At BMA Fuel: Reed on lessons learned as Obama campaign's CTO

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Chicago—Building a great team and "practicing failure" are key to the success of technology-driven endeavors, Harper Reed, former CTO of the Obama campaign, said Tuesday at BMA Chicago's Fuel Keynote & Expo here. Reed discussed lessons he learned during his tenures at Obama for America and Chicago-based Internet T-shirt retailer, where he was CTO from 2005 to 2009. Among them, Reed highlighted the importance of "pruning" to build the most effective team. "Don't be afraid to fire people," he said. He also stressed the importance of being creative, of hiring people smarter than oneself and of building a diverse team. "We can't be afraid to hire people that look different than us," he said. "Practicing failure"—anticipating and preparing for potential problems—was also critical to the campaign's success, Reed said, detailing how his team spent a month enacting myriad technological breakdowns so it would be ready for anything. When asked what advice he had for marketers working with technology teams, Reed advised physical proximity and increased communication. "Engineers are weird; I suggest exchange programs," he said. "Sit near each other to understand priorities and how people work." Asked which social channels drove the most engagement for the Obama campaign, Reed quipped, "It wasn't Pinterest. ... It's a red state of its own." The campaign had people dedicated to various social channels, he said, including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and reddit. "There was no channel too small or too weird—except Pinterest, because it just didn't work," he said.
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