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Newbies: Tips for Data Fellows Who Are First-Time Campaign Volunteers

Bluebonnet Data (BBD) provides an exciting opportunity for students and professionals who want to explore politics via data. For many data fellows, including myself and other blog posters, this is the first time they’re volunteering on a political campaign. Navigating the campaign atmosphere can be tough for those not accustomed to it, but here I will share a few tips that have enabled me to enhance my experience as a Bluebonnet fellow.

Communication: Communication is key. I think of communication in four categories: campaign, data team, fellows and staff, and personal contacts.

Campaign: Follow up and make sure you’re producing a substantial amount of work for your campaign each week, especially when you're only a few weeks away from voters casting their ballots. Get on those campaign calls! You want to integrate yourself into the campaign; this ensures the candidate is benefiting from your data insights and you, as a fellow, are making the most of this opportunity. Become a volunteer your campaign can rely on. An email thread or Google Drive folder with all your work is a great way to keep track of your work and maintain accountability with the campaign. Stronger communication will also enable you to suggest projects to your campaign. Many campaigns have difficulty visualizing exactly what their data fellows can do, so you should ask pointed questions about how your campaign can leverage you best. Propose options and help determine the best steps forward.

Data team: Establish expectations with one another, especially for teams that do not have a designated team lead. Establish good rapport with your teammates. Hold each other accountable for the quality of work, as well as deadlines. If you have ideas regarding a teammate’s project, let them know! Make sure every member of your team feels engaged with BBD and the campaign.

Fellows and staff: Inquire about projects other data fellows are working on. Slack them after your weekly check-in. Suggest ways to improve processes in BBD.

Personal Contacts: If you've been working on a project for a long time, disconnect. You'll feel better and produce better work if you walk away from your work for a while. Use the time to chat with friends, family, and others. We all need a break every now and then.

General Tips

Tools: Utilize the Slack channels! Constantly check them. Set your notifications appropriately. If you found a data source or completed a project that may be relevant to an entire state, don’t only add it to Airtable and Gitlab (like all other projects), but also slack the channel! This contribution not only gets your name out there, but it just might help a progressive candidate win an election. Check Airtable for projects and data resources that might be applicable to your campaign. Review the Onboarding materials, in particular the slides on Airtable, Gitlab, and Slack.

Political Engagement: Chances are, if you chose to be a Bluebonnet fellow, you’re already politically engaged. Continue to engage outside of your data volunteer work. Read about politics, for yourself, and your campaign, at the state and local level. Talk about politics, particularly with those that will disagree with you (I find this has made me more passionate about the work I do). By engaging politically, you will find more significant points of connection and better data project work in your campaign.

Time Management: For those of you who have any amount of difficulty with time management (likely most of us), create a weekly schedule of the campaign work that you will do. Plan out each day of the week, outlining the small goals you will complete each day and the number of hours you will spend completing those goals. Effective scheduling and time management will help you comfortably meet deadlines and avoid excuses when the time comes to submit your project.

In Conclusion...

Look at these tips. Take none, some, or all. Implement the idea(s) that will most benefit you, the data fellows on your BBD team, and your campaign team, and leave a comment sharing what worked! It's a general election year, and times like this only occur every four years. Make an impact. Leave your mark. Let’s get progressives elected!

Slack me if you liked this blog post, or just wanna chat :)


About the Author:

Alex Leon is a third-year student studying Cybersecurity and Fintech at Northeastern University. He’s currently on co-op this semester, working at John Hancock as a Data Scientist, and is looking to pursue a career in data science after graduation. He’s probably listening to Reggaeton right now.

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