Is life after Capitol Hill located 3,000 miles away? One former staffer thinks so and wants to bridge the gap between Capitol Hill and Silicon Valley.
“I think a lot of good can come out of [it] if Silicon Valley and Washington D.C. learn how to effectively work together,” said Jamie Corley, 30.
Corley worked for six years as Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker’s press secretary, West Virginia Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito’s communications director, and a staffer for Texas Republican Sam Johnson.
In 2015, she moved to San Francisco.
“After six years on Capitol Hill, I was ready for a change. Tech always interested me, and living by the Bay Area, near the ocean, and in a winter-free zone, was quite appealing,” she said.
“I quickly realized that Silicon Valley is very similar to D.C. in that they are industry towns,” Corley said. “There’s a vernacular that people on the inside know and maybe those on the outside don’t, and there are cultural nuances that make these respective worlds tick.”
She created a nonpartisan, free newsletter titled The Bridge to translate the jargon, provide a jobs board, and be a resource for professionals on both coasts working in politics and technology.
“I had the idea for The Bridge, of connecting these two worlds, for a while, and I really started to think about actually turning this into a company in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election, when people in Silicon Valley started to really pay attention,” she said.
Corley wanted to correct the misunderstandings the rest of the country had about the elections.
And then the Trump effect occurred.
“Trump got elected. A lot of people didn’t expect that. Silicon Valley certainly didn’t expect that,” she said, “People started to ask the question, ‘How are tech and politics going to work together at a broad level? And then how individually are people going to react to Trump being elected from a tech perspective?’”
She’s seen more interest in the political scene in the forms of people doing everything from building apps that engage voters to joining phone banks for the next election.
“Politics is incredibly broad and that’s something that I hope to emphasize here,” Corley said. “Trump, yes, is the president, but there are Democratic offices if you want to work for a Democrat. Whatever side of the political spectrum tech is entrusted in, there’s an opportunity to do that.”
On the other hand, Corley noticed people in D.C. out of a job and wanting to go to the Bay area. The jobs board goes in that direction, too.
“Tech is interested in hiring people with really strong backgrounds and there’s been a lot of emphasis in, just from what’s I’ve seen, a lot of them are opening up policy shops,” she said.
Are Hill staffers qualified to work in Silicon Valley? “Absolutely,” she said.
“I think the best word is ‘translation,’” she added. “Breaking down and translating these job descriptions in résumés can really help the two worlds work together.”
For example, “A product manager, that term doesn’t exist on Capitol Hill but exists in every tech company in Silicon Valley. The thing is, if you’re a digital director on Capitol Hill, you have learned a lot of the skills that would make you an executive product manager,” Corley said.
She hosted an event on Capitol Hill in December with representatives from technology companies such as Slack and Twitter who used to work in politics and spoke about that transition.
“People are so interested in, ‘I have all this experience, I’m really smart, I know how to work hard, I know how to think critically.’ Any Hill staffer who’s made it past a year has those skills,” Corley said.