Monday, June 1, 2009
Washington, DC --Since the last post on April 9, I've had my 29th birthday, went to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, went to a Baltimore Orioles game and two Nationals games, did a tour of local Civil War battlefields and completed a road trip to Chicago. All while working on multiple clients for my independent consulting business and searching for a job (most client work ends in June, so...yeah, the search is on, argh).
Yes, things are busy in D.C., so that explains a bit of the absence from the Raconteur. Too many stories to tell. This post thus, will be provide links to photo albums and brief descriptions.
Lancaster, PA - Amanda and I took a drive up to Lancaster, PA in April. We walked around town and went golfing. Lancaster is known for its Amish community and a local antique culture. Interesting fact is that many of the Amish a millionaires because they have owned the land so long and their plots are protecting by local government to preserve their culture. So what you have is this growth of the town that have driven property values up and consequently the Amish's wealth. Very interesting thought to drive by a home, lit by candles and realize, "that is a millionaire's home." Here is a link to our photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/nick.kowalski/AdventuresInDCWeekendInPennsylvania?authkey=Gv1sRgCIvPmouz0Mj0cA&feat=directlink
Civil War Battlefields - My mom made the trip all the way out from Washington so we could do our long-planned Civil War Battlefield tour. Washington, DC is within a couple hours drive of many of the most significant battles of the Civil War. We decided on visiting Antietam (Maryland), Harpers Ferry (WV, VA), Gettysburg (PA), Fredricksburg (VA), Chancellorsville (VA) and The Wilderness (VA). Antietam was the site of the bloodiest one-day battle of war and Harpers Ferry is the site of where the Civil War unofficialy started as the radical abolishionist, John Brown, made is fateful stand at the firehouse where General Robert E. Lee led the command that ultimately flushed Brown and his clan from the firehouse (which still stands today). An interesting fact that I did not know is that Harpers Ferry was a major economic hub during the early 1800's. It lies at the junction of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. The land around it is rich in iron ore. In the mid-1800's there was a "race" to reach the Ohio River from the Chesapeake. It was a race to create an economic transport route to link the Ohio River to the eastern seaboard shipping network. The C & O Canal (Chesapeake - Ohio Canal) vs. the B & O Railroad (Baltimore - Ohio Railroad) were the competitors. Basically, the water route (C & O Canal) fell short of funding and the railroad route won. So, with the railroad winning, the importance of the water junction at Harpers Ferry dwindled and it has been a quite town every since. Here is a link to photos from the entire Civil War Battlefield tour weekend:
Antietam & Harpers Ferry: http://picasaweb.google.com/nick.kowalski/CivilWarBattlefieldsAntietamAndHarpersFerry?feat=directlink
Over Memorial Day weekend, Amanda and I took a quick, spontaneous road trip to Chicago to celebrate a friend's wedding that had occurred overseas and to attend a Chicago Cubs baseball game at the rooftops at Wrigley Field. Here are some pictures from the trip: http://picasaweb.google.com/nick.kowalski/ChicagoWeddingCelebrationWrigleyRooftops?feat=directlink
Two more comments:
One, I am also contributing to my roommate's (Will) blog: http://thehourofgraciousliving.blogspot.com/
It is a blog about the various and exciting culinary adventures that routinely occur at our apartment. We will be posting stories about the food projects we undertake and comments about the success and failures of our efforts. Please check it out regularly as we have a few contributors.
Second, as many of you know, I have been working as an independent consultant with my mentor, John Kenny, for the firm I worked at before the Obama campaign. However, it looks like the next month is going to be decision-making time for my career pursuits. I am actively pursuing a campaign job for the 2010 cycle and/or employment until those campaigns begin hiring. If anyone has any suggestions or recommendations for my endeavor, please let me know.
Thanks for staying connected.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Washington, DC -- Thought I'd share a D.C. Legend with you. To the left, one of the two great public workout guys in the city. The man in this particular picture, Workout Man No. 1, frequently "performs" situps in the park across from my office, Farragut Square; he has also been seen carrying around a 10 pound dumb bell, doing curls and tricep extensions. At left, Workout Man No. 1 is currently doing sit ups at the northwest corner of Farragut Square (intersection of Connecticut Ave, 17th St. and K St. NW.) Moments before, in a chivalrous moment in deed, he stood 3 feet from a women waiting at the cross walk, stared at her (up and down) and proceeded to start dancing and singing a song. Inspirational. He must get all the ladies.
NOTE: Workout Man No. 2 is probably more famous that Workout Man No. 1 (situps and dumb bells). Workout Man No. 2 is a non-stop runner. As in, NO ONE has ever seen him waiting at a cross walk or doing post-run stretching. He runs down the street (not sidewalk) yelling along with the music is his headphones and he highlights he jogs with spin moves and jumping jacks and other antics. I'll take a photo and share with you as soon as I see him.
Washington, DC – Things have slowed down a bit in Washington. After 4 months of employment at e-Luminate Group (www.eluminategroup.com), I am comfortably settling into a non-campaign pace. On April 4th I visited Baltimore's Inner Harbor with my step father. We visited the USS Constellation, the USS Torsk (WWII era submarine), had lunch and walked up Federal Hill (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Hill,_Baltimore) across from the Inner Harbor. It was the first actual "nice" day in the Mid-Atlantic region, which means everyone and their mother and uncle were out at the Inner Harbor. Kids playing if balloon animals (I hate those things) and musicians playing on the docks (I like that) and tons and tons of dogs walking with their owners (I want a dog). Take a look at photos from the trip and shots from Washington, D.C. (http://picasaweb.google.com/nick.kowalski/TheRaconteursPostAdventuresInDCJanApr2009#)
I want to clarify a question I received in response to my post, "Employment Outlook for a former campaign staffer," posted on March 15. I am currently employed. In fact, I have been working as an independently contracted consultant for my old boss and mentor, John Kenny, at his firm, e-Luminate Group (http://www.eluminategroup.com). It is great work and I love working for John. However, my career ambitions to manage a Congressional race in 2010 have not subsided and am I continuing to pursue that goal. Also, if an opportunity in the Administration presented itself, I'd take a serious look.
A few more of my fellow Obama campaign comrades have found jobs since my last posting. Some folks are working for Organizing for America, one or two are experiencing progress with the Administration, but most have found employment on Capitol Hill, at a foundation or think tank or a "regular" non-political career.
Yesterday, April 8th, The Washington Post, ran another article about the plight of former Obama campaign staffers pursuing employment in the Obama Administration. "Wishing and Hoping and Networking: Young People Who Want to Work for Obama Wait for a Call" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/07/AR2009040704142.html?sid=ST2009040800137), by Ian Shapira is a great article. I actually sent Ian an email about my own experience in the career hunt and offered some insight from others I've talked with. The long-and-short of it is: the job market stinks for everyone, including those that made sacrifices and worked hard on the most transformative political campaign in a generation. That is just how tough it is.
Two of my current "favorite things": Commanders at War television show on the Military Channel (Monday's 9 ET) and those E*Trade commercials with the babies, "I can't flex the golden pipes?" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yhfl4mFH1No). Hilarious.
NOTE: My NCAA Tournament Bracket? Let's say, I got my $5 back!*
*-you get your money back when you finish last. Sweet.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Washington, DC – The economic recession has obviously been the top issue on everyone’s mind these past few months, especially in the wake of President Obama’s Inauguration.
The reason I am writing this is because I constantly receive the following question: “what are you doing now? Are you working in the Administration?”
The answer is, “not necessarily.”
In light of the current economic, political and social landscape, I thought I’d provide an insight into what the perspective is from someone like me, coming off the successful Obama for America Presidential campaign.
I have been having numerous conversations around Washington, DC and conducting extensive research in hopes of finding a career path. Here is an outline of what I’ve learned the past few months; I hope it offers a clarifying perspective for some of you.
1. Political Campaigns -- for field staff, positions we would like to have do not technically exist yet. The DNC/DSCC/DCCC has not started hiring field staff yet and won't for at least 2-4 months and, in the case of the DCCC, might not until December. I look Politicsone.com, the Cook political report, RealClearPolitics.com and FiveThirtyEight.com to review the top races and then do research and ask around for the names of people doing the top ranked campaigns. In the meantime, I try to position myself as best I can with folks who will eventually make the critical staffing decisions for 2010 campaigns.
2. Administration -- Administration jobs are in short supply for former campaign field staff. We try to connect with current Administration officials and work from there. The paradigm we should use is to think of political jobs in the Administration like this: there is a long table in a conference room in a Department, say the Department of Energy, and there are individuals from different groups all sitting there -- someone from the White House, a career Department of Energy supervisor, the Secretary of Energy's personal staff and so-on-and-so-forth. And they have a list of dozens of resumes and candidates and they are collectively reviewing and reading-aloud the names on their list to the group. If your name is on two or more of those lists, you are in good shape. You have to see Administration jobs, as well as job in other industries in this format and this paradigm that should be the governing principle of the job search hunt. If there a people on the campaign who we know are working in the Administration, we ask them to help pass along your resume, but we need to have a specific position in mind if we hope to have our resume survive the gauntlet that lays before these people.
3. Government Career -- See Washington Post article, http://www.washingtonpost.com/
This is the best opportunity available in terms of likelihood of employment. There are tons of career jobs in Administration departments and agencies. In a recent report, 300,000 vacant government positions were identified as vacant across the entire country from the federal government to state and local. We search USAjobs.com to search and contact specific agencies. In some cases, a career position can put you in the position of making more contacts you can develop and utilize to move into a more desirable position. Further, if you are interested in a specific policy issue, a career position can help buttress your resume. For example, if you are interested in technology and broadband networks, the NTIA in the Department of Commerce is hiring for 60 or so positions. You can learn the ins-and-outs of broadband policy and gain valuable experience in the industry. After working there for a few years you can enter the private broadband sector, advise policymakers on broadband issues, or enter a think tank to do research.
4. Private Sector -- The private sector is probably not the best place for most of us to enter because we do not have enough political experience. The private consulting sector has been the hardest hit of all these options by the economic crisis. Companies are cutting budgets to balance their budgets and one of the first casualties of budget cuts is outside vendors and consultants. So there aren't many jobs out there for campaign folks. However, they are looking for entry level positions and we should see an influx of hiring later in 2009 as private businesses and companies learn the new rules of the game established by the new, depressed, economy. They will need experts to help them communicate through media, grassroots, the Internet and politics. My advice is to research consulting firms with the key words, "grassroots," "issue advocacy," coalition building," and "policy advocacy." Firms that specialize in these mediums would be most interested in someone with experience in the Obama field campaign.
5. Academic - GSPM -- The Graduate School of Political Management at The George Washington University in Washington, DC is an excellent option for many folks for a few reasons. One, you take classes at night thus allowing you to hold down a regular job while learning skills and strategies necessary to excel in the political field. Two, GWU is actually, unlike many institutions, in excellent financial shape, which means they have more financial aid options for students than most academic institutions. Third, it places you in D.C. and in network of people who have vast Rolodex of contacts. Fourth, you can learn the whole spectrum of politics from lobbying, corporate public affairs, non-profit organization, fundraising and campaign strategy. All the professors have day jobs in the political sector which means you can network and build lasting relationships with them. One of my professors is actually responsible for putting me in touch with the right folks on the Obama campaign that led to my employment in 2007. Fifth, there are tons of field organizers and field staff around the country. As you look at building your career portfolio, a Master's degree can be a key differentiator for you down the line. Not in 3 or 5 years, but in 7 or 10 years.
6. Capitol Hill -- This is the area I know the least about, partly because I am personally not interested due to where I am at in my career. However, if you are young and are looking to gain a foothold, Capitol Hill can be a good position. Especially among freshman Democrat Representatives, their staffs can be small, which has two significant implications. One, Barack Obama's model for governance --- governing through continuing to campaign to interact with constituents -- will surely be adopted by congressman. Which means your field experience can be especially valuable. Secondly, small staffs mean quick movement and space to flourish and grow. You may enter as an unpaid intern, but there is potential to get a stipend salary within a couple months with a full congressional salary coming within 2-3 months later. If you can get in, do the grunt work and establish yourself you can make important contacts and you can also take a high position within the reelection campaign -- Representatives in the House frequently send some of their Capitol Hill staff back to the district to help run reelect campaigns because they are familiar with their constituents. In my opinion, this can be the greatest value-add because if you helped run the most successful field campaign of all-time and Democrats will be hot-to-trot to imitate Barack's model to the best of their ability. Your insight and experience can be valuable.
This is just a quick snapshot of what the landscape looks like from my personal perspective and does not represent a broader perspective held by any organization or group.
Monday, February 9, 2009
Washington, DC – One of the missions of this blog is to initiate a dialogue about how new media communications developments are and will affect political campaigns and politics. New media communications, for those still learning what that exactly means, as we all are, includes social networking, online communications, mobile devices and broadcast messaging.
I was reading the New York Times online today and saw this story, http://www.nytimes.com/external/readwriteweb/2009/02/08/08readwriteweb-a_journey_of_a_thousand_miles.html, about a man who is using Twitter to travel across the world. He is broadcasting his status as he travels in hopes of delivering his message, in this case, "I am traveling across the world and I am within 48 hours of your town," to Twitter subscribers and followers. His goal is to connect with people across the world on Twitter who are willing to house and support his travels.
The reason I thought this was interesting is it provoked the following questions: One, how will campaigns for public office use Twitter in the future? Two, how much will broadcast messaging be used in campaigns moving forward?
To the first point, it seems to me that individuals running for public office could use Twitter to take political organizing to one higher step than Barack Obama did by using Twitter. Volunteers and supporters can "follow" the candidate and, as the candidate makes his/her travels within their district, state or the country, the candidate can organize events on a grassroots level by "tweeting" their followers to an upcoming event. Further, Twitter allows community and grassroots organizers to create and build events and activities on their own in a much faster, viral way than an eVite or Facebook event. A grassroots organization can have on their "volunteer cards" a box for "follow our campaign on Twitter" and that way, organizers can sign supporters up and get dialed-in to instant communications. The end result? Campaigns and organizing will move even faster in the future.
To the second point, running a successful campaign is all about delivering the correct message to a targeted audience. Barack Obama was brilliant at this by delivering his message simultaneously to the religious groups and liberal civil rights activists, simultaneously by using social networking groups like, "Conservatives for Obama," or "Veterans for Obama," or "Women for Obama." These groups tuned-in to the message delivered to their group. The next step in this, with regards to broadcast messaging is, does a candidate create separate Twitter account for each of these voting blocs? I think, yes, they have to. If a candidate broadcasts one message, it may alienate a particular group. And, in the day in age of large persuadable voting groups, a candidate must be careful and precise with their message and its delivery – the cardinal rule of political campaigns.
If you aren't familiar with Twitter or what broadcast communications entails, I encourage you to visit www.twitter.com or reference the Wikipedia entry for "new media," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_media.
Other related articles of late include:
"Why Television Still Shines in a World of Screens," The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/08/business/media/08digi.html?_r=1&ref=technology
In other news, me and my roommate are just wrapping up the finishing touches on moving in to our new apartment. This past weekend our furniture arrived and we painted a wall. Here are some pictures from the painting project: http://picasaweb.google.com/nick.kowalski/AdministrationWashingtonDCMovingInFebruary2009#
If you have any thoughts on this post or others, please feel free to post your comments. Storytelling is a collaborative relationship between narrator and audience.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
A couple of things strike me as intriguing about this story. One, how does Organizing For America, already fairly well-branded by the "Obama" name achieve its grassroots organizing and community engagement goals without being perceived too much as an arm of the President himself? And two, how do the campaign's volunteers stay engaged over the course of the long-term without experiencing fatigue and without the direct connection to Barack Obama himself that was such a motivator during the campaign?
One thing is certain from these questions, the talent, effort and dedication of the individuals that worked on and volunteered for the presidential campaign is great and is well-equipt to take on many challenges. Further, if the vision of an organization that can communicate and educate the general public becomes a reality, that entity could have long-term benefits to our national community as a public service institution.
It seems to me that the more we can continue to use technology and new media tools to connect and organize our communities, the more you will see these tools evolve and innovate. Remember, many of these techniques have never been used before so we are going to have a learning curve with successes and failures. Keep your eyes on how tools the campaign used to organize communities evolve into regular communication strategies and tactics for private companies, non-profits and other political candidates.