5 Things We Learned From Hillary Clinton’s Campaign CTO

August 30, 2016, 2:47 AM UTC
Courtesy of Steph Hannon

Even a presidential campaign needs a strong technology leader to keep the machine well-oiled and the Amazon Web Services bill paid.

Stephanie Hannon is that person—the chief technology officer—for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Hannon took the job in April of last year, and prior to that, was a director of product management at Google, where she spent much of her career over the last decade.

Clinton’s campaign has turned to the usual tech-driven tactics, like using social media to reach out to voters, but it’s also come up with some creative ideas, like its mobile app for volunteers that helps them participate and adds an gaming element to keep them motivated.

On Monday, Hannon participated in an online question-and-answer session hosted by Product Hunt, a leaderboard for tech products. Here are some highlights:

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What does a campaign CTO do?

Much of Hannon’s job is similar to a typical CTO role in the private sector. She and her team build and manage the gamut of technology tools developed and used by everyone working on Clinton’s campaign.

“That spans a broad space: fundraising, organizing (empowering field organizers and helping volunteers be efficient in canvassing and phone banking), voters (registering to vote, GOTV, voter protection), data analytics infrastructure, storytelling and rapid response, engagement and mobile apps,” she said.

And her team is quite productive. “This has been one of the biggest surprises of this job, I could not have predicted how many different tools and products we would build and launch,” she said. “The count is likely over 50 now.”

See also: Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Uses This Messaging App to Foil Hackers

Hillary is all about those hip startups

Clinton can’t exactly book a vacation home through Airbnb or pull out her Uber app to grab a ride, but that doesn’t mean she’s totally unfamiliar with these startups.

“I helped host a roundtable with Silicon Valley leaders from the sharing economy, like Airbnb, Box, Lyft, Instacart, and Uber last August,” said Hannon, adding that she expected Clinton to not be a personal user of these companies’ services.

“But she absolutely knew every bit of those companies, products, users, and challenges. And she led a deep and thoughtful conversation about the regulatory, tax and infrastructure challenges that make growing those businesses challenging,” she said.

See also: Alphabet Executive Resigns from Uber’s Board Amid Growing Rivalry

Clinton’s tech team uses Slack

Presidential campaign teams are just like us—they use Slack to chat with their teammates. Along with general shop talk, Hannon’s team also uses the instant messaging system to encourage and celebrate its hard work and achievements.

“Team members will gift a hat with a Pear on it to reward work and then post a picture in Slack,” she said to describe her team’s tradition when celebrating a coworker’s accomplishment.

Other common work tools Hannon’s team uses include JIRA (a tool for managing work tasks made by Atlassian), and Amazon Web Services to host all of its work.

The campaign volunteer app for Android is coming soon

Hillary’s small mobile development team is hard at work on the Android app, which will be out in the coming weeks, said Hannon. The iOS version debuted a month ago.

Hillary’s tech team is diverse

Tech companies, take note: Women make up just under 40% of Hannon’s team, which she said is diverse in other ways as well.

“It took significant investment to get there, so the early part of culture was our recruiting process,” she said. “We focused on sourcing from diverse meet-ups [with] groups and communities in NYC, we were deliberate about diverse interview panels, and we prioritized emotional intelligence and soft skills along with technical skills and experience.”

That’s not to say that it hasn’t faced any challenges when it comes to culture and inclusiveness. For example, some team members were made fun of for not being familiar with certain tools or suggesting ones they had experience using. “With such a diverse team that uses so many different technologies (Python, Ruby, PHP, Node, etc.), we’ve spent a lot of time working with the team to use inclusive language so that no team member feels less than the others for their background or the technology they work with,” said Hannon.

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