Meet Code for America’s New Chief of People, Equity, and Operations

A Q&A with the newest member of our leadership team, Leslie Campbell
a red illustration of Leslie with a quote from the article

Today, we’re welcoming a new addition to the Code for America leadership team: Leslie Campbell, joining us as our Chief of People, Equity, and Operations. Leslie comes to Code for America with over 25 years of experience, much of it in mission-driven organizations like ours.

“We are so thrilled to welcome Leslie Campbell as our new Chief of People, Equity, and Operations,” said Code for America CEO Amanda Renteria. “Leslie brings deep experience in human resources and operations. She will lead our organization’s efforts to continue to foster a culture of dignity, inclusiveness, and respect. We’re excited to have her on board.”

To introduce Leslie, we asked her a few questions about her background, her passions in work and life, and her vision for where Code for America can grow in the next few years.

What drew you to Code for America?

I made a personal commitment not too long ago to work in a mission-driven organization that fights for social justice and service to underserved communities―and when I learned about the Code for America role, I knew it was the right fit.

I believe in Code for America’s mission―leveraging technology to make government work for everyone, especially those in underserved communities and with lived experience.

And through the interview process, I felt like Code for America didn’t just talk the talk, they walked the walk. I saw a leadership team, made up of people of color, committed to DEI, engaged and doing the work―and that excites me.

Your title is Chief of People, Equity, and Operations―what do you think ties those three areas together?

For me, it’s all about the human element. In my work, I always think about how we care for people, how we maximize performance, and what can we do to continue to make the organization a great place to work. The human element underlies each of these things―and when we do it right―we treat people with dignity, fairness, and equity.

What’s your vision for developing Code for America’s culture?

Vision-wise, the big question is always how to create a culture that allows people to show up as themselves and feel empowered to do great work. Oftentimes, when we’re working, we are thinking about what we need to do to show up for others. But in doing so, we sometimes sacrifice some of ourselves. You see that sometimes with regard to work-life balance. So the mission is to create policies, structures, and an environment that makes clear that we know that you’re a complete person, and we value that.

What factors go into a decision like return to work?

Code for America has been doing surveys to get a feel for how safe our employees feel, especially considering the onset of the Delta variant.

As we make decisions about the future, we have to take into account a number of things―personal factors for folks who may have health concerns, or have family members with health concerns; the fact that many of our people take public transportation to and from work; and the reality that we’ve proven to be effective in a remote space; and so much more.

In essence, we have to think about how to balance the flexibility and respect that comes with being remote with the need to be in person some of the time to build that strong culture. These are not easy questions, and every place of work is grappling with them.

How do you think an organization’s internal culture affects its ability to be effective externally?

I think that the values of the organization show up in how it supports its people. We’ve got to listen first, include those who have been excluded, and act with intention. People want to hold that space with each other, and extend it to the broader community. At Code for America, we work every day to ensure that people from all walks of life have access to government services. It is important that the same values which form the foundation for our external work―equity, dignity, fairness―provide the foundation for our internal culture as well.

How does your background help you as you join Code for America?

I’ve had a great deal of experience leading human resources and operations for organizations. For Code for America, which has nearly doubled in size through the pandemic, this means that we have increased challenges and demands on both the people and the operational side. We have to make sure that we’ve set up appropriate policies, structures, and culture to support the growth in work and the growth in people.

Can you share what you love about living in Oakland?

I love the diversity and progressive values of the East Bay. I’m from New York. I lived in San Jose. I love the ability to go out and see a little bit of everyone and experience different cultures just outside your front door.

A lot of my activities are centered around my son, a special needs kiddo who is 13. I love going to events to cheer him on―whether it’s for swimming, basketball, soccer, or running.

I also love doing work in my community. I’m a founding member of PREC―the Piedmont Racial Equity Campaign.

And finally, you can’t beat the weather. I love being outdoors, going on walks, especially around Lake Merritt.

Where do you see the organization in five years?

It’s early in the game, but I think as we continue to grow and scale, we will probably make some key decisions about whether we add employee centers in additional states.

As we look to the future, I appreciate the fact that Code for America has made the decision to include someone at the C-Level in charge of equity.

Since George Floyd was murdered, organizations across the country are reexamining what racial equity looks like. So for us, we have to be even more mindful of how we do our work―and whether it’s individual activities or larger systems―we have to build structures to support equity and create opportunities for inclusion. We have to consistently be change agents and challenge others to do the same.

So I appreciate that this organization is committed to equity and works every day to walk the walk.