What I was actually doing for those 15 months in Chicago... posted

I moved to Chicago for 466 days, where I lived in 3 different neighborhoods and visited 375 different places — 239 of which were restaurants or bars. I walked around 10,087 steps (or 7.67 miles) per day, slept roughly 7.19 hours per night, and gained 1 pound before returning to Iowa.

I was actually in the city on 400 of those days and ventured out of Chicago on 117 of them. 68 of those (spread across 17 different trips) were spent in my actual home, with my wife in Iowa. I was also fortunate enough to get out to Washington DC, San Francisco, Arizona, and Napa Valley.

I spent 302 days at Obama's campaign headquarters, where as an engineer I committed over 140,000 lines of code written in 6 languages to 19 applications across 1,675 commits. I was writing this code amongst dozens of reporters who were constantly dropping in from over 30 different media companies.

My wife, Kari sent me 51 cards and visited 17 times. 24 other awesome friends were kind enough to pay me a visit as well.

I took 2,454 photos over 389 different days and only went 5 total days without tweeting for a total of 1,913 tweets.

I was also able to sneak out to 4 concerts and 3 music festivals.

... Aside from those quick stats, here are a few deets about what was actually going on.

My actual job

I started off the campaign hired as an engineer to quickly build one-off projects. I launched my first campaign application (written in a language I hadn't touched in 2 years) within 72 hours of joining.

After knocking out a handful of those, I joined the Narwhal team. Narwhal was that huge campaign API you may have heard of; the thing that moved and connected loads of campaign data while backing almost every application we built.

Eventually, I was asked to become the lead engineer of voter contact and protection. This was a team that I'd help define and staff with a handful of badasses. Together, we built a phone banking app, voter registration apps, voting location lookup APIs, a polling place volunteer assignment app, and a polling place incident tracking app.

That phone banking app scaled from a dozen concurrent users and few hundred calls per day to 7,600 concurrents and over 1 million calls made on election day.

The voter registration app registered hundreds of thousands of voters and also scaled from a few dozen concurrent visitors to 6,400 concurrents. It even sustained the traffic generated by the President mentioning the web site on reddit and across dozens of speeches and television spots. We open sourced a version of this app and released the code to the world.

The voting location lookup APIs we built went from absolutely no traffic the month before election to millions of lookups by election day.

The volunteer assignment and incident tracking apps allowed us to assign lawyers and other volunteers to polling places to make sure things were running smoothly where votes mattered most.

With all of that, I had a fairly unique experience of being able to touch a lot of different systems within the campaign. I got in over my head, learned a ton, and am extremely proud of the things we built. I am also incredibly fortunate to have worked with such brilliant folks.

Living

I started out living in supporter housing, a temporary living arrangement donated to the campaign by supporters, in Old Town Triangle. Here, I got to stay with a super nice lawyer couple in a fancy brownstone just outside the hood and near Lake Michigan.

After a few weeks there, I got a house with 3 other campaign engineers in a neighborhood just south of my favorite area - Wicker Park. Living the dorm style life was hilarious and hopefully something I will never have to do again.

I ended my stay subletting a condo with Kari in Lake View East, a neighborhood that was apparently founded by a bunch of rich suburban kids... just kidding. But seriously.

Life

Being able to actually live in and explore Chicago as a resident was amazing. I loved being able to show people the places of the city you don't typically see as a tourist. I loved not needing a car and being completely dependent on public transportation, my skateboard, or my feet. I loved the diversity, options, and neighborhood cultures.

However, after a few months in Chicago, the office became open on Saturdays. Eventually, it was open on Sundays and we were working 12+ hours per day, 7 days a week. By the end, I was going home just long enough to sleep.

I worked 65 of the last 86 hours leading up to our victory.

By doing that intense work and finishing the job we were given, I was able to enjoy city life less and less… but that's exactly what I signed up for and in the end, it was worth it.

In January, I shook a sitting President's hand for the first time.

The day after the election, I was hugged and personally thanked by that President.

Tags: OFA 2012, Work

comments

  • So proud of you and what you contributed to the campaign that elected the right man to lead our country. Thank you for sharing everything as you went along, so we could all feel one step closer to being part of his team and making a second term a reality.

    Shannon Peters posted

  • All of that would make a cool infographic

    Nicole posted

  • Ha, I thought the same thing, but that seemed like even more work than gathering the numbers.



    Plus, I'm just not that creative.

    derek posted

  • I'm exstreamly proud of you as well, and your original post about why you were choosing the job would later influence me to join up in Florida the last month of the election. Amazed.

    ZTF posted

  • Wow - Super cool man! Thanks for sharing.

    Raph posted

  • I enjoyed your story very much, a nice quiet storm.

    Jon posted

  • Broox. Thanks for all your hard work and effort. I'm looking forward to and counting on more greatness from you. Glad to be along for the ride.

    ddukes posted