Edit: Thanks for the questions! We're wrapping up for now (though some of us will try to write up some last-minute answers to the most recent questions). We'll keep an eye on this post but can't guarantee that future questions will get an answer from us.
We (an assortment of people working in operations at EA organizations) wanted to give people on the EA Forum an opportunity to ask questions to people working in operations at EA organizations. We’re here to answer your questions between February 4th-8th.
What is operations?
Operations can be quite hard to define. It’s a term, commonly used within the EA community (and less commonly outside it), for a group of areas of work that have some features in common. 80,000 Hours says:
"People in operations roles act as multipliers, aiming to enable those in the organisation to maximise their productivity. They oversee the functions crucial to every top-performinginvitation organisation, such as management, overseeing budgets, helping to hire and train new staff, and so on."
Some other areas that might be included in a broad definition of operations are office management, legal compliance, tech support, project management, fundraising, events, personal assistance and communications.
That said, opinions of how best to define operations vary a lot, so feel free to ask us questions about it!
Ideas for questions
We’re happy for people to ask questions about anything related to operations work, but for a few ideas:
- Operations as a career path, such as what skills or experience are useful
- What the day-to-day work in operations roles is like
- What certain areas of operations work consist of
We sent an invite to participate in this AMA to members of a Slack workspace for people working in operations at EA-aligned charities and nonprofits. The people answering are those who expressed interest; it’s not our intent to exclude any organizations, cause areas, or other groups.
(If any readers are currently working in a paid operations role at an EA-linked organisation – including paid local group organisers – you're welcome to join the Slack workspace we mention above, which is used for sharing expertise and resources and helping each other out with operations problems. If you'd like to join feel free to contact one of us by Forum direct message.)
Sawyer Bernath (LinkedIn) is the Executive Director of the Berkeley Existential Risk Initiative, where he manages and executes all BERI operations. Prior to joining BERI in July 2019, Sawyer spent six years working various roles in manufacturing, an experience that has significantly shaped his view of organizations and operations.
Martin Fukui is the Assistant Director at Center for Human-Compatible AI (CHAI) which is based at University of California, Berkeley. He oversees the operations, hiring, finances, external communication, events, and various other aspects. Prior to his role at CHAI, he worked at law firms and the California Bar Association before transitioning to an EA/operations career.
Sven Herrmann (LinkedIn) is the Head of Research Operations of the Global Priorities Institute at Oxford University. Prior to joining GPI, Sven worked for five years in various roles for an NGO in the sustainability sector. Previously, he also worked as a management consultant as well as post-doctoral researcher in mathematics and computational biology. He holds a PhD in mathematics.
Marisa Jurczyk (LinkedIn) started working in operations as a part-time contractor for Rethink Charity in 2018 while in university. In January 2020, she began working in operations full-time, where her responsibilities include payroll, legal compliance, bookkeeping, systems management, and volunteer management.
Abraham Rowe is the Director of Operations at Rethink Priorities. He previously co-founded and served as the Executive Director of Wild Animal Initiative, and served as the Corporate Campaigns Manager at Mercy For Animals. At Rethink Priorities, he oversees operations, communications, and development work. He also occasionally writes about invertebrates.
Kyle Scott started working in EA operations in 2014, with most of his time spent as a personal assistant at the Future of Humanity Institute and subsequently as operations manager at the Berkeley Existential Risk Initiative.
Amrit Sidhu-Brar (LinkedIn) works on operations for the Center on Long-Term Risk in London, where his responsibilities include payroll, compliance, HR, accounting and office management. His main role is part-time at 0.7FTE; alongside this he does some similar work on a freelance basis for a couple of other EA-related organisations, and is a trustee of the charity that runs the EA London local group. He previously ran operations at a UK tech startup, and before that studied medieval languages at university.Hours’
We’re all answering in a personal capacity and are not speaking on behalf of any organization, including our employers.
Other EA resources on operations
In case it’s useful background information, here some links (not intended to be an exhaustive list) to a few other places where operations has been discussed in the EA sphere:
- 80,000 Hours’s (somewhat outdated) page “Why operations management is one of the biggest bottlenecks in effective altruism”.
- EA Norway’s “So you want to do operations”, part 1 and part 2
- Swimmer963’s “What is Operations” on LessWrong
- Eli Nathan’s recent “Some scattered thoughts on operations”
- Current operations job opportunities on the 80,000 Hours Job Board
For more resources, the EA Forum’s Operations tag is a great place to look!