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Reinventing Roles for a New Era: Government Relations

The COVID-19 pandemic is not only changing where and how we work, it is reinventing job roles — possibly permanently.

As part of a Q&A series, Samsung employees across business areas are sharing their views on how they have redefined their roles for today and what they expect their roles to look like in the future. They are also are offering advice to those now entering the profession as the collective workforce discussion shifts from what now to what next.

Kevin O'Hanlon in his home office.
Since working remotely, Kevin has decided to grow a beard – something you don’t usually see a lobbyist sporting in our nation’s capitol.

Name: Kevin O’Hanlon [LinkedIn]
Title: Director, Government Relations
Location: Samsung Solutions Center, Washington, D.C.
Years with Samsung: 4 months

1. What inspired you to pursue a career in Government Relations?

I never set out to be a lobbyist. I started working on Capitol Hill right out of college for the member of Congress that represented my university, Congressman Heath Shuler (D-NC). After Heath retired, I decided it was time to explore a career that wasn’t subject to review every two years with the election cycle. I ended up working for a small lobbying firm representing a broad range of companies and industries – broad meaning everything from the Association of Kentucky Fried Chicken Franchisees and LifeLock to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the video game industry trade association. From there, I had the pleasure of spending five years in the nerdiest and arguably the most perfect role for me (I’m a huge gamer) as the video game industry lobbyist for ESA. But when the opportunity came to join the Samsung Government Relations team, it was too good to pass up. I am an early adopter of new, cutting edge technologies, and educating government stakeholders on behalf of Samsung about the future of technology is an incredible job.

Kevin O'Hanlon shaking hands with President Clinton
As a lobbyist, Kevin O’Hanlon has the opportunity to meet important people in our government – including former President Bill Clinton! Smiles all around.

2. How would you describe your day-to-day role pre-COVID?

In person. As a government relations professional, a significant amount of my time is dedicated to meeting with government officials and their staffs. Conducting face-to-face meetings and interactive educational efforts is inarguably the best way to convey the company’s values, history and commitment to America, as well as showcase our next-gen products, solutions and services. For instance, we held an event at the Samsung Solutions Center in Washington, D.C. right after the Galaxy S20 series and the Z Flip were unveiled at Unpacked. Attendees, including members of Congress and their staffs, were not only blown away by the new devices, they experienced the power of 5G, which underscored the importance of 5G technology and networks.

Kevin O'Hanlon at an event.
Kevin O’Hanlon showcases Samsung’s latest technology to government officials and their staffs at a past event at the Samsung Solution Center in Washington, DC, which typically hosts a number of events on an annual basis.

3. How have you reimagined your role for today?

It has been an interesting transition. Usually Congress isn’t known for moving quickly. The United States House of Representatives and the Senate especially are very deliberative bodies. Legislation takes time. In the COVID-19 era, legislation is being drafted, reviewed and passed in record time. This requires our team to provide real-time feedback and guidance on proposals that will map our country’s path forward – it’s fast-paced, but also rewarding. So, for now, we spend a lot of time on WebEx and the phone doing the same kinds of things we did before. This new reality may well have a long-term impact on future engagement.

We are also working on new and exciting projects. While the transition to telework, telemedicine and distance teaching/learning has been difficult, Samsung is helping employees, doctors/patients, and teachers/students operate more efficiently from home. We are working with both the federal and state governments to get critical technology into the hands of those who need it most. Samsung’s A10 series phones are being used as hotspots for students without home internet, and tablets and computers are allowing continuing education and driving continued health outcomes when in-person visits are not practical.

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4. What changes will you expect to keep for the future and why?

For a profession that is so heavily dependent on in-person interaction, I think COVID-19 will have long lasting effects. Whether it’s large group meetings, visiting the Capitol complex, or flying out to congressional districts across the country to bring elected officials to their local Samsung facilities, everybody is going to be more cautious about social interaction. More of our work will be conducted remotely and in-person meetings will be likely be reserved for important assemblies and opportunities. The idea of walking around the United States Capitol Building with everyone in masks is a very strange one! Ultimately, I see technology leading the way forward and providing many of the solutions we will need.

5. Is there anyone in your life that has taught you to adapt to change?

I have to give a lot of credit to Congressman Shuler and the people of the 11th Congressional District of North Carolina. I grew up in New England, so going to college in Western North Carolina and ultimately working for the local member of Congress was a drastic change. Everything is different, from phone etiquette to the pronunciation of local names and places. The school and work experience helped to break me out of my comfort zone and immersed me in a new part of American culture. It was an incredible lesson in adapting to change.

6. What advice do you have for those now entering your profession?

There has never been a better time to enter public service. Whether it’s going to work on Capitol Hill or in government affairs, this crisis has created an immense opportunity to help make a difference and drive outcomes for the causes that mean the most to you. Getting your first job is the hardest, but after that, the specialized experience that you get on the job sets you up for some incredible work later on in your career. I worked on Capitol Hill during the era of the Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank Act and other pieces of legislation that have fundamentally changed the country.

There has never been a better time to enter public service. Whether it’s going to work on Capitol Hill or in government affairs, this crisis has created an immense opportunity to help make a difference and drive outcomes for the causes that mean the most to you.

Kevin O’Hanlon Director, Government Relations

7. And, lastly, what piece of tech can you currently not live without?

It has to be my Galaxy Tab S6 with the S Pen. I always take copious notes, but I had a terrible habit of having three or four active notebooks at one time (one for office meetings, one for out of office meetings, etc.). Being able to write on the tab and have all my notes consolidated in one place and immediately shareable has been a game changer. Now, working from home, I’m able to stay organized in a way that will allow me to integrate back to the office.

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