How one ex-Googler convinced developers to leave Silicon Valley to work on Hillary Clinton’s campaign

Stephanie Hannon Hillary For America Tech

Silicon Valley companies are known for their unmatched employee perks and their lucrative salaries.

Google has free gourmet lunches. Facebook has an on-site barber and free laundry services. Apple employees get big discounts on company products and free apples. Silicon Valley companies are known for their unmatched employee perks and their lucrative salaries.

So when Hillary Clinton’s campaign wanted to build up a technology team of developers and engineers, how could they convince the best of the best to quit their jobs, take a huge pay cut, move to Brooklyn and work until a November 8 deadline?

When CTO and ex-Googler Stephanie Hannon joined the campaign in April 2015, that was her first job: figure out how to recruit.

“I am competing with Facebook and Google and Uber and people who have significantly higher base compensation. They have stock options,” Hannon told Business Insider in an interview. “Here we don’t even have cups. When people visit me and they’re like ‘Can I have a glass of water?’ I’m like, ‘if you bring your own cup you can have water.'”

The campaign makes standing desks out of cardboard boxes. They often sit three people per desk and they work long days, especially as Election Day nears. As one team member put it, “We don’t spend money on things that don’t help Hillary Clinton get elected.” Nonetheless, the team has over 70 members and is still growing.

Hannon found four ways that helped her bring in new hires:

  1. Look for people already doing mission-driven work. Many of the managers and developers on Hillary’s campaign were previously working on the technology teams of non-profit organisations.
  2. “It was easier for me to get somebody who had already left a Google than somebody who is still at a Google,” she said. Take Deputy CTO Derek Parham. He left Google in 2011 and has been advising startups among other things. This is the case for many hires.
  3. She looked to companies like Optimizely, which was born out of the 2008 election. “Optimizely people are in this experimentation mode and a data driven design mode and we need a lot of that,” she said.
  4. Hannon leaned on her Silicon Valley connections a lot: “If I need help convincing somebody to take one of these jobs, I would have some luminary friend in Silicon Valley help me pitch them.”

As the team grew, recruiting got easier. New employees would convince people in their networks to join the campaign.

Yet Hannon knew she not only had to get people into the office, but also had to make sure they were happy once they were there.

Hillary for America Tech
Hannon sits in front of her ‘Wall of Slaaay!’ which celebrates accomplishments of team members. Lori Janjigian/BI

While she
admits people are attracted to the fast-paced, intense environment where they create projects with a major impact, she needed to do more. Hannon says they celebrate each new hire and they spend a lot of time celebrating team members for their accomplishments, to ensure they know they’re appreciated.
And one look around the office, you’ll notice alcohol is not in short supply and ready for whenever theirs is a cause for celebration.

And what about those developers that were not willing to leave their jobs for the campaign? The team created so developers around the country could volunteer their skills.

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