Jessica Gail became the chairwoman of the Democratic Communicators Network in August. By day, she’s the communications director for Indiana Democratic Rep. André Carson.
The network, commonly called DCNet, was started in 2007 by Will Jenkins, who worked on the Hill for five years and is now in public affairs at the White House.
Gail, 31, first came to the Hill in 2013 to work for former Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson from Utah. When he announced his retirement in 2014, she had to search for another job.
“I knew I wanted to stay on the Hill,” she said. “I found DCNet, got to know more [communications] people and just that networking helped me find a job.”
DCNet is made up of Democrats who work in communications for the House, Senate and executive branch. Its goal is to connect Democratic messaging operations.
Besides Gail, there is an active board made up of seven members who each help plan and carry out the activities.
“I think it’s so important to make sure that people and communicators who work on the Hill have a network and a way to get to know people to turn to when they have questions,” Gail said. “Because when I came to the Hill, I had so many questions. I didn’t know how it worked.”
“There will be a lot of new people coming in so a big goal we have in November, December, January, is making sure that right out of the gate, people know about DCNet,” she added. “They know about the things we can provide. Because it took me 10 months before I was like, ‘Oh, it exists.’”
The network’s mentee program set Gail up with Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s deputy communications director, Emily Latimer. The two meet frequently and are in constant contact over email.
“[Emily is] trying to move up the ranks a little bit and I’ve helped her with speechwriting and trying to build better relationships with reporters,” Gail said.
On becoming a mentor, she said it depends on how ready you feel.
“I knew being on the Hill three and a half years that I had enough experience,” she said. “People have a general feeling.”
The network has 1,100 staffers on its email list.
In terms of its events, “It’s kind of a mix between doing things socially, happy hours and things like that, and doing things that we’re learning from,” Gail said.
In March, there is an annual New York trip during which the network meets with news organizations. They also have various panels throughout the year such as one on speechwriting.
“So many of my friends are involved or on the Hill and to me, this is fun and this is something I enjoy doing,” Gail said. “It’s something I’m passionate about because I want to make sure people have the resources they need to do a good job.”
And Carson, her boss, has the same mindset too, Gail said.
“I think he’s so young and had great mentors in his life that he wants to see people thrive. His grandmother was in Congress and he’s really worked his way up. My goal is not to be in Congress but my goal is to have people reach their full potential and that’s his goal for everybody as well,” she said.