TheBridge profile: Congressman Jerry McNerney
Q. Describe how a skill you learned in a previous job helped you in your current job. I started off as a field engineer on some of the first modern windmills. We started from a blank sheet of paper to develop the technology. In one instance, the blades flew off in front of investors and everybody went running for cover. It was experiences like these that helped me learn some of the best skills to have in Congress – specifically that it’s important to expect the unexpected and understand that there will always be challenges that you will need to overcome.
Q. Job advice in three words? Follow your passion.
Q. Favorite book/podcast/long-form article you recommend? There are so many great books and articles that it’s difficult to name one or even just a few, but I’ll give it a try. The Quest for a Moral Compass by Kenan Malik, The Prize by Daniel Yergin, and The Brothers by Stephen Kinzer. Books with deep historical insights are probably my favorite. I also like good technical books.
Q. How do you unwind after work? When I’m in D.C., I like to unwind with a game of paddle ball with some of my colleagues. When we’re on the paddle ball court, we’re not Democrats or Republicans. Just two people playing a game. Afterwards, we often get straight back to work, and that’s when I’ve had some very productive policy conversations that have ended up as bipartisan legislation that I’ve introduced.
Q. How are you (or your company, org, nonprofit) currently bridging the gap between innovation and regulation? As Co-Chair of the House Artificial Intelligence Caucus, I’m working to help educate my colleagues about developments in the AI field and how this impacts different policy areas. I’m collaborating with my Co-Chair, Congressman Pete Olson from Texas, to organize forums and roundtables in which our colleagues and staff can engage and learn from experts in the field. Technology moves quickly, and I think it’s critical that we try to understand the developments taking place.
Q. What can innovators learn from policymakers? Perspective. The next great idea may not be great for everyone. As lawmakers, we have to take that into account and especially weigh how already vulnerable groups could be affected by new initiatives.
Q. What can policymakers learn from innovators? How we can improve the delivery of government services to customers (the American people). That’s why I think it’s critical that we pass the AI in Government Act, which would help increase AI adoption across federal agencies and help ensure that agencies are adopting AI in a responsible way.
Q. Morning routine? I’m a morning person, so I like to get to the office early. That gives me time to read the paper, go through my emails, and write down some thoughts for the day.
Q. Living person you admire? Desmond Tutu, Pope Francis, Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama.
Q. What's one piece of advice you are still trying to master? To master work/life balance.
Q. Looking back, what advice would you give yourself in the beginning of your career? Listen to your wife.
Q. Favorite spot for a coffee meeting? Back home, I host constituent meetings at a variety of local coffee shops. For example, I hold “Congress at Your Corner” events – it’s a great opportunity to talk with folks. You get people who come specifically for the event, and then you get some people who came in for the coffee, but stay to talk about issues that they’re interested in.