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What’s the Secret to Balancing a Hill Job and Extracurriculars?

Yuri Beckelman runs training events and still has time to sleep

Yuri Beckelman, from the office of California Rep. Mark Takano, does a lot in a year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Yuri Beckelman, from the office of California Rep. Mark Takano, does a lot in a year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Yuri Beckelman is the deputy chief of staff and legislative director for California Democratic Rep. Mark Takano, but he has much more than that on his plate.

He runs four Capitol Hill training and recurring networking events, in addition to his full-time job, but his secret is simple.

“The only way that you can do any of these projects is if you work out a clear vision of what you’re trying to accomplish and then you find really smart people to work on it with you,” Beckelman said. “That’s it, that’s the secret.”

“People on the Hill are busy, everyone is busy, but they’re also looking for leadership opportunities and a creative outlet,” he added.

Beckelman, 34, said he has time because he hasn’t sent out his resume in the four years since Takano took office.

“It’s a full-time job, looking for a job,” he said. “You are so much more effective when you just focus on creating something.”

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Beckelman started one project three years ago when he found out what happens when you put 100 staffers in a room with no set agenda.

“It’s an uncomfortable setting for most people. This is an all-day-long thing and you have to figure out your way. So people make a lot of friends,” he said.

DemConFab is a twice-a-year peer teaching training session, on a Saturday, for Democratic staffers from all levels and both chambers.

Beckelman kicks off the all-day event by putting up a big board with a list of rooms and blank schedule slots — nothing else.

“It’s terrifying for the first three minutes when there’s nothing on the board,” he said.

Eventually, people start filling out cards to post in the schedule slots with what workshop they want to hold.

Workshops cover anything from teaching graphic design, management 101, to rules and the appropriations process.

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“You never can tell what’s going to be really popular. One of the most popular for a really long time was ‘Op-Eds in an Hour,’” he said.

The day is limited to 80 to 100 people. It’s held off the Hill and is free, but people donate for lunch.

“It doesn’t require a lot of organizing because there is no set agenda,” Beckelman said.

Then there are other projects.

He has planned five Beta Labs, which involve presentations from four companies over the course of an hour.

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“None of the bland ‘Here’s our analytics.’ It’s ‘Here’s how your office can use it tomorrow,’ ” he said.

Beckelman teamed up with staffers from House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer’s office to recruit large and small companies, from Slack to Cloakroom, to teach staffers.

He also runs Digital Academy, which gets 20 staffers to commit to a six-week program. For three hours every Friday, they go to a company for a hands-on workshop.

“We shouldn’t be using vendors to buy Facebook ads, that’s crazy. We should know how to do it ourselves,” he said.

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Over a year and a half since the program started, it has graduated three classes and 60 staffers, all lower- to mid-level.

And, the Capitol Maker Fair brings in 50 inventors and entrepreneurs to show off what they have built and created to those on Capitol Hill. Beckelman started it two years ago and the last event over the summer was attended by 850 people in the Rayburn cafeteria.

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