The Democratic National Committee’s chief technology officer is stepping down from his role, ending a near two-year tenure during which he helped overhaul the party’s data practices and heighten its attention to digital security following the hacks that upended the 2016 election.
Raffi Krikorian, 40, will return to California to join the Emerson Collective, the philanthropy company founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, a DNC official confirmed on Thursday. He served as Twitter’s vice president of engineering and ran Uber’s self-driving cars project before joining the Democratic Party in the summer of 2017, taking on his first job in politics at a time when the DNC faced an urgent need to reimagine its internal approach to tech and cybersecurity.
One year after hackers leaked a cache of stolen DNC emails — a cyberattack that revealed an unfair bias against Bernie Sanders, led to the resignation of former party chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and made the party a source of fierce dissatisfaction and distrust among progressives — Krikorian took the helm of a team still “demoralized” by the ordeal.
“The mood is changing in the building,” Krikorian said in an interview about six weeks after starting the job, promising a party-wide “culture change” around digital security and tech.
For Krikorian, that meant a sweep of structural changes, large and small, inside the building.
During his tenure, the DNC moved its data operations in-house for the first time; taught the chair of the DNC, Tom Perez, how to use the encrypted messaging app, Signal; instituted regular simulating phishing drills; pressured state parties to update their own practices; and hired a top Silicon Valley official, former Yahoo executive Bob Lord, to step in as chief security officer.
Since 2017, a DNC official said, Krikorian grew the technology department from 14 staffers, at a time when the party mostly relied on contractors, to a team of 40 full-time employees.
Krikorian departs amid a Democratic primary poised to draw a record number of presidential campaigns. Alongside Lord, Krikorian’s team has tried in recent weeks to ensure that each candidate is prepared to guard against foreign-sponsored hacking during the 2020 race, releasing a best-practices checklist alongside a 10-minute informational video.
Krikorian will continue his work at the DNC for a period of time as a senior advisor to complete some projects. His deputy, Lindsey Schuh Cortés, will serve as acting chief technology officer while the DNC conducts a search for a full-time replacement.
Perez, the chair of the DNC, said in a statement that Krikorian helped “bring our technological infrastructure into the modern age,” making the DNC “stronger and more secure than ever before.”
“He leaves the DNC better equipped than ever to take on Donald Trump in 2020,” Perez said.