Hill Climbers: From Silicon Valley to Capitol Hill
All Rebecca Mark wanted to do was get online. In the early 1990s, this was easier said than done.
She persuaded her father to sign up for an America Online trial with his credit card. Just like that, the Internet was at her fingertips.
It was the era of dial-up, and Mark kept getting disconnected. She signed on again each time she was kicked off.
Later, after the $600 credit card bill came in, she was forbidden for months from going online.
But this wouldn’t deter her. Mark, now press secretary for Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), would continue to follow a technology path that would eventually lead her to Capitol Hill.
The 28-year-old describes her formative years as “classic nerdy.” Originally from Fremont, Calif., Mark is the definition of the digital native. She grew up near Silicon Valley. Online services such as AOL, Prodigy and CompuServe were a regular part of her life. She built websites on GeoCities and Angelfire.
Despite her tech interests, Mark studied English and psychology while attending the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and then took a year off after she graduated in 2004.
Then, while browsing for jobs on Craigslist in 2005, she came across an ad for a sales account manager at an up-and-coming social media company.
The next day, she got a call for an interview. That up-and-coming company? MySpace.
Mark easily came to a decision.
“I was in my early 20s, it had health insurance, it had benefits and it had parking on Third Street Promenade [in Santa Monica, Calif.],” she said.
She worked there for the next two years, starting right before the News Corp. acquisition and leaving while MySpace was still considered the top social media website in the world.
“Working for a successful startup is kind of like working for Congress,” she said. “You’re constantly mingling with people and meeting with influencers. It was a great training ground.”
But Mark was experiencing a “quarter-life crisis.” She knew that while she liked what she was doing, she wanted something more. But what?
When she analyzed her morning routine, she realized the first thing she did every day was check out the tech blogs, reading about the policy that was affecting the industry. While on vacation in Washington, D.C., she started cold-calling Congressional offices, looking for Members on either side of the aisle who were interested in technology issues.
Mark ended up leaving her job at MySpace to intern for the House Homeland Security Committee, where she discovered a passion for communications. Soon after, she landed a job in Rep. Candice Miller’s office, where she put her tech know-how to use by leading the new media charge, first as a press assistant and later as the Michigan Republican’s press secretary.
She later worked for the National Republican Congressional Committee during the 2010 election cycle as an online strategist.
In her latest Hill turn, Mark is now the press secretary for Brady, who recently was named Legislator of the Year by Information Technology and Industry Council. Brady’s interest in tech issues drew her to the job.
“When he looked at my résumé, he had so many pointed questions about the industry itself and the job-creation potential,” she said.
Mark plans to eventually move back to California, where it all started. But for now, she’s happy with where her quarter-life crisis took her.
“I have an interest in tech, I have an interest in communications and I have an interest in politics,” she said. “The place where all three intersect is here for now, and that’s where my future will be.”
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