Planning an event for 9 a.m. on a Friday is almost always a bad idea: People are already in weekend mode, meaning you're usually left with nothing to show for your efforts besides lots of empty chairs and leftover coffee. But miraculously, that is not what happened to Jamie Corley this past December.
When Corley, 30, hosted an event in D.C. with representatives from Slack, Twitter, and other major companies offering advice on how to switch from a career in politics to one in tech, the space was so packed it was standing-room only. The size of the crowd only proved what Corley already knew: Even though many people who worked in the Obama administration, on Hillary Clinton's campaign, and on other congressional campaigns want to transition to tech after the campaigns are over, the path isn't always clear.
That's the guiding concept behind TheBridge, a non-partisan email newsletter that Corley co-founded and launched a week after the election, with the goal of connecting power players in D.C. with those in Silicon Valley. The closest comparison to TheBridge might be The Skimm, since it, too, translates news into palatable snippets of information over email. But beyond offering a brief recap of the latest news happening in both worlds with "D.C. Download" and "Bay Area Buzz" — The Bridge is attempting to create a two-way pipeline for finding jobs.
TheBridge now includes open job listings in both industries, which Corley says are the most clicked-on parts of the newsletter. There are also job profiles, with a specific focus on people who have made the transition from one field to the other.
Corley herself has worked and lived in both worlds. At 22, she was hired by U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, the first female senator from West Virginia, to serve as her communications director. Feeling "frustrated with Washington" in 2014, Corley moved to San Francisco to work for LaunchCode, a nonprofit startup created by the co-founder of Square.
She instantly saw parallels between the two industries. "If you’re smart and driven, you can rise quickly on Capitol Hill — there’s opportunity for young people to take on huge amounts of responsibility," Corley says. "The same is true in tech."
But where politics falls short is where she thinks the thought processes of those involved in tech can come into play. "Government is clunky, resistant to change, and slow to adopt new tools," she says. "What I like about tech is that there’s room to experiment and fail; government could learn a lot from that mindset."
If there is one standout similarity between the two industries that needs to change, it's that both are "still boys clubs." While Corley notes that she sees subtle progress being made, she finds that as a woman, she's still in the minority at many meetings. You need only look at recent, high-profile accounts of sexism for further evidence.
For this problem to be solved, we need companies taking stronger action and more women going into both fields from the get-go, bringing their perspective and ideas from working at a company like Instagram to a political think tank in D.C., and vice versa.
Seeing progress will take time, but building a bridge is a start.