Alumni Interview: Danniyal Ahmed
Danniyal Ahmed is a skilled state and federal policy attorney with a strong background in political science. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Ohio State University in 2013, where he demonstrated a keen interest in the intricate workings of government and policy. Following his undergraduate studies, Danniyal continued his academic journey at George Washington University Law School, where he obtained his Juris Doctor degree in 2017.
1. Danniyal's Education and Work Experience in Washington D.C.:
Danniyal explains that he was motivated to go to law school and intended to go to Washington D.C. and work in the government. After his time at Ohio State, he took a year to work at a law firm in Columbus, where he worked with small businesses and refugees. Danniyal eventually went to George Washington University Law School where he was able to discover the different areas of government lawyering. As a result, he learned about various legal issues ranging from contract to discrimination issues, to environmental lawsuits and national security.
Eventually, the 2016 election retriggered his career plans and during his last year in law school, he was not interested in working for an agency for the Trump administration. As a result, he tried to gain an internship or law clerkship in Congress.
2. The Skills That Have Helped Him:
Danniyal explained that his various hard and soft skills have prepared him for his career in legal and policy analysis. He described that his writing experience and skills have been crucial for political advisory, law, and his different government jobs. Danniyal specifically credits an American Intelligence Community class that he took at Ohio State for his ability to write with regard to intelligence. Today, he uses a writing guide to help interns write memos.
Danniyal also said that various soft skills including engaging social skills and the ability to make and hold small talk have allowed him to create discussions and compromises with others. Danniyal describes that these simple, yet valuable soft skills are crucial to building relationships and holding conversations with those who have vastly different opinions and viewpoints.
3. Danniyal's Experience at Ohio State and His Experience with CCWA:
During his time at Ohio State, Danniyal was heavily involved in CCWA. He explained that when he first joined, there were only five members on the team. He said the organization struggled with gaining a student interest, funding, and support. However, during his freshman year, he and people in his class decided to try and create the club themselves. In the spring of his freshman year, they hosted their first UN Conference for OSU students and gained 30 to 40 people with the first conference. After the initial UN conference, Danniyal and the team were able to host a UN conference for high schoolers. Danniyal credits the club’s success to Dr. Thompson, as he was very instrumental in helping the group gain institutional legitimacy and compete in external conference. Danniyal appreciated the community that CCWA was able to create—a community where everyone was interested in international affairs, politics, and in some degree, debates.
4. Working as Lead Council for Representative Madeleine Dean:
Danniyal recalled his time working for the Lead Council for Representative Madeleine Dean during both impeachments of Former President Donald Trump. He described the experience as chaotic and challenging, expressing burnout with judicial nominations after Justice Kavanaugh's confirmation. Danniyal emphasized the Trump Administration's significant stress test for the separation of powers and checks and balances. During this time, he became involved in the impeachment process.
During the first impeachment, Danniyal learned about the differences between the Senate and Congress, noting the Senate's broader focus on different issues and Congress's emphasis on party leadership. He worked as an intermediary between the congresswoman and staff, where Danniyal was able to navigate tight timelines, a heavy workload, and the need to catch errors. His role included helping Representative Dean convey thoughts to the public. In the second impeachment, Dean served as an impeachment manager.
5. How Danniyal Deals with Burnout:
When dealing with burnout, Danniyal discussed that the concept was not initially taken seriously in Washington, DC. He states that there is a relatively short shelf life of 2-5 years for the average person in Congress and the White House, and even he contemplated stepping away to pursue something else. Around May /June 2020, he found the demands unsustainable, yet felt did not want to step away from the position anytime soon.
To address burnout, he emphasized the importance of stepping back and critically assessing timelines, advocating for a more compassionate approach to oneself. Danniyal expressed uncertainty about whether DC has fully grasped the issue of burnout or if it can be completely resolved. He highlighted flexibility during congressional recess, allowing for a hybrid or work-from-home setup.
6. Experience During Confirmation Hearing:
During the confirmation hearings for Kentaji Brown Jackson, Danniyal described a stark difference in the confirmation compared to the confirmations during the Trump era. He described Ms. Jackson as an adept and prepared candidate, which allowed for a much simpler nomination process. Danniyal describes Ms. Jackson as a phenomenal candidate and appreciated the insightful experience.
7. Where Danniyal Sees Himself in 5-10 years:
n terms of where he will be at in 5-10 years, Danniyal is going to approach his future with an open mind. He states that doors have opened and closed for him. Especially in the past, where he had the opportunity to work on two impeachments, and this opportunity lead him to help with investigations. He says he is moving to Cleveland to figure out his next steps.
8. Advice for Political Science Students Wishing to Pursue a Career in Law of Public Service:
Danniyal encourages political students to make themselves stand out by gaining unique experiences and pursuing other academic fields along with a political science interest. He says “There are thousands of PoliSci students, many of them want government jobs and there is not room for them all. You have to have something that sets you apart, an expertise, a specific policy area or organization”. Furthermore, he encourages students to not be afraid to explore different paths and interests as the right career pathway is not always clear.