Campaigns versus coding

Dave Cole's campaign web site.

Congressional candidates sometimes come from surprising backgrounds. Former comedians. Former American Idols. Now, thanks the current race being held in New Jersey's 2nd district, you can add programmer to that list of resumes.

Dave Cole is a former techie who grew up in New Jersey before graduating from Rutgers University. After a stint in the White House, where he helped build whitehouse.gov, he moved into the private sector to work for a startup that specialized in online maps called MapBox. According to Cole, it's a move that helped him see what government could learn from startup culture:

"Working in the private sector gave me such an opportunity to see the contrast to the way things get done, but also, how there really are good solutions out there to some of the problems that the government is facing."

 Cole says his background in coding, and the transparency of the coding community, also has a strong influence on how he thinks Congress can be more effective:

"One of the ways running for Congress can be more open is if people who are running are just completely transparent about their platforms. It’s exactly the way the best software is built in the open source community."

Part of his belief in the values of technology comes from exposure at a young age; Cole says his mom bought him a computer when he was eight years old. It's a privilege that he wants to extend into the school system, teaching coding to kids at a younger age:

"I think of it like a foreign language -- It enriches your life, and it’s something that once people are encouraged and they can see all the creative possibilities that come from it, that creates jobs."

About the author

Ben Johnson is the host of Marketplace Tech.

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