01 Jun 2018
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What I Do: Minnie Ingersoll (MBA 2002)

COO, Code for America
by Dan Morrell; illustrations by Peter and Maria Hoey

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Three years ago, Minnie Ingersoll pressed her career coach with a basic query: What does a COO actually do? After 12 years at Google, Ingersoll had cofounded the online car marketplace Shift in 2013, taking on the unfamiliar role. “I don’t think it’s obvious,” says Ingersoll, “and I don’t think it’s consistent from company to company.” Her new COO role at Code for America, a San Francisco–based nonprofit dedicated to improving civic tech and “strengthening America’s basic social safety net,” has proven this maxim true. “I actually own kind of the opposite of all the functions that I owned at Shift—I manage finance, I manage our marketing team, I manage the board, I manage recruiting.” While it’s been a departure, Ingersoll says the role has remained consistent from the way it was described during her first interview for the job: “How can I help this organization really scale its impact?”


“One of our big projects was to enable people in California to get food assistance from their mobile phone. To promote that, we started running Google AdWord campaigns. We’ve found that for every $10 that we spend, we can get $1,800 worth of food on the table for a family in need. I’m proud of that, not just because it’s the work that we’re doing, but also because I’m able to bring some of my skills from Google to help us run a user-growth campaign to reach people by using some reasonably basic tools of technology.”

 

“A lot of managing our board is taking what we’re doing and being able to explain those things to them. Like what do we mean by ‘systems change’? When we talk about our vision, what do those words actually mean in terms of setting up an organizational structure? We have a small but very thoughtful, connected, strong board. How do I want to use them to help us be successful?”

 

“One of the big things in recruitment is figuring out how to attract employees who reflect the people we are trying to serve. For instance, one of our core areas is criminal justice. Today, one in four Americans has a criminal record, so when we advertise positions, we are making sure that we say things like, ‘If you have a criminal record, you are welcome to apply for a job at Code for America.’ And we do advocacy, too, and help other organizations understand that they shouldn’t be ruling out applicants just because they have a criminal record. These are things that need to change in America today.”

 

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Ingersoll on how her organization is strengthening the social safety net on the Skydeck podcast

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Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 2002, Section B

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