Data and the DNC

Lauren Pully BS’11 is putting her Columbia training to work at the Democratic National Committee.

Nov 09 2023 | By Jennifer Ernst Beaudry
Lauren Pully

Lauren Pully BS'11 at the 2019 Texas Democratic Party's Annual Johnson-Jordan dinner. Credit: Lauren Pully

All of Lauren Pully’s roads have prepared her for latest role: Head of Engineering at the Democratic National Committee (DNC). 

Pully was named to the position in June, following a two-year tenure at Cisco-owned network security firm Duo Security, where she had served as head of endpoint engineering. As head of engineering for the DNC, she oversees the team of engineers who work on voter file processing for races all across the country, from city council positions all the way to president. 

She’s also tasked with overseeing development of applications aiding voter education and voter protection efforts. And as the United States gears up for a high-stakes 2024 presidential election — and consequential elections up and down the ballot in all 50 states — Pully said her new role is a major opportunity to make a difference. 

“It’s a really exciting time to be jumping in, and as the news is getting crazier and crazier, it’s really important for me to be fighting for a cause I believe in,” she said.

But while Pully may have come to the DNC from private industry, she’s no newcomer to the political scene. Since graduating Columbia Engineering, she’s grown her career in parallel across politics and the private sector.

Prior to taking her role at Duo, where she oversaw six engineering teams working on security products, she served as the first chief technology officer for the Texas Democratic Party, supporting analytics and targeting for more than 1,500 candidates across the state. Her previous roles have also included engagement manager for McKinsey & Co.; and software development for Goldman Sachs as well as Hillary for America’s tech team. 

Pully said her time working in both fields have informed each other — and strengthened her skills in both.

“There’s a lot of differences between politics and the private sector, but they complement each other really well. In the private sector, I could really focus on my own development, and there are amazing career growth resources that frankly you don’t have available elsewhere, like trainings and coaches,” she said.

“But I also think my political career has really been great for my overall career as I go back into the private sector,” she added. “In politics, the pace is fast and you make a lot of decisions very quickly, for better or worse. The amount of responsibility is pretty unparalleled.”

Data, politics, votes

With her role at the DNC, Pully will draw on all her previous experiences. Her team is charged with ingesting and processing all the voter file data for races at all levels from all states and ensuring that any Democratic campaign can access the information they need. 

As part of their efforts, the team maintains the “I Will Vote” website, which lets voters check to see if they’re registered to vote (and get registered if they aren’t) and connects them to information about their polling place and early voting opportunities so they can make a plan to vote.

Whether it’s campaign managers, the data team or voters, Pully said, the needs are the same.

“Our biggest challenge is making sure that everyone has all the data accessible to them, that they’re supporting all the stakeholders the way they need to be supported,” she said. 

Pully’s team also powers two critical voter protection initiatives: One, collecting data on the ground during election day, as well as disseminating information to voters if polling locations or hours change on the fly. 

It’s a big mandate, but Pully said she feels prepared, in no small part thanks to her time at Columbia. 

“I definitely feel like I learned an approach to problem solving at Columbia that really influenced the way I approach problems and challenges,” she said.

It starts at Columbia

Zila Acosta-Grimes and Lauren Pulley at the 2011 Columbia commencement

Lauren Pully BS'11 (right) pictured at graduation with Zila Acosta-Grimes CC'11, LAW'15. Credit:Lauren Pully

Pully, who applied and was accepted for early admission at Columbia Engineering in 2007, said she arrived on campus not fully sure what she wanted to do. But after Introduction to Java in the first semester of her freshman year, found herself hooked on computer science. 

“We were taught how to solve problems using the tools we have in the toolbox,” she said. “I think at the time I sometimes felt, Well, why haven’t we learned every detail of Python or any of the other languages? But when I started working, I felt like I was prepared on how to learn the systems I encountered, rather than having only one narrow skillset.”

As her team settles in for a long and competitive year, Pully sees ample opportunities to put that education to the test as she grows her team. 

“That approach to thinking and doing means I can dive into [any kind of] problem, and I learned that at Columbia."

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