: to elect women to public office and one day, to run for office myself. In addition to learning about feminism and being a foundation for friendship, I learned what it means to be a woman in the world today and how powerful it is when women gather and speak the truth about their own lives.
Undoubtedly studying abroad in India also significantly shaped my views. I knew that I wanted to study abroad in a challenging country and that I did not want a typical tourist vacation. I chose the program for the home stay experience and service learning opportunity where I worked with a local women’s rights organization. I learned a lot about myself and how I adapt to change, as well as developed a strong sense of independence. Studying abroad allowed me to explore the human condition and exposed me to global issues that prepared me for work in social justice advocacy and public policy.
It was during my Jackson Fellows internship working as a Client Advocate at the Dorothy Day Center homeless shelter where I realized that the issues I am most passionate about (poverty and houselessness) are not personal problems; instead, they are institutional injustices that need to be addressed at the policy level. This internship sparked my desire to work in public policy to change the cycle of poverty. I was also involved in local politics and participated in a few activities through the McCarthy Center for Civic Engagement. Each of these activities were an integral part of my college experience at Saint Ben’s and I strongly encourage students to participate in as many programs as possible.