The Washington Posts's first ever “chief digital officer” came aboard the newspaper, where he also oversees Newsweek's online efforts, after three years of working diligently to help elect liberals and Democrats to office -- including Barack Obama. A short profile of Vijay Ravindran, in the July issue of Washingtonian magazine, noted that “Democratic strategist and entrepreneur Harold Ickes,” a veteran of the Clinton administration and 1996 re-election campaign, enlisted “Ravindran to build Catalist, a national voter database for Democratic candidates and liberal organizations. From the fall of 2005 through the election of Barack Obama, Ravindran built systems for Catalist.” His title at Catalist: Chief Technology Officer.
Catalist, which dubs itself “The Future of Progressive Organizing,” lists a who's who of left-wing groups and causes on its client list, from ACORN and the AFL-CIO to Wellstone Action, with MoveOn.org, the National Resources Defense Council and Obama for America (the official Obama campaign) alphabetically in between.
In an interview last November with the “Sepia Mutiny” blog about South Asians, Ravindran recounted his political/career odyssey, including how “I feel somewhat embarrassed that I didn't appreciate the Clinton years.”
(Meanwhile, one of Ravindran's colleagues is sliding over to the Obama administration. The Post's “Federal Eye” blogger, Ed O'Keefe, disclosed Wednesday: “Washington Post Digital Vice President and General Counsel Sherrese Smith will join the FCC as legal adviser to chairman Julius Genachowski.” O'Keefe described Obama nominee Genachowski as “a close friend of President Obama” who “also worked on his presidential campaign and helped raise money from the telecommunications sector.”)
Hat tip to DCRTV.com for both job moves.
An excerpt from Ravindran's comments to Sepia Mutiny about his personal political odyssey:
I cared enough to vote, and always had strong feelings about voting Democratic prior to 2004, but I didn’t do anything beyond that. Looking back, I feel somewhat embarrassed that I didn’t appreciate the Clinton years. I was a college 1st year when Clinton got elected to his first term. I was happy, but not as happy as I should have been. And as someone who had the summer off before joining the workforce in 1996, I barely paid attention to the re-election. And volunteering never crossed my mind.
My wife has always been a personal trail blazer for me. She’s the reason I moved to Seattle and took the first job I could find in 1998 (Amazon). She became active in 2000 campaigning for Gore and Cantwell, and protesting the outcome after the election was stolen.
But like so many other people I know, my eyes were opened to how important politics and which political party is in power by the aftermath of 9/11. In small ways, I got more involved in 2004; I gave money for the first time, caucused in Washington State during the primary, and canvassed in South Seattle for Kerry/Gregoire. But my imagination really got stirred when I heard tales from two of my friends who I had worked with at Amazon, who had retired prior to 2004. They had volunteered in Cuyahoga County & DC and actually did technology related work for the Kerry Campaign and the DNC respectively. I had never realized that my day job skills could be put to such relevant use. So that definitely got me thinking, but it was a pipe dream at that point. I’m not much of a career roadmap guy, so I didn’t know what to do with the pipe dream. But then lo and behold, my wife who had been working on her PhD in Seattle got a great faculty offer from the University of Maryland at College Park, and we decided to move to Washington DC. Through my two politically active Amazonian friends, I was connected to Harold Ickes. We hit it off really well, and things just fell into place. It was meant to be...
Ravindran, who also holds the title of Senior Vice President of the Washington Post Company, donated $4,600 to Obama's campaign last year a little less to John Kerry and Wesley Clark in 2004, according to a Huffington Post list.
Catalist is transforming the way progressive organizations communicate and campaign by creating a comprehensive, well-maintained national database of all voting-age individuals in the United States, along with the tools and expertise needed to make this database broadly accessible, at an affordable price.
Ravindran's job may be a support role to distribute the work of journalists, but he also decides which content to promote. In “Can This Geek Save the Post?” Harry Jaffe reported that Ravindran, who joined the Post's staff in February, “delivered his first 'product,' a streaming conversation for the Post Company’s online magazine, Slate, across Twitter and Facebook. The first installment was a five-part series about the use of animals in medical research. He hopes it will be one of the 'kernels' to build Post revenues.”
An excerpt from the magazine item posted Tuesday on the Washingtonian's “Capitol Comment” blog (which has a picture of Ravindran):
...Ravindran, 35, is a sweet, mild-mannered geek. He grew up in Norman, Oklahoma, where his father taught industrial engineering. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1996 and went into software development for American Management Systems.
“I cut my teeth as a programmer,” he says.
Ravindran sharpened them developing software for Amazon.com. He had seven jobs in as many years, eventually “running teams working on the guts of the Amazon platform.” He developed ways to make it easier for customers to buy more things more easily. When his wife landed a teaching job at the University of Maryland, Ravindran came east and asked: “What next?”
Democratic strategist and entrepreneur Harold Ickes helped answer the question by enlisting Ravindran to build Catalist, a national voter database for Democratic candidates and liberal organizations. From the fall of 2005 through the election of Barack Obama, Ravindran built systems for Catalist. After the election, Amazon board member — and Smithsonian board chair — Patricia Stonesifer introduced him to [Post Publisher Don] Graham.
“We hit it off really well,” says Ravindran. “He knew there was a strong need to innovate in the digital space and the Post had to make an investment to grow internally.”...
For more revolving door names, check my early May posting: “Third CNN Staffer Joins Obama's Team, As Does ABC Vet; Revolving Door Up to Ten.”