You can’t live in D.C. and not have an opinion. If you don’t work in politics, you still know a lot about it. It’s the world you live in. Millennials here still read newspapers, talk about the Iowa caucus, and work on political campaigns (or know someone who does). That means if you’re meeting Kamau Mandela Marshall, you’re being 2nd degree linked to his record politico vitae, running press and communications for some of our country’s most notable Democratic leaders.
On a Saturday afternoon in July, I caught up with Kamau, to learn more about how he rises to his call to public service. Posted up in the DC neighborhood of NOMA, I find Kamau fielding work calls from his current boss, Rep. Al Green. This Alum of the 2016 Hillary Clinton Campaign, Barack Obama Administration, Rep. Elijah Cummings, U.S. Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, and SKDKnickerbocker, shared insights on his journey to the nation’s capital. A destination where Kamau has launched himself into the kind of life he’s always wanted to live, but there’s a trade-off to living in Washington, D.C., the District is dominated by politics; it’s a one-industry town, like Hollywood. And the people in it are wholly consumed by it.
1. Location: Washington, DC Noma NE
2. Current Gig: Communications Director on Capitol Hill
3. One word that best describes how you work: Strategic. I’m doing so much, so I have to be very strategic on everything I take on.
4. Current mobile device: iPhone 7 Plus and an iPhone 7
5. Current computer: Macbook Air (I use this the most) and a HP Pro Book.
6. First of all, tell me a little about your background and how you got to where you are today. I think my calling in ministry is to be a Public Servant. In my opinion, great leaders do not desire to lead but to serve. I feel this stems from my parents. My mother is a former teacher, first lady of the church, stay at home mom, and most of all, a nurturer. My father is a minister, teacher, and a community activist. People thought I would be a minister because of my father, but I never wanted to be a minister. However, being around so many different types of people while growing up and moving around all the time (7 cities, and 6 states), played a critical role in driving me towards my current life pursuits. Being a person of the people has always been in my nature.
7. What apps, software, or tools can’t you live without? I can live without all of them. But that mindset doesn’t go well with my job. So, my outlook calendar is a necessity, email, social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat), my two iPads and iPhones.
8. What’s your workspace setup like? There’s a lot going on. It starts with a large cubicle, two large computer monitors, three small TV Screens, and my Apple Macbook air, work iPad, and tons of press statements, along with written documents, with media notes from various communication outlets.
9. What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack? Do as much work the night before going to sleep. And I do a morning workout, which I call CampPain. I call it that because it puts me in campaign focused mood.
10. What’s your favorite to-do list manager? Outlook calendar – this connects all my events from other calendars in one place. This is where my daily tasks and scheduled interactions live. I’m constantly checking this.
11. Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why? None that I can think of, besides my phone and MacBook air.
12. What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? My super power would be being a people person, a communicator. What’s your secret? Being an Organic Gentleman, my aim is to be the black male Oprah, Obama and Biden all mixed in. Crazy but it’s the truth.
13. What do you listen to while you work? Not fortunate enough to listen to music while working. I listen to mostly press outlets on TV, various political and social influencers on TV while monitoring social media. I’m also usually reading news articles from various journalist or statements from various elected officials etc. So in the morning, it’s important for me to have my workout time i.e. using my “CampPain” time to blast my Spotify playlist, which consists of anything from jazz, gospel, old school r&b classics, to HBCU (SWAC style marching band music) all the way to classical music. I have a wide taste when it comes to music.
14. What are you currently reading? Deep Work, by Carl Newport
15. How do you recharge? What do you do when you want to forget about work? I get out of Washington, DC. Travel somewhere out side of DC, so I can unplug completely. I love to go see my parents. They’re in the country, i.e. Henderson, NC. Also, I go visit old friends in Houston, TX. Between my old friends and my family, they keep me grounded, which is always a recharge. Every time I leave and go to these southern places, it helps me to get perspective and see what’s going on out outside of the DC world.
16. Fill in the blank: I’d love to see Randall Keith Benjamin II and Gurwin Singh Ahuja answer these same questions.
17. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Watch what you do in DC, because this is the biggest smallest city, so you better be great at whatever you do. If you’re willing to put the work in, never settle, always reach higher. Pain, Purpose, and Passion will take you a long way.
18. Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans? Being the youngest of four boys, you get to learn from those before you. Also, having had the opportunity to live in diverse places, has helped define my purpose in what I do. None of us are perfect, and everything isn’t so smooth all of the time. Facing challenges, disappointment, and even failures can prepare anyone for greater things ahead. I believe you should do the unexpected, and be a person who is neither bound by social categories nor intimidated by any box labeling attempts etc. The millennial generation has the power to do whatever we put our minds too. The mind is the most powerful weapon we have in our arsenal. If our minds stay set on the possibility in what may seem impossible, being unstoppable is an understatement. If and when we settle, it is because we rationalized in our minds that the choice we made will suffice despite what we know we need.
The How I Rise series asks rising black millennial voices to share personal stories of success, hustle and more in their work to break barriers and change the world.
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Mariel Kanene is Founder and Editor of TheArtOfPersptive.co and lead storyteller with a focus on music, startups and travel. His passion for storytelling was born in Kinshasa, Congo, groomed in Dallas, Texas, and cultivated in Washington, DC where he now resides. By day, Mariel spends his days slowly trying to change the world—one meaningful interaction at a time. He loves reading factual-fiction, good podcasts, traveling, health and fitness, foreign languages and good conversations over good coffee and even better rum. He hates talking about himself in third person.Thanks for stopping by. Always appreciated. Find me on: Twitter | Instagram | Linkedin | Website.