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Tech=Power: How to Find Good Tech People and Get Them to Do What You Want"



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Tech=Power: How to Find Good Tech People and Get Them to Do What You Want"

  1. 1. TECH = POWER How To Find Good Tech People And Get Them To Do What You Want Ann Lewis, @ann_lewis, 8/4/2018, Netroots Nation 18
  2. 2. Tech=Power in Organizing Websites, apps and digital tools can amplify actions into the power of the crowd, and turn your organizing ideas into national movements. But finding good tech people to partner with to build or integrate these tools with can be difficult.
  3. 3. Tech=Power in Organizing Everyone has heard stories of big wins from tech, like the Obama campaign’s use of big data, or the recent rise of peer-to-peer textbanking as a mass mobilization tactic. But everyone has also heard the stories of problematic tech culture, from arrogance to unchecked harassment.
  4. 4. Tech=Power in Organizing Tech is a powerful force. Tech is a realm that you can feel comfortable talking about, owning, shaping and leading. Tech is yours too. You need tech to be digitally visible and scale, and tech needs you to be a powerful force for change.
  5. 5. Who am I? ● CTO of since 2015 ● I hired and manage a team of 7 tech folks at MoveOn, and have brought in ~20 tech contractors for various projects ● Software Engineer for ~15 years ● Technical hiring at, Rosetta Stone, startup companies, consulting companies ● In my career, I have interviewed ~500 candidates for ~100 technical roles, reviewed ~3000 resumes / applications (20-50 per role)
  6. 6. Who are you? Let’s go around the room and get to know each other! ● Name, location, preferred gender pronouns ● Organization, role ● What do you want to get out of this training?
  7. 7. Your Experience With Tech ● Who has ever had a bad experience with a tech person? ● Who has ever had a good experience? ● Who has ever had a tech volunteer offer to “just take over” your organization’s tech? ● Who has worked with a tech person who made you feel confused or unsure of the decisions or tradeoffs being made in your project, but you didn’t feel like you could push back or get them to be more clear?
  8. 8. Goals of this Training ● Learn how to describe your organization’s tech needs ● Create a competitive process for finding tech folks who meet your needs ● Learn how to filter for people with the right tech skills and culture fit ● Feel empowered to be selective in bringing on the right tech people who are the best fit for your organization ● Become more confident talking about tech, engaging with tech, owning the language and intellectual space of tech.
  9. 9. A Typical Organizer Tech Tool Landscape ● Your organization’s website, for example ● Core engagement tools: mailers, donation and event management -- where your list lives ● Mobilization tools: petition systems, calling tools, textbanking tools ● Analytics tools: gather your data, ask it questions, and use it to drive your work ● Microsites for specific campaigns, like
  10. 10. Tech Projects that could be on your org’s horizon ● You need a new website for your organization ● You need advice on which tools to integrate with, or how ● You need website update: updating content, adding features, triaging and addressing problems ● You need to integrate a mobilization tool with your other systems ● You need help making sense of your data ● You have an idea for a new tool ● Question: what tech projects are you considering right now?
  11. 11. ● Build or buy: should you use an existing tool or build a new tool? ● Who to bring in to help: ○ A tech volunteer? ○ A tech contractor? ○ Hire full-time tech staff? ● How to bring in additional help? ● What’s the timeline? ● What’s the cost? Key Decisions to Make
  12. 12. ● Build or Buy: only build what you can’t buy. Custom builds are more expensive in time and money. Avoid reinventing the wheel when possible. ● Who to bring in to help? Most small-mid-sized orgs need project specific tech contractors most of the time. ● Timeline and cost? These both depend on the scope of the project: defining and focusing the scope of your project is key General Guidance
  13. 13. Today I’m going to focus on how to bring in project-specific tech contractors. If you’re interested in hiring full-time tech staff, I have another presentation on this here. You can invite me to come give this presentation and answer questions for your org. I’m happy to do this gratis in service of building movement tech capacity. If you’re interested in working with tech volunteers, join the Progressive Coders Network- this is a great hub for tech vols with supported onboarding and great community moderation. Our Focus Today
  14. 14. How did you find the last tech contractor you worked with? Question
  15. 15. My recommendation: run an RFP process to find tech contractors. A Request For Proposal is a description of the tech work you need done, including the timeline, any cost limitations, and what “success” or “done” means. Tech people interested in your project can read this to understand what you want, and then respond with bids. Get multiple bids, and then decide who is the best fit for your project and org. How To Find Tech People for Your Project
  16. 16. There are lots of tech industry people who got interested in politics when Trump was elected. They really want to work with you. Tech costs vary wildly. You can easily spend $0, $100, $1000, $10,000 building a website with similar designs and functionality. By making candidates compete for your business, you can drive down the cost of your project, and make sure the person you bring on is the right culture fit for your org, and a good thought partner for you. Be selective! Why Bother with an RFP?
  17. 17. You don’t have to work with the first tech person you encounter, or the only tech person you know. Tech education, skills, and experience vary widely. Not everyone is the best fit for every project. You can afford to be selective. Tech culture may lead you to believe you’re lucky to get any tech help at all. But actually tech folks are lucky to work with you. Be Selective!
  18. 18. ● Project Title ● Project Description ● Scope of Work ● Organizational Context ● Budget ● Proposal Requirements ● Timeline ● How to Apply The Structure of an RFP
  19. 19. Check out for example RFPs: ● Website Updates RFP ● Quality Assurance RFP is a drive link with all resources from this presentation Examples
  20. 20. It’s important to get as specific as possible: this limits the scope of your project, which reduces cost and risk. Why? If you ask tech folks to build “a transportation device”, you might get an airplane when you were really interested in a car. Think of “demoable deliverables” - when the project is done what will you actually be able to see and do? Describe your ideal experience of the new tool or website as specifically as possible. In the final contract, your SOW will turn into a list of things you can require are completed before payment- you’re legally describing what “done” means. Key Part: the Scope of Work
  21. 21. ● Not specific enough: “Help me with the website” ● Better: “Train me on how to update content on my website” or “Be available 5 hours / week to perform website content updates for me, as requested.” ● Not specific enough: “Make a data dashboard for my program” ● Better: “Create a graph that tracks the percentage of people who RSVPed to an event who actually showed up to this event, for all my events” ● Not specific enough: “Make me an iphone app” ● Better: “Make me an iphone app that shows all users a list of upcoming events in their area.” Statement of Work: examples
  22. 22. Starting from this RFP template: XAb9jEW1VDeIfH2eNUfF6c1pOSRI/edit let’s write an RFP for a tech project together. This can be able anything you want, and doesn’t have to be a real project. We’ll fill it out together group madlibs style. Exercise: Let’s write an RFP together
  23. 23. Now that you have an RFP describing the work you want done, it’s time to advertise it in places where tech people are already looking. You can find the full list we use here “Tech RFP Advertising list” In my experience at an all-remote org, most of the applications and proposals we’ve received for tech projects have come from We Work Remotely, with Idealist a close second. It’s important to advertise both job postings and contracting opportunities publicly, to ensure you’re recruiting from a population that is broad enough to yield candidates who are representative of our movement. Advertising RFPs
  24. 24. Once you post your RFP on some job boards, you’ll start getting proposals. Hopefully you’ll get lots of proposals! How to evaluate the proposals you get? Evaluating RFPs
  25. 25. Let’s look at a few typical examples I’ve received from recent RFP processes, to update our Wordpress blog with our new brand. Proposal: ULY_mJwNFUY/edit I required bidders describe Background, Approach, Experience, Schedule and Timeline, Cost in their proposals. Evaluating RFPs: examples
  26. 26. Anti-pattern: submitted a resume instead of the proposal Evaluating RFPs: example
  27. 27. Anti-pattern: recruiter offering to connect us with candidates. Evaluating RFPs: example
  28. 28. Anti-pattern: doesn’t answer all questions If your proposal clearly describes what information the bidder needs to include in the proposal, all candidate bids you consider should include all this info. But sometimes you’ll get bids where a friendly tech person doesn’t answer your questions, but instead offers to hop on the phone and “help” you understand your own project. Filter out these folks: they assume you don’t know what you’re talking about, and that it would be nice of them to just take over the project without clear guidance from you. This usually leads to good intentions but bad (and often expensive) execution, because they won’t have the domain expertise you have, and they won’t ask the questions they need to ensure the project is a success. Tech folks should listen to you first before making recommendations. Evaluating RFPs: example
  29. 29. An example of an excellent proposal: clear, answers all questions, appreciates your RFP. Evaluating RFPs: example
  30. 30. Some people sounds great on paper but aren’t a team fit. After selecting a top 2-3 bids from the proposals you receive, always schedule a 15min phone call to make sure that you’ll actually be able to work effectively with the contractor. Keep the agenda simple: describe the project, answer their questions, get them to verbally affirm their availability. Evaluating RFPs: always do a phone screen
  31. 31. Example bad phone screens: ● Candidate listens to me describe the project, then says “What’s your title again? You sure do know a lot about technology for a recruiter!” My sig including title was on an email we exchanged. This is not only a microaggression, but the candidate is clearly bad at details. Zero tolerance for microaggressions: you’re paying them. They need to earn your trust. ● Candidate asks if project timeline is negotiable because he “doesn’t really feel like working every day.” Nice to be in the tech oligarchy, but probably you want to bring on people who are up for doing work every day. Evaluating RFPs: phone screen gotchas from my experience
  32. 32. Good phone screens are simple and uneventful: candidate makes sure they understand the project scope and timelines, affirms their availability and willingness to communicate with you using your preferred communication mechanisms, and doesn’t make you feel dumb for asking questions. Evaluating RFPs: good phone screens
  33. 33. Once you’ve written an RFP, advertised it, collected bids, evaluated top candidates, and chosen a winner, it’s time to write a contract! Writing a good contract
  34. 34. Key components: ● Include the list of deliverables from your RFP as the “Scope of Work” and ensure that payment isn’t delivered unless you have signed off that each deliverable has been completed ● Include candidate’s promised availability and minimum hours worked per week, so that if they disappear you aren’t on the hook to still pay them ● Consider adding a “10 hour clause”, where after the first 10 hours of work completed, there’s a checkin point where either side can walk away if there isn’t a team fit, or the contractor doesn’t have the availability they thought they’d have: if your project is 100 or 1000 hours, this lets you get out early if it’s not working out, with limited financial risk. Writing a good contract
  35. 35. You can find the best tech people to work on your projects. When you create a public, competitive process for vendor selection, you’ll get a better price, find people who are more likely to be good fits, and open up opportunities to work with you to the broader tech world. You can afford to be choosy. Tech is yours too. Summary
  36. 36. All the materials we talked about today, including this slide deck, you can find here: Summary
  37. 37. Questions? Ann Lewis, @ann_lewis, 8/4/2018, Netroots Nation 18