Norma Thayer

What nation/clan/tribal town/etc. are you from?

Enrolled Eastern Shoshone, also Northern Arapaho, from the Wind River Reservation.

How did you get into development?

I  began working in technology as a graphic designer for the Dept of  Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, when I was 20. Fast-forward to 6 years  later — I decided to take a break from school to get involved with the  2007 Nevada Democratic primary, as we had just become an early state in  the primary process for the first time. After the caucus, I had all  intentions of going back to school. However, campaign staff learned that  I had some IT background and invited me to a data training camp in  Portland. There, I learned more about managing data for a campaign and  moved to Denver to be the Colorado Data Manager for Barack Obama. After  moving to DC and working as a Data Director for the DNC, I’ve managed  data and been a database engineer for campaigns, unions, non-profits and  a couple of for-profit organizations. I am a senior political data  analyst and have spent the past couple of years as a consultant,  advising campaigns and organizations on strategy, technology and  funding.

What is it like being a Native in tech?

Honestly,  sometimes it is lonely. I have often been the only Native I knew about  in so many organizations and places. Simultaneously, it is amazing. I  can get on Twitter and follow Natives doing incredible things throughout  the country. We all bring unique perspectives to our work and find  allies who are fighting the same fights.

What has been your greatest accomplishment?

I  am most proud of training so many others in data, as well as  negotiating salary increases for data staff on campaigns. Our individual  work, especially in the political space, is not enough if we don’t  bring others along with us.

What projects are you working on now?

I  just ended a contract that I worked through the election, so I’m  looking for something new. I am currently also working on a business  plan to create an organization to train Natives on reservations to work  in data, coding and digital fields.

How do you give back to your community?

I  recently left my home state of Wyoming. While I was there, I was  thankful that I was able to participate in powwows and sweats and be  with my family. I believe that my political work everyday strives to be  something that helps all Natives through electing candidates that work  with us and supporting issues that affect us.

In what ways can Natives in tech do more for their community?

I  ask: ‘How am I helping my people?’ on at least a weekly basis. I  believe that’s a foundational value of being Native; I’ve seen it  throughout the country. We have such strong connections to our people,  Mother Earth and each other, which is phenomenal. What a gift. I would  look around, wherever you are, and see if there are Nations near you  that can use a hand, be it setting up websites or volunteering to cook  at feasts.

What would you like to see happen for tribal Nations throughout the US?

One  thing that I am personally passionate about is data sovereignty, the  idea that each Nation owns and protects its data about its people, where  they live, how to get in touch with them and how to motivate them  politically. This is a great advantage we have in organizing — the  ability to know who and where our people are. And be able to reach out  to them to get them involved with tribal, local and national issues and  candidates that touch our lives.

What would you tell younger Natives that want to get involved in engineering/development?

You  are as equally qualified as your peers. It’s an awesome field to be in,  and there’s a awesome community of Natives in Tech out there.

What are your future plans?

Eventually,  I would like to be the CTO of a small- to mid-sized organization and  start an organization that trains Natives on reservations to work in  code, data and digital fields.

Any other things you would like to share?

If  you have any interest in political organizing, or how that intersects  with technology, please reach out. Politics, be it tribal, local or  national, is about human interaction. I am most interested in how  political action translates into data and the technology surrounding  those conversions.

What is the best way to reach out to you?

By email: