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