Nick Pickles: Nick Clegg will do much more than lobbying for Facebook
Many of the policy questions around technology are as much constitutional as they are commercial.
The interplay between government and industry is one I’ve long been sceptical of, especially where procurement or specialist regulation is involved. There should be a much more robust framework to slow down the revolving door across every sector, and anyone who has worked in politics knows the current system of no contact on specific lobbying issues is inadequate.
That said, lobbying has always been a tiny fraction of my time in the tech industry. Far more has gone into finding solutions to the pressing public policy issues of the day and working with colleagues to address the challenges that are posed by tech.
Those challenges are often novel, new, unforeseen or equally predictable and the result of an imperfect decision-making process. That’s the same in any business, and in government.
Equally, explaining processes, rationale, frameworks where people are focussed on the first order question and not the second/third order effects of a policy proposal or corporate decision is primarily education, not lobbying.
As I said to the House of Lords communications committee a few weeks back, many of the policy questions around technology are as much constitutional as they are commercial, given the issues involve freedom of speech, privacy, geopolitics. If you care about those issues, why wouldn’t you want to work on them? Like any industry, tech is a challenging, frustrating, rewarding place to be. More perspectives in companies - including government ones - is good.
Every other industry has always hired people with Government experience to help them navigate these sorts of issues. Nick Clegg will bring great experience to Facebook and that’s not a bad thing.
In sum, work is what we do when we’re not living. If you can find a job that interests you, working with smart people on issues you care about and can contribute in a small part to solving problems, then that sounds like it might make you happy and is worth doing.
Me? I’m an idiot from Wakefield who somehow stumbled into a job that was beyond my comprehension when I was made redundant back in 2010 and moved to London without a job. I owe a huge debt to many people who have given me a chance. But here I am, in California. And every day I work with people who want to solve the very public policy challenges that are discussed every day. The solutions aren’t always obvious, easy or immediate. But just because it’s a job, don’t assume the intention isn’t genuine.
And perhaps something that I didn't make clear - words can't describe how lucky I am. Being a long way from home makes reflection harder sometimes, but even on the hard days - and there are many - I'm grateful for the opportunity to be doing this work.
Nick Pickles is senior public policy strategist at Twitter. This article is an edited version of a thread posted by Pickles on Twitter.