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From Campaigns to Capitol Hill: Navigating Digital Leadership

mirella manilla featured image copy of congressional spotlight interviewThis week, we spoke to Mirella Manilla, Digital Director for the Office of Senator Laphonza Butler.

Can you tell me about your career path that you’ve taken that’s led you to where you are now?

After graduating from college in 2019, I worked on several local and state campaigns, including the Jaime Harrison for U.S. Senate race and the Ossoff-Warnock GA runoff. After the conclusion of these campaigns, I redirected my communication skills and joined an entertainment public relations firm in Los Angeles. After a year on the West Coast, I came to DC and found myself at the place that I believe most thoroughly prepared me for the Senate, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI). While all my previous experiences pushed me out of my comfort zone and enhanced my skills, I firmly believe that my time as Social Media and Digital Content Manager at CHCI was pivotal in preparing me for the Senate.

During my time at CHCI, I not only acquired leadership skills and honed my digital skills, but also established a professional network in D.C. This network connected me with individuals who eventually played a crucial role in guiding me toward the Senate and facilitating the connections necessary for success in my career.

Which specific policy areas or legislative issues are you most passionate about, and how do you stay informed and engaged in those areas?

Growing up, I always heard about the immigration issues that were directly impacting my family. Seeing loved ones struggle due to the decisions of lawmakers in our country is what drove me to be involved in politics and become passionate about immigration reform. As a digital staffer, I am privileged to get to work closely and learn directly from our legislative team who constantly update me on the issues most important to my boss, Senator Laphonza Butler (CA), but also me. Watching my boss, Senator engage with these issues has been very rewarding.

What advice would you give to individuals who aspire to work on Capitol Hill?

My advice to anyone aspiring to work on Capitol Hill would be to focus on advancing their skill sets to make themselves stand out. Don’t let a couple of rejection letters discourage you from applying to different positions on the Hill. My first and only Capitol Hill experience before my current role was as an intern in 2020. After applying to many positions without success, I initially thought working on Capitol Hill might not be for me. However, I persisted by learning and growing my skills. Four years later, I decided to give it another shot and applied to a couple of offices, thinking they wouldn’t hire for a director-level role with only Hill intern experience. Yet, here I am.

Another piece of advice I would like to add is to prioritize networking. Build relationships with staffers who can provide guidance on what offices are looking for and help prepare you for interviews. The guidance I received from current and past staffers was instrumental in getting me to where I am today. Remember, it’s okay to ask for help.

What do you believe sets Capitol Hill apart as a unique work environment, and how do you navigate its challenges in your everyday work?

Working on Capitol Hill for the past several months has been an experience like no other. Meeting with both younger and older staffers and hearing their diverse experiences has broadened my perspective on the challenges many of us have faced to get here. Like any other job, working on the Hill comes with its challenges. I navigate these challenges by relying on the support of colleagues and other Senate staffers who can offer guidance.

Word association, what is the first word that comes to mind for each of these?

Policy – Change

Networking – Relationships

Writing Skills – Captivating

Working on the Hill – Rewarding

Leadership Connect – Opportunities

To be featured or learn more, reach out to Gabi Thomas, and spread the word to any colleagues who would be interested.

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Gabi Thomas

Gabi joined Leadership Connect as a Research Analyst and is now the Legislature Outreach Liaison.