Andrew Barkett Finds Innovative Ways to Fuel Entrepreneurship
Named First-ever Chief Technology Officer for Republican National Committee
UPDATE: Andrew Barkett is leaving his post as senior engineer at Facebook to bring his decade of experience in Silicon Valley to become the first-ever chief technology officer for the Republican National Committee.The June 4 announcement has stirred a whirlwind of media coverage, including the Huffington Post and Washington Post.Barkett will split his time between Silicon Valley and Washington, according to the reports.
“It’s essential that the Republican Party has the resources to drive voter turnout as we look toward the elections of 2014, 2016 and beyond,” Barkett said in a statement. “Silicon Valley welcomes the party’s efforts to be more creative and innovative, and I look forward to helping the party accomplish these goals.
Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted in May 2013, before Andrew Barkett accepted his position with the RNC.
Andrew Barkett’s first job was developing software for statistical process control in semiconductor factories. That evolved into his first real leadership position, as a software engineering manager.
“I learned a lot about how computers work and how they are made from my co-workers—both undergrad alum buddies from UC Berkeley and from some professors and industry experts,” he says.
As a student in the Bay Area MBA program, he worked at Google building datacenters and working on search quality. After graduating in 2009, he moved into IT management as a consultant for Nvidia, Adobe and Livescribe. At Facebook since January 2011, he managed several infrastructure engineering teams.
Long involved in—and passionate about—innovation and entrepreneurship, Barkett recently pledged a five-year gift, $50,000 to strengthen the UC Davis Big Bang! Business Plan Competition. His generous donation creates an endowment to provide long-term support and stability for the Big Bang! The goal, says Barkett, is “to increase awareness, attract competitive participants and enhance student learning.”
Read more about Andrew’s gift >
What motivated you to support the Big Bang! competition?
I believe that success comes from learning about a subject, thinking creatively about how to improve things, and then working very hard to realize that improvement. The Graduate School of Management helped me to learn about business and to think about turning my ideas into action. The Big Bang! embodies that spirit. I want to help the competition become the premier vehicle through which all members of the UC Davis community can take an idea, refine it, find collaborators, and ultimately get the help needed to realize their idea in the form of a successful business.
What are you passionate about on the job?
At Facebook, I have a very broad and diverse set of responsibilities. Facebook has an awesome culture of moving fast and working in very small teams with little red tape. Every morning when I wake up, I think about how I can help make the Facebook experience better for its more than one billion users, and I feel like every day I am able to do something tangible to contribute to that goal.
Where is your career headed?
I can see a number of different possible paths. Both my MBA and my work experience have given me all the skills I would need for an entrepreneurial venture of my own, or an “intrapreneurial” project at Facebook. I can also see myself continuing to learn and eventually moving up to be a VP or C-level executive at a company like Facebook.
How has your UC Davis MBA experience helped shape your success?
Not only did I learn a lot of critical skills at the GSM around finance and accounting, but I also made a lot of great connections. When it came time to pay more attention to budgets and forecasts within our infrastructure group at Facebook, my boss turned to me to help with that—and I turned to my network of Graduate School of Management contacts.
What is the most amazing or interesting thing that’s happened to you since graduating?
Two amazing things have happened: I’ve seen Greenlight Apparel, a company I helped to found with other former Graduate School of Management students, blossom and grow. I’ve also gotten connected with an incredible group of Silicon Valley hotshots through my GSM network.
Your favorite UC Davis MBA memory?
The trip to visit Warren Buffett was a great experience, but I also remember a comment from Marc Lowe about my future as a CEO and how much it meant to me to have a professor believe in my capabilities and potential.
In addition to all my work projects, I’m active with the Human Needs Project, which is attempting to build a platform to deliver infrastructure, education and sanitation services to some of the poorest slums in the world. I’ll be traveling to Kenya for this project later this month.