TheBridge profile: Layla Zaidane
November 19, 2020
“As a group that engages Millennial lawmakers at the state and Congressional levels, we know there is a huge opportunity to leverage technology to support effective governance and public policy. Technology can help make our democracy more innovative; our elected leaders can help make our innovation more democratic. Ultimately, we need the next generation of policymakers to bridge that divide and lead the way.”
Name: Layla Zaidane
Current city: Washington, D.C.
Current job: Executive Director & COO, Millennial Action Project
Past job: Managing Director, Generation Progress
Q. Favorite spot for a coffee meeting? Our WeWork building has all sorts of fancy espresso and cold brew coffee machines, so I love hosting people at our office.
Q. Describe how a skill you learned in a previous job helped you in your current job. My first job was in marketing, and I witnessed the power of peer-to-peer recommendations firsthand. I learned how creating incentives for an existing customer to be your product’s champion can lead to more sales than direct marketing alone. That experience taught me how powerful building community is to driving action — whether it’s to sell a product, or spread an idea. That skill has been invaluable in an industry like politics, where so much of success relies on relationships.
Q. Job advice in three words? Always be curious.
Q. How are you (or your company, org, nonprofit) currently bridging the gap between politics and tech / innovation and regulation? As a group that engages Millennial lawmakers at the state and Congressional levels, we know there is a huge opportunity to leverage technology to support effective governance and public policy. Technology can help make our democracy more innovative; our elected leaders can help make our innovation more democratic. Ultimately, we need the next generation of policymakers to bridge that divide and lead the way.
Q. What can innovators learn from policymakers? The human element of your work should come first.
Q. What can policymakers learn from innovators? It’s ok to be wrong sometimes, and pivot to a better idea.
Q. Favorite book/podcast/long-form article you recommend? I just finished the Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett and can’t stop thinking about it.
Q. Everyday is probably different, but can you describe a “day in the life” of your job? Wake up and check my calendar for the day on my phone; decide how much time I can afford to spend scrolling through Instagram in bed. At work, meet with some permutation of our senior program, operations and external affairs staff to ensure our day-to-day activities are aligned with our strategic goals. Usually I have one or two meetings with outside stakeholders; I also try to block off at least an hour to get through things like emails and other readings I need to do. I have a running list of “wish list” projects I’m constantly adding to, and I’ll try to spend a solid chunk of time each week working my way through the list.
Q. What is the best career advice you’ve received? Control what you can control, and do the best you can with the rest. It’s helped me manage stress in situations that are way outside my influence (hello, global pandemic).
Q. What is your favorite app? Apple Podcasts app. I like to listen to anything from the news to true crime, and I squeeze them in whenever possible: when I get ready in the morning, when I work out, when I cook.
Q. Most underrated virtue in an employee? Honesty. Being honest about not understanding something or coming clean about a mistake can be an uncomfortable thing to share with your boss. Having that vulnerability helps build important trust and demonstrates a sincere desire to learn and grow.
Q. Which local lawmaker is most tech savvy? Rep. Jeramey Anderson out of Mississippi, a co-chair of our MAP chapter in the state house, is a social media and branding genius. On top of being a skilled policymaker, he has an intuitive sense of how to use technology to effectively communicate, and how to use things like Slack and WhatsApp to build bipartisan, grassroots coalitions.
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