Daniel Mintz

February 21, 2007

Daniel Mintz is support director for the independent political advocacy group MoveOn.org. He is 24 years old and lives in Santa Barbara, California. This interview was conducted on February 19, 2007.

IMinterview: hey dan
Daniel: hey Emily
IMinterview: so political advocates: good or evil?
Daniel: wow, that’s a loaded question.
IMinterview: absolutely, starting out strong. gut reaction?
Daniel: Obviously mixed. There are tons of evil things about political advocates, but they’re not by definition evil and obviously I think the kind I do is good (well, mostly good)
IMinterview: what’s your title?
Daniel: I’m the Support Director
IMinterview: which means…
Daniel: it means that, at the moment, my #1 responsibility is coordinating all of MoveOn’s technical and member support. But I have a pretty wide-ranging portfolio. I get to pinch hit a lot
IMinterview: do you like pinch hitting?
Daniel: I love it
IMinterview: what’s an example of a recent project where you had to step in? something that wouldn’t be in your usual job description
Daniel: We just had a Virtual March on Washington against escalation in
Iraq, where we delivered hundreds of thousands of petition signatures to members of Congress and made hundreds of thousands of calls to their offices
IMinterview: wow, and what role did you play in that?
Daniel: one component of the march was MoveOn members calling other MoveOn members to encourage them to participate. In a sort of last minute decision, I bottom lined that part
IMinterview: bottom lined meaning?
Daniel: I had overall responsibility for that part of the project. the pinch hitting ends up being way more than 50% of my job
IMinterview: so your job description actually starts to not quite resemble your day to day work
Daniel: not even close. it’s just that support is entirely my realm, and it’s how I came into the organization, so it’s my title.
IMinterview: is that partially due to the size of the organization?
Daniel: yeah, I think that having such a small staff means a lot of pinch hitting, though I’m probably the biggest utility player
IMinterview: ok, let’s backtrack then. how’d you end up support director?
Daniel: well, I started doing tech support as a volunteer in June of ’04 stuck around and made my way up through the ranks up through the ’04 election
IMinterview: and then…from volunteer to employee?
Daniel: that didn’t happen for awhile. I became the volunteer manager, where I was in charge of the Support Team and that lasted a while longer. then, after Katrina, I came on as a contractor on MoveOn’s Hurricane Housing project then went back to being a volunteer. came on as a part-time contractor in February of ’06 became a full-time contractor through the ’06 elections and am now trying to transition back to being a part-time contractor so I can finish my masters, before becoming a full-time staff member in June
IMinterview: so how many hours does a full time contractor work?
Daniel: a full-time contractor, before an election, works about 100-110 hours per week, apparently, or at least I did
IMinterview: i’m not sure i was aware there were that many hours in a week
Daniel: nor was I
IMinterview: well you found them and simultaneously were working on your masters, which is in the same realm?
Daniel: well, I was simultaneously “supposed” to be working on my masters and no, it’s in a totally different realm electronic music. go figure
IMinterview: so how do you do your job?
Daniel: how do you mean? like, what’s a day in the life?
IMinterview: yeah, exactly. minus what you eat for lunch
Daniel: Well, it varies significantly depending on what I’m working on, but since MoveOn is totally virtual, my “office” looks a lot like my apartment. I climb out of bed, sit down at my computer, change my IM status from Away to Active, and I’m at the office
IMinterview: in pjs or do you get dressed first?
Daniel: well, if I wore pjs, I’d be in pjs, but usually boxers.
IMinterview: you’re painting a picture. so the green light on the computer switches on and…
Daniel: nah, the computer stays on all night, I just shake the mouse
IMinterview: specificity is a virtue
Daniel: my morning routine usually involves looking at support tickets that have been escalated
IMinterview: in layman’s terms what’s a support ticket?
Daniel: in other words, questions which the volunteers who I manage couldn’t answer. when you write to tech support, you get a ticket # so we can track the conversation
IMinterview: oh ok, so you’re their tech liaison
Daniel: well, MoveOn has an amazing staff of software developers. I’m definitely not one of them. But I’m one of the people who helps our members interact with the stuff they build.
IMinterview: so then how do you communicate with the staff?
Daniel: mostly by IM. But phone and email too. IM is definitely the dominant mode of communication.
IMinterview: ah, so this isn’t exactly a new medium
Daniel: nope. I live my life on IM.
IMinterview: do you like telecommuting?
Daniel: I was just contemplating this question as I figure out what I’m going to do about my living situation when I move back east come June. I mean, regardless, I’ll be telecommuting. and yes, I love it most of the time.
IMinterview: and the other times?
Daniel: There are definitely times when you wish you were just face-to-face. There’s definitely the danger of not getting enough human contact. I succumbed to that during the campaign last year. That was bad. It made me sad.
IMinterview: what happened then?
Daniel: Oh, I went 48 hours without seeing anyone except the UPS guy. That wasn’t a good idea.
IMinterview: geez, did you ever start talking to the computer?
Daniel: Actually, that sort of got me in trouble.When I’m working, I tend to yell an expletive when something goes wrong, even if it’s minor. It’s really not a big deal. But for the last week before the election, the whole team convened in Seattle and all of my sudden my outbursts were a bit disconcerting to the people around me.
IMinterview: because suddenly they were real-life expletives instead of just curses in caps?
Daniel: well, I would never curse to them over IM, it was just out loud to myself. I have a big “BE NICE” post-it on my monitor to keep me from cursing over IM
IMinterview: very smart. it must have been nice though to finally be with the people who you work with so closely. how many times have you actually met your co-workers face to face?
Daniel: most of them 3 times. Some who I’m close with (and some who live in
California) more times I’m seeing them all in a week, actually
IMinterview: was there much celebration after the congressional elections?
Daniel: we had a very fun night, yeah. And then woke up to news that Rumsfeld was fired. So it was a good couple of days.
IMinterview: quite a high
Daniel: Unfortunately, winning just means there’s more work to be done.
IMinterview: so your job is highly untraditional, and probably a bit grueling for the feint of heart
Daniel: definitely not for everyone. But I was lucky enough to ease into it little by little.
IMinterview: what do you think are the personality traits that bring you back to the computer every day?
Daniel: I love what I get to do so that helps
IMinterview: most days are rewarding?
Daniel: I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about it in those terms, but yeah, it’s more rewarding and more challenging than any other job I’ve had.
IMinterview: that sounds like a huge seller
Daniel: yeah. I’ve been very lucky to get to do it.
IMinterview: any final words before you get back to work-ims?
Daniel: I love that I was able to get my foot in the door and then just constantly work to make myself indispensable. it’s a much better way to find a job you like than just taking the plunge and hoping you’ll land the job you want and have your talents recognized right off.
IMinterview: it sounds like you learned and nurtured your talents as you worked there
Daniel: absolutely.
IMinterview: ok, great. appreciate all the info
Daniel: nice chatting with you
IMinterview: you too, thanks a lot
Daniel: bye
IMinterview: bye

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Alex F.

September 21, 2006

Alex is a 29 year-old third-year law student at a law school in the south. The interview was conducted on September 19, 2006.
10:17 PM
IMInterview: hi
AF: hi
IMInterview: ready?
AF: ready
IMInterview: lawyers: good or evil?
AF: on the whole good
IMInterview: what inspired you to go to law school?
AF: I knew that I always wanted to be a lawyer, but after a succession of jobs i knew that it would be the only way that I would be able to have a job that was interesting
IMInterview: why didn’t you start off in law school?
AF: I was burnt out from studying in college and felt that the time wasn’t right-I needed more time to understand what type of law i wanted to practice
IMInterview: what type of law is that?
AF: i initially thought i would practice labor law but now i probably will be involved with real estate transactions or with land use/zoning
IMInterview: how will your perspective of law have changed by the time you graduate?
AF: when you first go to law school you think that the law is basically about finding a relevant law written down somewhere and learning it and then reciting it to clients, but it’s really way more complex
IMInterview: how so?
AF: there might be different statutes or the courts may not have even dealt with this issue-so as a lawyer you have to try to figure out what is the purpose behind a law and how it applies or doesn’t apply to your client
AF: or what laws are analogous to the situation in which your client is facing
IMInterview: what is the best reason to go to law school?
AF: the best way to answer that is by saying what are the wrong reasons: ego, parents forcing you to go, waiting for a better job market,
AF: in order for you to get past the first year
AF: you are really going to have to want it in your gut
IMInterview: is the first year much different than other years?
AF: absolutely
AF: the first year is totally different than the 2nd or 3rd years
IMInterview: harder?
AF: the 1st year is basically the school doing everything it can to try to make you crazy and quit
IMInterview: haha why?
AF: multiple reasons 1) no one knows what an exam is like-so you don’t know how to prepare for it 2) the curve forces everybody to study all the time-and creates competition between classmates 3) the work load is intense-i took a total of 1 day of from august 18 to december 18 of my first semester
AF: off
IMInterview: how is it structured differently from college?
AF: college has multiple tests, quizes, papers before the final exam so you can troubleshoot along the way-law school is 1 final which your whole grade relies upon
IMInterview: sound intense . . .
AF: law school exams are tricky bec. they require that you not only understand the material
AF: but also to be able to apply it to new situations
AF: whereas, college exams are much simpler and you can get by using route memorization
IMInterview: what are the other students like?
AF: what do you mean?
IMInterview: how’s the atmosphere?
AF: everybody always says this but its true–law school is basically like high school
IMInterview: more so than like college?
AF: absolutely-everyone knows everything about each other-its a very small environment – and you spend your whole first year together in the same classes
IMInterview: is that good or bad?
AF: its good in that for the rest of your life you will always know and trust those who you went through the experience with and you have grown to be friends with
AF: its bad if you have behaved in a manner that puts people off or if you don’t play well with others, people will always, and I STRESS this, always, remember
IMInterview: what would the other students be doing if they weren’t going to be lawyers?
AF: my guess is that you would have some professors, some investment bankers (for those who could do math), english teachers, Public relations, diplomats, basically anything
IMInterview: what would you be doing?
AF: I would have wound up being a real estate investor
IMInterview: are there too many lawyers?
AF: i am not in the job market yet so I have no real experience to speak of-but I think yes there are too many
IMInterview: but not too many good ones?
AF: The lawyers that I have met through my summer internships have been amazingly talented–everyday in law school I am continually impressed with how very smart my classmates are…so I think in terms of quality there are a lot of great lawyers
IMInterview: and you will hopefully be one of them. thanks for the interview!
AF: thank you