TheBridge profile: Kip Wainscott

TheBridge profile: Kip Wainscott

Kip Wainscott - NDI Photo.jpg

Name: Kip Wainscott

Current city: San Francisco, CA

Current job: Senior Advisor & Head of Silicon Valley Initiatives, National Democratic Institute (NDI)

Past job: Head of Legal & External Affairs, CrowdJustice; Senior Director of Cabinet Affairs/Senior Policy Advisor, the White House; Senior Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice

Q. Favorite spot for a coffee meeting: Sightglass Coffee in SoMa is my go-to.

Q. Describe one skill you learned in a previous job helped you in your new job. Practicing law taught me a lot about effective advocacy, and helped me appreciate the importance of anticipating and understanding opposing arguments. I'm careful now to invest time in understanding what motivations and positions different stakeholders bring to different issues - whether you're running a small meeting or advocating a major policy shift, you'll be more persuasive and get more efficient results if you've thought about the problem from different viewpoints.

Q. Job advice in three words? Keep it interesting.

Q. How are you (or your company, org, nonprofit) currently bridging the gap between politics and tech? NDI has been working in countries around the world since 1983 to help strengthen democratic institutions and support mechanisms for political participation, and I'm leading an outpost here in the Bay Area to engage technologists and other Silicon Valley stakeholders in support of that mission. Through a blend of advocacy, information-sharing from the field, and collaborative initiatives, the goal is to help steer the relationship between tech and democracy in a harmonious direction.

Q. Morning routine? The east coast can sometimes wreak havoc on mornings in San Francisco, which I think is just a fact of life when you're working closely with DC (a lot can happen in that three-hour time difference!). More often than not, I'm replying to emails or hopping on calls before I'm able to eat anything and head to the office. It works well for me, but it doesn't amount to much of a routine typically.

Q. How many hours of sleep do you get? I aim for eight and usually hit seven. The quality of sleep is more variable.

Q. Last time you were completely unplugged? My wife and I spent a weekend camping in Big Sur a few weeks back. And more recently, the wifi was out on a transatlantic flight - it ended up being the most productive 10 hours of my week.  

Q. Favorite under the radar company? It's a recently launched nonprofit called Empower Work. The past 18 months have heightened awareness of the myriad challenges people are encountering in the workplace, including serious issues like harassment and discrimination. And in tech and data science in particular, there's also increasing attention to ethics issues, which can be difficult for employees to navigate internally with supervisors or colleagues. Empower Work provides workers with free (and anonymous) access to trained peer counselors via text or web chat, who can offer support through a wide range of workplace questions or issues. It's an important mission right now, and I think it's encouraging to see such an accessible resource emerging.

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