The Republican Party “was a terrible place for a smart technologist to come work,” Andy Barkett, a former Facebook engineer, said at a conference on technology and politics hosted by Lincoln Labs, a conservative nonprofit group.
Barkett, who was hired by the Republican National Committee as its chief technology officer two years ago, made reference to his time at the RNC, which did not go smoothly.
“I mean, it was a terrible place for me when I started. It was horrible. It was, like, the worst experience of my life,” Barkett said of his entry into Republican politics after spending more than a decade at Silicon Valley companies, where he moved into angel investing on the side. “It was just, like, atrociously bad.”
“There’s a whole bunch of people in politics who say a lot of words, all the buzzwords that we talked about, and they say, ‘I want more analytics.’ None of them have any idea what any of those things mean,” he said, seated on a stage during a panel discussion alongside digital operatives working for the presidential campaigns of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
“They have no idea what the difference is between building an infrastructure of servers that know how to send e-mails to having an e-mail list or the difference between the records in the voter file and the analytics that you do in addition to those,” he said.
Barkett urged people in politics doing tech-related work to “get over the impostor syndrome and learn what the ef you are talking about.”
“Be honest with yourself — you’re probably a political person, and you probably don’t know what the ef you’re taking about. And the first thing you should do is probably dig in and learn. In the short run it will hurt you, because you will be exposed as a fraud,” he said. “You people will learn that you don’t know these things yet. And in the long run it will help you, because you will then be one of the 1 percent of people in politics who do know what they’re talking about.”