Staff Academy Alumni Spotlight: Akash Kaza | NDTC

Meet 2020 Staff Academy communications graduate, Akash Kaza. 

He just finished working for Dr. Hiral Tipirneni (AZ-6 ) during the 2020 Election. By asking the right questions, giving the opportunity his all and following through he scored a lot of wins.

One of his big campaign accomplishments was securing Bradley Whitford (Josh Lyman from “The West Wing“) for a phone bank and conversation.  

Akash has a lot of career momentum, so he agreed to talk to us about his Staff Academy experience, and why you should apply today! 

Inspiration from Democratic Leaders

What brought you to NDTC’s Staff Academy? Why did you want to pursue a career in Democratic politics?

My motive for entering politics was seeing the rampant inequality in my state. I wanted to help elect leadership who would address these issues for marginalized communities. 

I knew the 2020 Election would be one of the most important elections of our time. I needed to be on the frontline. 

Inspired by the way President Obama and Representative Ocasio-Cortez communicated, I had done a lot of writing. However, I had no idea how to get started. 

 

Staff Academy gave me “insider” skills and a jumpoff point.

 

My Story

I’m the son of immigrants who came here, so I could have a higher quality education and lifestyle. But, just 25 minutes away from where I grew up, there are woefully underfunded school districts and communities. 

Everyone in this country deserves to build a better life for themselves and their families, while realizing their full potential. And, only in the Democratic Party are there people who fight for those basic rights.

Coming Into Staff Academy

What career field were you in prior to Staff Academy? What education, experiences, skills, and training did you enter the program with?

Outside of working on my undergraduate degree in political science/economics, I worked in field on a 2018 congressional primary. That was it. 

Gaining Valuable Skills

What obstacles did you face in pursuing a career in politics prior to Staff Academy?

It’s difficult to know where to start. There are so many unpaid internships that, while rewarding, aren’t sustainable. 

I loved field work, but I wanted to get into communications on a campaign. 

I needed to learn skills like pitching to the press or drafting a communications plan. I had no way of getting that experience, and nowhere to go to find these opportunities. 

I knew a few people back home in Connecticut, but I wanted to work in a battleground state. And, I didn’t know a single person out there.

Developing Your Career

How has your career progressed after graduating from Staff Academy? What have you done since then?

I accepted a communications assistant role in a congressional race in Arizona. Currently, I still have one more semester left in undergrad. After graduation, I plan to look for another communications role in the 2021 race—special or local election.

How did Staff Academy prepare you to advance your career?

Staff Academy taught me a lot of soft skills such as how to interview and how to develop your elevator pitch. But, I think the most important skill it taught was how to create a culture of intersectionality, inclusiveness, norm-setting

Staff Academy Creates Inclusive Cultures

For a team to function well, it needs to set norms and hold people accountable to one another. You want team members to buy into the team. That happens when each person knows they are respected and genuinely valued. 

It’s important to lift up marginalized voices, be inclusive of all perspectives, and set workplace norms. I even notice I work a lot harder when I know the people around me want me to succeed. I want to replicate this culture in my future workplaces.

Accessibility and Support is Key

What would you say is the best part of Staff Academy?

The accessibility of Staff Academy makes it easy to go through the modules and learn the tricks of the trade. 

You get to interact with people from all over the country with different backgrounds. This program provides a space where you learn from one another. 

Once the program is over, it’s not like your coaches, mentors, and community go away. They respond to questions quickly, regularly check-in, and remain a resource.  

They post job listings frequently, and lift up their connections to the employer. Having those relationships really can give you that extra edge. 

The support structure that Staff Academy provides is truly invaluable.

 

Even If You’re Unsure, Apply! 

Do you have advice for those who want to apply, but might be hesitant?

If your worry is you don’t know which side of campaigns you want to be on, this is still the program for you! You can always pick the brain of people/coaches on different tracks, and use the resources they have. 

If your worry is you don’t know if you want to be on campaigns at all, this is still the program for you! A lot of the tools you learn in Staff Academy translate into other fields. It’s all about professional development. 

Plus, it’s just a fun experience that’s well-run. Staff Academy has great trainers and guest speakers, and you make a lot of great friends. 

Staff Academy Needs You

Staff Academy is a program for those who want to launch their political careers. Like Akash said, it doesn’t matter if you are already on the path to working in politics or not. 

You may have only volunteered on a campaign or two. You may have never worked on a campaign. But, in the times we are living, you want to use your career to make a difference. 

The truth is, we need you. We need passionate progressive Democrats who want to make change in their local communities. These leaders understand how powerful our local and state level races are and they need your help to run.

Let’s help elect Democrats up and down the ballot in 2021 and beyond. 

TRAIN TO LEAD

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