Tatum Williams describes the unexpected tech role as a “blessing.”
By Eric Ruble
When you’re just one of 7,000 employees at a tech giant like Twitter, you might be unsure of your ability to make an impact. USC Price student Tatum Williams (MPP ’23) isn’t.
In her role as Twitter’s first public policy strategy and operations analyst, Williams says she is dedicated to protecting the public conversation by ensuring her team is equipped to advocate for Twitter users in conversations with policymakers.
The Public Policy team says it defends users’ voices on issues like freedom of expression, privacy and online safety.
“The work I do on a day-to-day basis allows and helps the Public Policy team to work with governments and public officials around the world on various policies that impact real-life public and global issues,” says Williams. “The work that we’re doing is quite literally impacting everybody around the world.”
An unexpected journey to tech
Williams spent the summer of 2021 applying for internships, but struggled to land one. She was discouraged.
Then, a recruiter from Twitter reached out to her.
“It was such a blessing,” says Williams, who grew up in Arizona and Southern California.
She began working as the first-ever intern on the Public Policy Strategy and Operations team. In the spring of 2022, she began the full-time analyst role.
When Williams graduated from Spelman College in 2019, she envisioned a career combining her interests in equity and policy. She didn’t think that marriage would occur at a tech company.
“It’s truly the best of both worlds. I couldn’t imagine this intersection to happen this way, but now that I’m here, I can’t imagine anything else,” she says.
Social media sites have infamously become vessels for spreading disinformation. Williams says she and her coworkers are responsible for stemming its spread while ensuring Twitter is a place where the social media company’s estimated 229 million daily active users can speak freely with one another.
She describes her role as ensuring “that it’s safe, appropriate and not infringing upon the rights of people who use Twitter.”
Balancing a day job with coursework
She says that when other members of the public policy team speak before lawmakers, her work provides a foundation for their presentations. The material she learns in her USC Price courses often applies directly to her work at Twitter.
“The bones of what I’ve been learning in these courses are definitely informing me in how I approach strategy and operations work for a tech policy team,” she said.
Williams specifically points to Professor Grace Bahng’s class, Foundations of Policy Analysis (PPD 554) and says her professor has “probably been the most helpful in allowing me to grow into this role at Twitter.”
Bahng says she has no doubt Williams will succeed as an analyst.
“She showed excellent insight in her policy analysis and demonstrated interest in critical, pivotal policy issues,” Bahng says of Williams. “She also asked great questions that helped further the analysis of a policy issue.”
Williams has adjusted to the challenge of being a full-time employee and full-time student. Fortunately, her team does a lot of asynchronous work, allowing her to manage her classes and homework.
USC Price student’s advice: Keep an open mind
Working in tech has made Williams more confident than ever in her decision to pursue a career in public policy. She sees her responsibilities at Twitter growing, and has her sights set on one day being involved in its philanthropic efforts.
“It’s been incredibly formative in making me decide I really want to remain in policy,” she says.
She encourages her peers to keep an open mind about job possibilities.
“A lot of us in the public policy program imagine careers in the public sector, but the private sector is so broad and there are so many different routes to explore.”