These 12 Gen Z staffers are making their mark in the Biden administration. They're primed to be the future power players in Washington and beyond.
- Gen Zers, people born after 1996, are landing top jobs in the Biden administration.
- The generation is expected to be more diverse and well-educated than those before it.
- The Gen Zers in the Biden administration have lofty ambitions for careers in politics and policy.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The Biden administration is staffing up, and the competition for jobs is stiff.
People who worked on the Biden-Harris campaign or have ties to the Democratic Party generally have an advantage when it comes to landing one of roughly 4,000 political jobs up for grabs in the new administration. The salary for these jobs ranges from about $19,000 a year to about $220,000 for the most senior jobs.
But a lucky few are getting their foot in the door early in their careers.
Insider identified 12 Gen Zers — people born after 1996, according to Pew Research Center — already working for the administration. While many in their generation are still too young to vote, some are already working at the highest levels of government and have bigger ambitions, including in politics and policy.
Scroll down to see Insider’s list of Gen Zers with top jobs in the Biden administration.
Alejandra Gonzalez, 23, is a special assistant for Western Hemisphere affairs in the National Security Council.
Gonzalez is a special assistant for Juan González, the senior director for the Western Hemisphere at the National Security Council. She handles administrative tasks, helps with projects, and plans international travel.
She joined the Biden-Harris transition team last year as the special assistant for the director of national security and foreign policy. Previously, she was the policy coordinator for National Security Action, an organization that advocates for progressive foreign policy.
Gonzalez graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, where she studied government, history, and Arabic. She’s originally from El Paso, Texas, and said she hoped to make contributions to immigration policy.
“My dad crossed the border every day for 16 years, and my mom gave up her profession to get me to where I’m standing now, so this is a really big moment for my parents and everyone who came before them,” she told Insider of working for the Biden-Harris administration.
When she was in college, she interned for the Truman National Security Project in Washington. After that, she interned for the Texas Senate campaign of Beto O’Rourke, the Texas Senate, and Annie’s List, an organization that works to elect progressive women.
Gonzalez is weighing a few options for her future: running for local or congressional office in El Paso, representing the US in diplomatic affairs with Mexico, or working in the White House again.
But she said her long-term goal was to start a nonprofit organization in El Paso that provides legal services to immigrants and refugees coming to the US.
Khanya Brann, 24, is a special assistant to the communications director.
Brann’s job entails sending out White House press releases, escorting reporters around the White House campus, and setting up interviews for staff.
Her family is originally from Trinidad and Tobago and moved to the US in 2009.
Brann, who is a graduate of Temple University, told Insider she got her start working for Biden when she interned with the campaign’s communications team in 2019. After she interned for the campaign, she became a communications fellow for Philly Counts 2020, an initiative that conducts outreach to encourage communities to participate in the census count.
She said she was very fond of her time as a fellow because she would connect with communities across the city and emphasize how a full census count would significantly affect their schools, healthcare system, and overall quality of life.
In the summer, she rejoined Biden’s campaign as a communications associate. After Biden won the presidential election, she was asked to join the team in the White House.
She described working at the White House as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
“It’s a special privilege being a part of the team charged with ensuring that communities understand our efforts to build a more inclusive and equitable country,” she said.
Brann added that some of her career aspirations included writing books and working in TV production.
Hoor Qureshi, 23, is a digital staff assistant for the Office of Digital Strategy.
Qureshi’s job is to be creative and help the Biden administration effectively communicate its messages to the American public on digital-media platforms. When she is not managing the Office of Digital Strategy’s day-to-day operations, she helps write copy for social-media posts and runs the White House’s official Snapchat account.
After graduating college in 2019, Qureshi served in the Peace Corps in Botswana before being evacuated in March 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. After abruptly returning to the US, Qureshi told Insider, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do next. At the time, her older sister was working on the Biden-Harris campaign and encouraged her to apply and join the campaign’s digital-organizing team.
When Biden won the presidential election, she joined the digital-organizing team for then-Senate candidate Jon Ossoff’s runoff campaign. Qureshi, a Georgia native, said she was “invested in electing Democratic senators to flip the Senate.”
“I knew how critical this would be for my family, friends, neighbors, and country at large,” she said.
Her time working for the Biden-Harris campaign landed Qureshi at her current job. She said she wanted to continue to work in public service and find solutions to some of the most significant issues that plague the US today, including climate change and systemic racism.
“I think it is critically important that young people, especially young people of color, continue to take up space in government at all levels,” she said. “As the child of Pakistani immigrants, a Muslim, a woman, and a young person, I recognize how my voice is key to progressing into a more — just inclusive and equitable society that works for all people.”
Matt Groum, 21, is a staff assistant for the White House Office of Presidential Personnel.
Groum’s job is to help the Biden administration fulfill its promise to create a diverse federal workforce.
Groum, who graduated from the University of Delaware, got to know the president when he worked as a policy intern at the Biden Institute. He then became a scheduling and advance intern for Biden’s presidential campaign and was the communications director for Delaware state Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton’s campaign.
Before coming to the White House, he was a special assistant on the domestic/economic team for the Biden-Harris transition.
“In looking back on my path to the White House, I place a big emphasis on the mentorship that I received from staffers who worked in local, state, and federal government,” the Wilmington, Delaware, native told Insider. “At every inflection point where I had to decide on an internship or a job, I could always count on my mentors to help steer me in the direction that best fit my passions and professional aspirations.”
Dhara Nayyar, 24, is on the research team at the Executive Office of the President at the White House.
Nayyar told Insider her job responsibilities as a researcher for the White House changed regularly, but “the overall purpose of it is to defend and protect the president and his legacy.”
She’s a first-generation American from Westchester, New York. Her parents were born in India. She went to college at American University in Washington, DC, where she did a work study as an administrative assistant for Human Rights Watch.
During college, she said she noticed that candidates who applied for internships had connections that she didn’t, so she sought out mentors. She also leaned on peers for support, whether by borrowing professional clothing or having them proofread her networking emails.
EMILY’s List, an organization that helps elect women who support reproductive rights to Congress, hired Nayyar when she graduated. Her work contributed to Democrats winning a majority in the House in the 2018 midterm elections. She then went on to do rapid-response work for the Democratic National Committee.
Nayyar said she wanted to see others like her represented at the highest levels of government. Her advice to others who feel different is to remember that their hard work will chart an easier path for others like them.
“It’s my goal to uplift more people who, like me, are beginning to reimagine what’s possible for themselves by running for office one day in the future,” she said.
Joy Ngugi, 24, is a video producer in the White House's Office of Digital Strategy.
Ngugi pitches, produces, directs, and edits video content for the White House and its social-media accounts. She recently directed the first official White House musical performance under the Biden administration.
“It was a massive effort from a lot of people who helped make it happen, especially in the time of careful COVID restrictions, and just one of the many projects I’ve loved being a part of,” she told Insider.
Ngugi is originally from Berrien Springs, Michigan, and studied documentary film at Andrews University. She previously was a TV producer at the PBS station in South Bend, Indiana. She also worked as a producer for the Biden campaign and its transition.
“Long term, I just want to make content that makes people feel seen and empowered,” she said. “That could be in film, television, government, or anywhere else. I’ve learned that being open-minded can bring about opportunities that you might not have imagined.”
Ngugi said she hadn’t planned to work in Washington but applied to many different internships, while continually improving her technical skills.
“I didn’t even know that a creative job like mine existed within the White House,” she said. “I thought I would be somewhere like LA or Atlanta making films, not working for the literal president of the United States.”
Nia Page, 23, is a special assistant to White House senior advisor Cedric Richmond.
Page got her foot in the door with Biden’s campaign team during her senior year at Spelman College in Atlanta. She emailed Biden’s campaign staff at the time and asked if they had an outreach program to connect with students from historically Black colleges and universities.
When Biden’s campaign staff told Page it did not have one, she offered to help it create and develop the program.
She told Insider her passion for advocacy stemmed from interning in college with Reps. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and John Lewis of Georgia, who are both revered for their civil-rights work.
Page later became the national African American program coordinator on Biden’s campaign, where she worked with former Rep. Cedric Richmond, who was the national cochairman of the Biden presidential campaign.
After Biden won the presidential election, Page accepted a job as a special assistant to Richmond, who is now one of the highest-ranking Black officials in the Biden administration.
Page said she spent most of her days preparing Richmond’s memos, scheduling his meetings, and coordinating public-engagement events.
When she’s not working at the White House, she is a part-time student at Harvard Graduate School of Education studying for her master’s in international education policy.
“I believe education has the ability to shape and change people’s lives,” she said.
Page said she hoped to attend law school while working at the White House and then work in the State Department someday.
Angela Perez, 23, is on the White House communications team.
When Perez isn’t traveling with the president, she spends most of her time working on press releases and fielding questions from reporters.
Perez is originally from Queens, New York, and graduated from Georgetown University in 2020.
She saw an opening in President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign as an intern shortly after graduating. A few months after she joined Biden’s campaign, she was offered a role as a communications assistant for his campaign team. Once Biden was elected, she was offered a position on his transition team and then accepted a permanent position within his administration.
Perez said working in the White House was still a surreal experience for her because she is a woman of color who didn’t have any connections to the political world coming out of college.
“I’m proud to say that I kind of did this all on my own,” she said. “I’m very thankful that I get to work under such a great president with awesome values and that I’m contributing to the administration that’s helping out the American people.”
Perez said she hadn’t ruled out a future in political journalism.
“Maybe one day I’ll return as a journalist or as an analyst or a contributor, but I kind of like where I am right now,” she said.
Juliana Rodriguez, 24, is a special assistant for advance for Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.
Rodriguez coordinates briefings, events, meetings, and travel for Granholm.
She is from Lakewood, Colorado. Her senior thesis at Harvard University focused on issues with segregation and housing.
“I’ve come to learn many of the same institutional inequities that cause disparities in housing access also cause disparities in access to affordable, clean energy sources and a nonpolluted living environment,” she told Insider.
After college, Rodriguez worked as a national advance coordinator for Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign and later was the deputy trips and surrogates director for the Biden-Harris Nevada Coordinated Campaign. She said mentors, teachers, and family members urged her to “channel my interests and talents into public service.”
“My goal for this work is to always operate with an understanding of how politics and policy can advance or inhibit justice,” she said.
Hannah Schanzer, 24, is a special assistant in the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
Schanzer received her undergraduate degree in environmental policy from Washington University in St. Louis.
One summer during college, she worked in St. Louis’ Office of Sustainability, where she helped write a grant for a tree-planting and stormwater-resiliency project.
“That experience showed me how much impact local government could have on improving people’s lives while also addressing the climate crisis,” Schanzer, who is from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, told Insider.
After college, she was a summer intern on the City Energy Project at the National Resources Defense Council. Then she moved to Sacramento, California, where she was an AmeriCorps CivicSpark fellow in the California Energy Commission’s Energy Research and Development Division.
She transitioned to a permanent position with the commission in which she conducted community outreach and engagement around its clean-energy-technology research programs. For the last two months of the election cycle, Schanzer worked as a field organizer for the Arizona Democratic Party in Maricopa County.
Her dream job, she said, would be to become the chief climate and resiliency officer of a medium-to-large city.
“I truly believe that the government needs to hire a billion more young people that are passionate about addressing climate change,” she said. “My generation views the climate crisis, the crisis of economic inequality, and the crisis of racial justice as inextricably linked.”
Seth Schuster, 22, is a regional communications director for the White House.
Schuster’s job is to respond to local and regional media inquiries in 17 states. He pitches stories, op-eds, and interviews, and plans state-specific messaging.
He is originally from Rye Brook, New York. His previous experience included a production internship at MSNBC for Stephanie Ruhle and a communications internship at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Schuster told Insider that during college at the University of Pennsylvania he felt connected to Biden because when he was a first-year student, his father was diagnosed with the same brain cancer that killed Biden’s son Beau Biden.
“I was always a politics junkie and admired him to a degree, but now his life — and the several tragedies through which he persevered — came into focus and became an inspiration to me during a difficult time,” he said.
Schuster wanted to write Biden a letter to tell him how much he had helped him but sat on it, saying he feared “some of the inevitable truths I’d have to confront if I wrote it.”
His father died eight months after his diagnosis, and Schuster decided he’d finally write the letter. He knew Biden was scheduled to speak that week at his university.
But two days before his speaking engagement, Schuster’s class had a surprise guest: Biden himself. Schuster ran up to Biden after class and told him about his father.
“He embraced me,” Schuster said, “and said, ‘I’m so, so sorry. God love ya. We’re making progress. I promise you we’re making progress. Write me that letter. Maybe we can even get together sometime.'”
Just over a year later, Schuster was working on Biden’s campaign for president. After Schuster finished college, the Biden campaign hired him to a full-time role as a national communications assistant.
Jay Vaingankar, 23, is a staff assistant to the director of management and administration at the White House.
Vaingankar described himself as a community organizer who is passionate about addressing racial inequality and injustices within the healthcare system.
The 23-year-old is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied business and international studies.
The summer before his senior year, Vaingankar joined Organizing Corps 2020, which was launched by the Democratic National Committee to help train young people of color to be field organizers in key battleground states and help increase voter-turnout rates. After he graduated college, he spent five months campaigning for Biden in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Vaingankar told Insider that much of his passion for community outreach stemmed from growing up in an area in central New Jersey that was extremely diverse.
“I learned firsthand what it means to see a broken immigration system,” he said. “I think the experiences that I’ve had growing up in my hometown, and seeing what I and so many of my classmates are going through, really inspired me to get involved in politics and become an organizer.”
Vaingankar now spends his days working on a team that keeps the White House up and running and oversees COVID-19 safety regulations in the building.
He said that in the future, he would like to join projects that focus on rebuilding trust in government and helping working-class and middle-class families.
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