Past Member

Matthew Stempeck

Former Alumnus, Civic Media

MS 2013
Director of Civic Technology, Microsoft

Center for Civic Media

In Matthew's first year out of the Lab, he started his own practice, Mindshine, and moved to San Francisco, where Media Lab alums represented a large percentage of the people he knew. He worked on research and design projects for Google, Voto Latino, and the MacArthur Foundation. He also had plenty of time for fun creative projects with groups like Gender Avenger and Cultivated Wit.

When Matt learned that Microsoft was building a new team focused on civic technology, he shut down his independent practice and moved to New York City to join the biggest company he has ever worked at. As Director of Civic Technology, his work is to leverage Microsoft's wide variety of resources toward social impact, with a special focus on cities. Matt's work includes the social implications of emerging tech, policy conversations, relationship building across every sector of the economy, and long term strategic projects. He gets to practice and apply many concepts as they emerge, whether that's data philanthropy or blockchains or cloud research tools.

In the second half of 2016, Matt took a civic leave of absence to lead a team in the Brooklyn headquarters of the Hillary Clinton campaign. His team helped design and run many of the campaign's SMS and call tools, peer to peer messaging tech, voter registration products, and creative online outreach. He returned to Microsoft after the election and is now actively considering his next chapter.

How did your experience at the Lab influence your next step?

The Media Lab's reputation for forward thinking and technology expertise preceded me in many conversations, though not all. The incredible people I met in and out of the Lab now comprise my wonderful network of peers, mentors, and inspirations.

My advisor, Ethan Zuckerman, was a particularly relevant force in my success coming out of the Lab. Ethan provided professional, emotional, and tactical support in establishing myself in the world and in choosing from an exciting array of options.

One other note that I didn't expect, and that may be less obvious when you're just starting out: When you're at the Media Lab, the whole world comes to you. Everyone's impressed by the years of reputation, and the brand. I got my fill of that, and the experience allowed me to pursue the most impactful work I could find without worrying about the brand was as sexy as the Lab's. I knew what that felt like, and could focus on roles where I would thrive and drive social impact rather than worry about the name brand on my resume.

People outside the Lab may only understand a vague abstraction of the work you've done there. That's OK and shouldn't get in the way of them employing you. Get to know the people who come starry-eyed through the Lab. They're here to learn from you today, but tomorrow you might want to come to them for a job or collaboration.