Stephanie Hannon

CTO for Hillary Clinton



Stephanie Hannon@twephanie · CTO Hillary For America
Hi — I'm Steph Hannon, CTO at Hillary for America. Over the last 17 months, I've grown a team of almost 70 Brooklyn-based engineers, product managers and designers who are building tools and tech to win this election. I was the product lead for Google Wave. I helped create hosted Gmail which became Google Apps for Work and Education. I helped launch Google Maps in almost every country in EMEA. I helped create General Transit Feed Specification and Google Transit. I worked on elections and disaster response and civic engagement at Google. I've succeed at things and failed at things and I'm happy to talk about all of the above. Scuba diving is my favorite past time. I'm delighted to be here — ask me anything.
Chris Sacca@sacca · Chairman, Lowercase Capital
Steph, with your incredible experience of building and launching products, you're a dream hire/founder for any company in the world. So how did you choose to work on the campaign?
Stephanie Hannon@twephanie · CTO Hillary For America
@sacca You are too kind, friend! I was approached by a number of the Obama 2012 Tech alum at ORDCamp in early 2015. I had never worked in politics or campaigns before but believe you should always be curious and learn more when approached about amazing opportunities. I said yes because I thought it would be a massive challenge, a massive learning opportunity and a chance to have big impact by being a part of the team to put the first woman in the White House.
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · VC at Shrug Capital
Hey Stephanie, thanks for joining us! Can you talk a little bit about how the campaign is using technology to connect with younger voters? Trump Yourself from a weeks ago was brilliant. Nicely done. 👌
Stephanie Hannon@twephanie · CTO Hillary For America
@nivo0o0 I’m so happy to hear you liked Trump Yourself (! It was an incredibly fun project to work on and we are proud of how popular it was. It’s apps like that which help us reach young voters, and highlight what’s at stake this election. For many, this will be their first time voting so we want to not only inform them, but make sure voting is simple and easy for them. There’s many ways to do both of these things - especially by using social media and building mobile applications. New features like Facebook Live help us broadly share important speeches or host valuable discussions while features like custom Snapchat filters help us show off special campaign moments with delight & whimsy. Additionally, we build a lot of custom tools that we share through all our social channels and you’ll see over-time incorporated into our mobile application. Our team is full of bright, diverse and young designers and engineers so often times they are the best source of ideas when we brainstorm.
Ina Herlihy@inaherlihy · Growth, Zumper
Given that you're effectively running a startup with an end date (election day), what lessons will you take to your next startup?
Serhii Vasylenko@serhii_vasylenko · CTO, YourServerAdmin
What are your main responsibilities as CTO of politics candidate? Im asking because had the same position, but in IT company, and it's very interesting to know how it's different. Thanks!
Stephanie Hannon@twephanie · CTO Hillary For America
@serhii_vasylenko We are responsible for delivering the tools and technology to power this 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. We also have ops teams to build an infrastructure to make development easy and fast and to keep everything up and running. We work with partners but we do alot of this with in-house development. 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. The count is likely over 50 now.
Serhii Vasylenko@serhii_vasylenko · CTO, YourServerAdmin
@twephanie Wow! When you talk about tools and products, do you mean some software used for internal purposes or something that is targeted at the electorate? By the way, I noticed you said "we" but never "I" - why? :)
Stephanie Hannon@twephanie · CTO Hillary For America
@serhii_vasylenko Because there are almost 70 talented amazing engineers, product designers and product managers building all the stuffs. We are a big team working together and I'll take every chance to recognize that. :)
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
Hi there! Thanks for joining us today. I'd love to know what has been the hardest part your transition from the private sector to the public? And what has been one of the most surprising things about the shift?
Stephanie Hannon@twephanie · CTO Hillary For America
@corleyh I went from 10 years at the best resourced company in the world to the most scrappy environment. When new engineers start, I offer them a stack of empty boxes to build their own standing desk. We have a Monday morning scramble to keep our chairs from being grabbed when new people start. Instead of bonuses or equity we have a cardboard "Slaaay" sign we hang above desks when people launch something very cool. At Google, we have the best infrastructure and tools and ops teams and services to build on top of. Here, we didn't inherit much from previous campaign cycles and we are supremely cautious with spending our funds so we've had to be creative about bootstrapping and building our infrastructure. Also, we pay engineers (I often get that question, yes my positions are paid), but the salaries are not competitive with private companies. So I just want to give a huge shout out to the people who have joined this team, they could be doing any other job for a lot more money and a fraction of the work hours. If you meet someone from HFA Tech, give them huge hugs and gratitude.
Vanessa Pagan@vanessapagan · founder, Songbirdtek
In what ways are the strategies for personalization of content and gamification with small touch points within the mobile app working to drive engagement, grassroots organizing and donations for Hilary?
Stephanie Hannon@twephanie · CTO Hillary For America
@vanessapagan We’ve talked to a lot of supporters and so many of them want to help. However, there’s a big gap between being on the email list and feeling comfortable phone banking or knocking on doors; a lot of supporters feel like they don’t have the time and resources to do more of these traditional asks. The mobile app is for them, a way for everyone to participate in a way that feels personal, where a supporter with only 3 minutes a day can pick concrete impactful actions that are helpful to the campaign. Whether it’s reading up on Hillary’s policy proposals, signing a commit to vote card or sharing an event with a friend, the app provides a host of tools that help supporters join the campaign. The personalization helps supporters feel like these actions are within reach — they can pick actions that feel the most natural and meaningful to them. The gamification is a great way to help people do the work that is so important as well as create a great experience with many opportunities to surprise and delight our supporters. Don't know what we are talking about? Download the app here, iOS only (for now):
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
Hey Steph, 1. How does your team decide which tools to build; are those decisions based on voter data (demography for example), campaign objectives, etc? 2. Of the tools and tech that you've built what have you learned about campaign strategy that you didn't know before? 3. What has your involvement in Hillary's campaign taught you about how campaign strategy is evolving and what future campaigns could look like?
Vinay Khosla@vinay123 · Co-founder Builder. Investor.
Did you agree with Apple's refusal to unlock the San Bernardino's terrorists phone?
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
What has been the most insightful thing you've learned from Hillary? What do you think has been the greatest thing you've taught her?
Stephanie Hannon@twephanie · CTO Hillary For America
@andrewett I've been impressed with her extreme preparation and appetite for knowledge. I helped host a round table with Silicon Valley leaders from the sharing economy like Airbnb, Box, Lyft, Instacart and Uber last August. I knew that she wouldn't be a user of the tools, as she probably hasn't had to find her own transportation or go to the post office in quite awhile. 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 is an information sponge and it is truly a thing to see the genuine listening. I know I am a kool-aid drinker but I left that room confident of her commitment to my industry and community.
SV companies are obsessed with culture and Google’s SVP of People Operations says “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. What’s your role in shaping your team’s work culture?
Stephanie Hannon@twephanie · CTO Hillary For America
@parisivy00 Team culture is something we spend a lot of time thinking and iterating on. You have to when your team grows from 1 to almost 70 people in under 17 months! One of the things I am most proud of is how diverse team our tech team is in terms of gender balance (we’re a little under 40% female), ethnicity, and background. It took significant investment to get there, so the early part of culture was our recruiting process. We focused on sourcing from diverse meetups 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. As an operating team we have remained focused on building an inclusive culture. We encourage our team members to attend and discuss unconscious bias training. An unexpected stumble on building an inclusive culture came from the early days of the campaign. We have a number of engineers who came from Google who have never used Github before. They were made fun of for this by other team members which was, of course, a negative experience working with our team. We also had bad experiences with team members shaming other team members for wanting to use certain technologies that they have experience with, like MongoDB. 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. As a team we’ve also worked together to figure out how we celebrate wins and ensure that individuals and teams get recognized for great work. At Google we had peer bonuses where you could gift a $200 bonus to a coworkers for doing an amazing job. Though we don’t have that kind of resources on the campaign we created an alternative called a Pear Bonus. Team members will gift a hat with a Pear on it to reward work and then post a picture in Slack. We also have a Backsweat award for teams that work after hours when the HVAC may not be working and a “Slaaay!” sign that we hang above a team that ships a huge product. We celebrate a lot! Our culture is very unique and we’ve received a lot of positive feedback about it. I’m so proud to have worked with everyone on building a team culture that works for such a fast paced and work intensive environment.
@twephanie thank you very much for your time. Incredibly insightful :)
Ronen Shnidman@telavivberlioz · Product Evangelist, Pipl
What advances in gathering and using Big Data for get out the vote (GOTV) efforts have you overseen at the Hillary campaign this election and what new GOTV-oriented technologies do you expect to test for the first time in the coming weeks leading up to Election Day?
Michael Henne@michael_henne · Founder of
Have you looked into using the new social media site to connect with voters? It is offering candidates a free outlet to connect with a younger demographic of voters that is online. Hillary's presence on the site can influence state and local candidates to join -- helping engage the youth throughout the US.
Austin Teague@austin_teague · Full-Stack Marketer and Entrepreneur
@michael_henne What sort of user demographic or engagement data do you offer political candidates who seek to leverage your site?
Vinay Khosla@vinay123 · Co-founder Builder. Investor.
Hi. Hillary Clinton said Blockchain should be used for securing for public services data. What is the plan and timescale for doing this?
Uhma@deleted-594972 · Brr
Hello Stephanie, Have you heard of Russian Web Brigades ( ) ? It appears that Russian Web Brigades are starting to pay more attention to the popular US discussion websites such as Reddit, Google Groups, et cetera. Do you think Hillary, after she gets elected, will have to create a similar agency to nullify their efforts? Thank you.
Adam Marx@adammarx13 · Freelance writer/editor and music addict
Hey Stephanie, thanks for taking some time today! I'm going to echo @nivo0o0's question a bit. Can you talk a little bit about what sorts of technology you'd like to see enter the political process? What types of tech do you think can help make the process more open and easier for people?
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
Hi Stephanie! What are some ways that you use to focus on hard work and not get distracted by less important stuff?
Erik Finman@erikfinman · Founder of Finman Technologies
Hello Stephanie, I'm curious if you, or people on the Hillary Clinton campaign have seen Scott Adams' (the creator of Dilbert) blog on persuasion: For those who do not know. Persuasion is a form of Hypnosis, which is something I've been learning and have discovered it's really just behavioral psychology. For those looking to learn it I recommend you check out this reading list: Scott Adams is a Hillary Clinton endorser and has written a lot on the expertise of Trump's persuasions techniques. Trump knows that people don't do anything for any rational reason and no election was ever decided on policy. Hillary didn't get that until Bernie dropped out. In the primaries Hillary talked about Policy, which in terms of appealing to voters, is a very ineffective technique. That's where Bernie did an excellent job making false promises that could never be accomplished economically. 'Free' stuff, no matter how impossible, is always effective. But after Bernie dropped out, Hillary changed her tone. Completely focusing on persuasion rather than policy. In the persuasion community, where we've been following this closely. It is rumored the campaign brought on a Persuasionist: Robert B. Cialdini, a trained behavioral psychologist that worked on the Obama campaigns and wrote the book Influence, which is a popular book in the business community ( An example to people reading this outside of the persuasion world of a persuasion technique that the Hillary campaign used, was associating the word 'dark' with Trump: "DONALD TRUMP’S DARK, DARK CONVENTION SPEECH" Which you saw every media outlet use at the same time, which means it was a very coordinated effort. And using the word dark, an uncommonly used word in politics just like' Low Energy' which Trump used for Jeb, was absolute weapons grade persuasion. It's pretty amazing, Both sides are building up their own imaginary castles to see who can build the biggest. As CTO how are you using persuasion techniques throughout the tech side of the campaign? Can you confirm that you indeed have hired Robert Cialdini on the campaign? As someone focused on hard tech, thus fact and logic, how do you feel about both sides using techniques that completely defy fact and logic, although that is how you win. For the same reasons as Scott Adams, I support Hillary Clinton. So curious to hear your thoughts on this.
Anthony Stylianou@anthony_stylianou · Social Media Manager, CatchApp
Your career has consisted of working in large technology companies and what I personally find really interesting in understanding is what drives the motivation for individuals to choose their next role or challenge. What was it specifically that made you want to pursue a CTO role within Hilary's campaign?
Tim T@respektt
Steph, with Trump email campaigns sending to massive lists that hit Spam folders, how will Hillary for America combat the issues with delivering campaign emails to the inbox?