TL;DR: How to contact me
If you think this might be helpful for you, please book a calendly (Zoom) or contact me in Telegram (or as a fallback, firstname.lastname@example.org). Or meet me at EAG, if there's one coming up (swapcard).
I'm also attempting to write down some of my common advice. I think there's something less good in generic textual advice compared to something customized for you, but it's my best attempt and you can see it here. It's specifically split up into a few different career stages, so at least you can get partially-custom advice by picking the correct section for you.
- For recommendations: see the comments to this post
- 1 month later.
- Jeffrey is doing something similar.
- 80,000 hours (😻) sometimes refer software developers to me.
- [2022-08-01] I'm still doing this (people sometimes ask).
- [2023-03-29] I'm trying to reduce my work on this project in favor of focusing on other EA projects. As part of this, I attempted to make my "service" more scalable by writing down common advice I give.
- I'm still interested in talking over video to devs with 4+ (or 15+) years of professional experience (not counting uni), since I think I sometimes have lots of added value there that I don't know how to translate into a post.
- I'm still open to helping all EA developers over text (or voice messages), especially (but not only) if you've read my post and have questions. W cane schedule a video call if it seems like a video'y topic. (For some questions I'll be able to reply in text or make my posts better, which also seems more scalable, and I'd love help with that. It's much easier for me to write when I'm motivated by helping a real person that I'm talking to). It's also really hard for me to improve posts without feedback, so telling me how the post didn't solve your problem would be non-ironically great.
I’m offering help with:
- Career development
- Earn more
- Get more senior positions
- Work at a role you enjoy
- Have impact
- Running a software company
- Are you a CTO/founder?
- Hiring developers
Why do I think I’ll be useful?
Update: See the comments to this post. Here are the reasons I thought I'd be useful before I started:
These are conversations I’ve been doing with friends for years.
Some results that I [conservatively] think I helped happen at least one year earlier:
- One raised their salary by over 100% in under 2 years.
- One got an entry level position as a developer (they were an analyst).
- One learned Fullstack and got accepted as a 1st employee in a funded startup.
Remember - these are cherry picked. Sometimes I talk to people and don’t help at all. But also note that I haven’t included hard-to-quantify results, such as helping someone get a better understanding of what they’re looking for, or turning something hard into something easy.
I'm mentoring two EA devs from Israel.
I’m getting a lot of positive feedback (you can ask them questions in the comments).
One got accepted to a relatively positive company (given the limited options here) that also fits many other parameters she was looking for in a job (some of the parameters were unclear to her before we spoke). We are not sure what the counterfactual is of course.
Should you contact me?
What kinds of problems do I think I’ll be useful with?
Tech Leadership (CTOs and similar)
- “They gave me a product description, what architecture should I build for it?”
- General helpless / too many fires to put out (it's not just you!)
- “There are so many things to do/learn, where to start?”
- “How many questions to ask my colleagues?”
- “How to approach learning about [technology X]?”
- “How to handle a huge existing code base?”
- “I’m not a professional software developer but I do use code at work, how can I get it to cooperate with me?”
Motivation / Psychology
- “How can I enjoy software development more?”
- “Am I good enough?”
- “How can I enjoy interviews more?”
Career planning / Changing jobs
- “Should I change jobs?”
- “How much money to ask for?”
- “How to improve my CV?”
- “How to aim for X longterm?”
- “Where do I want to aim?”
What will the mentoring look like?
- I’m offering long term mentoring where the first meeting will be over video, and most other communication will be with async text or voice messages.
- No commitment, we can stop anytime.
- I’m very informal. All my shirts have cats on them, such as:
My professional experience
See linkedin. TL;DR: I’ve been a professional developer for 14+ years.
I just left my last job hoping to work on an EA project, and this is one of the things I'm trying out.
Things I’m unsure about as I start
Different cultures give feedback / use social queues differently. These are usually conversations I've had with my friends and I'm only starting off with helping people who I’ve never met.
You’ll be helping me too as I make my first steps here.
How to measure myself?
The feedback cycle for improving someone’s career is pretty long, and many mentees will say they’re satisfied even if the mentor doesn’t provide much value.
To deal with this, I try asking for pretty detailed feedback, such as “what changed before and after the conversation”, as well as more “objective” metrics, such as salary increases.
How much will this help EA?
Reasons I think it would help:
- Software developers would have more money to donate and better skills to apply in the future.
- Some developers may move to EA orgs (though I won’t focus on this).
- Maybe: Developers working in EA orgs could use more mentoring and support.
The main counter argument I see is that this is a very indirect intervention, so perhaps the bottom-line impact will be low.
Why do I think this is neglected?
I think that monetizing developer-mentoring is pretty hard, so the market mostly isn’t handling it. The main exception I see is mentoring within a company, though that still often leaves some topics undiscussed, such as when to look for a better job.
How can you help?
- Refer developers to me, including founder/CTO/tech-lead people. Also, I’m posting this before EAG on purpose - this is an attempt at getting people to talk to me about things I care about - so feel free to book a time with me there as well!
Contacts in software industries outside of Israel. I expect to have questions like “what does it take to get accepted to one's first job there?” or “how should people look for a good company to work for in your location? (Is there a specific job board? Something else?)”
- Do you regularly mentor EAs? I’d be happy for insights, if you have any.
- Perhaps naming this project? I thought of contacting Naming What We Can ;)
I’m approaching this project like an early stage startup: I prefer launching fast and get ting feedback rather than trying to plan everything in advance. At the same time, any suggestions are welcome.
I met Yonatan some months ago when I was making some key career decisions regarding whether to pursue AI Safety as a career or look for high impact jobs in software engineering.
While I'm still not settled for the long term, Yonatan pushed me to be more pragmatic and form a strategy around experimenting with different career paths, and in particular recommended I apply to more software engineering roles in the EA community.
Yesterday, I accepted a job offer at Rethink Priorities as a software engineer, and I'm extremely grateful for Yonatan's help. I believe it's likely I wouldn't have gotten the motivation to apply for the role (or more broadly, to SWE roles in EA) without Yonatan's coaching (as well as the excellent coaching from Abigail Novick at 80k, who referred me to Yonatan in the first place).
I think Yonatan is an amazing coach and I would highly recommend talking to him.
I exchanged some messages and had a call with Yonatan some time ago, and I highly recommend it.
He truly changed my mind on the importance of personal fit, which I had been underestimating prior to our conversation.
I often ask myself, "What would Yonatan think about this?"
I had several calls and exchanged messages with Yonatan for a couple of months last year while I was searching for a new job. I would strongly recommend his services. I've been programming for ~5 years now, although I wouldn't consider some of those years to be particularly high quality experience.
The calls felt a little like "career therapy". Yonatan tended to answer a lot of my questions with questions of his own, in order to help me draw my own conclusions. He was perceptive and particularly good at pointing out irrational thoughts I had around my career - it turned out there was a lot more of these than I was expecting!
Estimating counterfactual impact is obviously hard, but I'm going to try anyway.
My biggest takeaways from his coaching:
I had an absolutely wonderful conversation with Yonatan and one in which I was quite surprised at how effectively we could debug what I actually wanted and find interesting. As an entrepreneur, it was especially refreshing to get a very no-BS, "consultancy"-like therapy session and I can see this approach help an immeasurable amount for many people. And for that matter, I'd like to learn it myself! 😊
Have you found an answers on web development process nuances? I've read some staff like this: https://jaydevs.com/web-app-development-a-detailed-guide/ in the internet, but I still have some questions. Will Yonatan help me?
Yonatan can probably help you figure out what to use that skillset for and your goals with it but web development process nuances are available from many other resources, e.g:
The above video uses a tech stack with Svelte, Postgres, Vercel, and Gitpod and represents the favorite programming paradigm for many modern developers.
TL;DR: The best way I know to skill up in web development is by working with someone who can give me good feedback and mentoring.
What I don't recommend: Trying to learn it from a specific book-or-something (unless there's a really good one that I've never heard about) (or unless you never made even one fullstack app, in which case I'd use a non-human guide to do that).
What I see when I'm a mentor, watching someone code or debug or so (when I am much more experienced than them) : It seems like they're focusing on something totally-wrong, like learning about aws and setting up a new type of DB, when they could just do some other trick (like remove 90% of the data from the DB on their laptop) which would allow them to debug locally. I can't imagine a book that would teach to notice things like that.
What I feel like when I'm a mentee, and someone else is helping me improve in web dev (I remember this because I had a lot of mentorship) : I feel like web-dev has lots of "knowledge passed in word of mouth" that I could just never guess, like this, and if I'd try to go over all of it - it would take forever and I'd get lost, so I need someone from the "inner circle" to tell me what matters.
Background: I'm a mid-career software engineer (17+ years) just starting a job hunt process, trying to transition into a role working directly on technical AI Safety.
I only recently started working with Yonatan, but he has already had a positive impact. The process to start working with him was incredibly easy. Just sign up on his calendar. No payments or application forms. A call with Yonatan is efficient and gets through a lot of topics quickly. He's very direct and not afraid to ask pointed questions when needed. He kept great good notes during the meeting that were useful afterwards. He's spoken to hiring managers at some of the organizations I'd like to work for and was able to provide detailed information on what they're looking for. He gave me a lot of advice on what I should be focusing on in my interview preparation. Lastly, his suggested approach to resume-writing was much different than I'd seen in generic advice. I completely rewrote my resume from scratch using this advice and this version seems far superior.
I appreciate Yonatan's help and suggest that anyone even remotely interested should reach out for his assistance.
My brief review: I've had a handful of sessions with Yonatan and they've been great. He's friendly and kind, and has a great way of getting you to think differently about problems you're facing at work and in your career.
I'm the CTO of an early-stage startup, and have found that (contrary to my expectations) it's the emotional/grit side of things that's the most tricky to navigate, rather than anything technical. So our conversations have focused on co-founder relationships, hiring and onboarding new employees, and general thoughts around startup life.
This is nice of you to offer. Could I or others refer EAs who are still taking their undergraduate degree, but are interested in and/or working towards a career in software development?
I know ~3 Filipinos interested in EA who are 3rd year or 4th year university students, and might want to have a call (or more than one, i.e. a monthly mentoring call) with someone who could give them some advice or mentorship about software engineering.
TL;DR: Feel free to contact me
The main thing that would help me estimate how much I can help would be 2-3 examples of actual questions you'd ask if we'd talk today
Talking with Yonatan has been extremely helpful to me. We've mainly communicated by Telegram voice notes and messages. He guided me through a jobhunt period, and helped me refine my plans, partly by giving feedback, partly by letting me ramble into a voice note until I had rubber-ducked myself into progress, and partly by introducing new frames for thinking about decisions I was making. It was useful to have someone to talk to who understood my motivations quite well (EA), but was at an objective distance (3000 miles), and who had relevant expertise and good thoughts.
Some things I appreciate about Yonatan:
As a result of our conversations, I feel I approached my jobhunt-related decisions in a 10x more systematic way than I otherwise would have, and I have more mental models to make future decisions with.
In summary, I highly recommend talking to Yonatan, in case he can help you.
Background about me: I am a developer with 2 years experience, now in my second job.
I love this idea! If you haven't yet, please connect with Devon Fritz of High Impact Professionals -- this seems like a really good fit with what they are building!!
I've been a programmer for 20 years now, and I started the mentoring with Yonatan completly by chance, two months ago. It was eye opening - I was shocked to find out my real options for promotion, salary, and even effective-altruistic related jobs with better terms than my comfortable current job.
He had helped me a lot in other areas as well, and gave me tools to widen up my perspective and increase my certainty of things I assumed I already know, but didn't.
Yonatan express himself in exact and direct way, with purpose and pre-thought, and he is paying full attention to me, my current state and ambitions.
This mentoring was a true life changing experience for me (for the better) and my only wish is that I had found him sooner.
Thank you <3
I'd like to add that Ori was the CTO of a bootstrapped startup that made ~$350,000 in the 1st month
Who am I? Until recently, I worked as a data scientist in the NLP space. I'm currently preparing for a new role, but unsure if I want to:
When I first approached Yonatan, I told him that my goal was to become "world-class in ml within 3 years" in order to make option 1 work. My plan involved improving my software engineering skills since it was something I felt I was lacking. I told him my plan on how to improve my skills and he basically told me I was going about it all wrong. In the end, he said I should seek mentorship with someone who has the incentive to help me improve my programming skills (via weekly code reviews) ASAP. I had subconsciously avoided this approach because my experiences with mentorship were less than stellar. I took a role with the promise that I would be mentored and, in the end, I was the one doing all the mentoring...
Anyway, after a few conversations with Yonatan, it became clear that seeking mentorship would be at least 10X more effective than my initial plan.
Besides helping me change my approach to becoming a better programmer (and everything else in general), our chats have allowed me to change my career approach in a better direction. Yonatan is good at helping you avoid spouting vague, bad arguments for why you want to do x.
I'm still in the middle of the job search process so I will update this comment in a few months once the dust has settled. For now, I need to go, things have changed recently and I need to get in touch with Yonatan for feedback. :)
I highly recommend this service. It is lightyears ahead of a lot of other "advice" I've found online.
I founded a startup where scaling issues keep appearing as we grow the company. Yonathan has helped me identify what my main pain points are and what next steps I should take. Also, he’s really good at listening.
I think Yonatan's initiative is really useful for anyone who has a company and wants to improve their software skills while tackling real-world problems.
Adding: Richard is the CTO
✅ Great initiative
✅ Thank you for a nice structure to your post, answering lots of questions I expect people would have.
✅ I think you're making sense launching and seeing what comes of the project.
Posted in EA Sweden programmer Slack and suggested it directly to a few programmers. Hope you will all find it fruitful, best of luck!
When I've decided on the EA career I knew I would need a lot of help. This post helped me to update my map of reality but has not encouraged me much. Plus I went in with a lot of non-trivial questions, hesitations, doubts about my 17-years-long career in IT, mild depression and not-so-mild imposter syndrome.
In the past 8 years, I estimate I've spent 50+ hours with 3 psychotherapists and 80+ hours with ~8 coaches. So I have a pretty good idea of how this works.
Yonatan's approach is very different and was effective in my case. His well-phrased question, zero-pressure nudges, and "let's do an experiment" approach helped me to land off from overthinking into action.
I wasn't hesitating when I saw this post but if I would, this is what I would tell myself: "Let's do an experiment: It will take 1 hour of your life, it's just ~5 clicks away, there are cats involved, so it might be fun, and the potential benefits are quite high."
Sharing a few messages from Dan Pandori [6 years of experience at Google and Waymo] with permission.
Context: I'm trying to figure out the impact of Effective Developers. Dan apparently got value from the CEA hiring post. I'm putting it here for reference.
Dan's also offering help with preparing for FAANG technical interviews, which I think is awesome
I'm Nitsan, a Software Engineer with 5 years of experience serving in the intelligence force (8200 unit), and one of Yonatan’s mentees from EA Israel.
I truly cannot recommend him highly enough!
I met Yonatan when I was preparing for my first real Job-search as a software engineer. I wanted to find an impactful job, but I didn’t know how (and if) to take this into account so early in my career, while having many other professional requirements. Yonatan had an amazing ability to guide me into developing my own tools and methods to deal with my questions and doubts, instead of giving me answers. Besides the technical guidance Yonatan gave me, I honestly feel like my decision-making process has significantly improved thanks to him, and that the methods we developed helped me get the job I wanted (and more importantly - helped figure out what it is that I want :)
Yonatan is incredibly smart and experienced, and his unique way of thinking and vast expertise (he really knows pretty much everything), really helps me see with clarity, understand from a broader perspective, and focus on the right things .
Anyone, with any level of experience, would be lucky to go through this journey with him.
Feel free to contact me (In the comments or in private) if you have any doubts or questions!
I spoke to Yonatan today regarding a new software project and found it very helpful. I would highly recommend anyone at any stage of a project or startup to book a meeting with him; he took my meeting on quite short notice and was very helpful.
He had very specific insights about an early stage project and was able to coach me through the process of interviewing users. Expect direct feedback which is exactly why explicit coaching is different from talking with friends or users about a project.
I had read various advice about starting projects/startups before and thought I had an understanding, but it's very likely that you're not effectively putting it all into practice and Yonatan will identify that for you.
Near the end of the meeting after we had both agreed what the best next steps would be, he asked if I would be willing to do them right then. He waited patiently while I went and implemented what we had discussed.
That was the most concrete and probably most positive result from the meeting: Right then and there completing something that I knew I needed to (and possibly had been procrastinating from).
TL;DR: Yonatan helped me identify what I need to do, and then had me do it right then and there. A+
I'm a software entrepreneur transitioning into higher-impact ventures. Had a mentoring call with Yonatan a couple of months ago. What I really liked about his approach was the structure of the call: First, gathering an overview of the issues of the table. Second, going through them in a fast-forward kind of way. And third, figuring out which ones are the most important to talk about.
The outcomes of the call directly led into the next steps I needed to explore this path.
The fact that he asked for feedback at the end of the call shows me that Yonatan is serious about helping EAs and getting better at it. I did have one or two pieces of critical feedback to his style, but these were just minor points that are to be expected for someone without a lot of coaching experience. I can recommend having a call with him without hesitation.
As someone who received a lot of super helpful advice and insights from @hibukki, I think this kind of offer is priceless for one's career and skills in the software engineering field.
@hibukki might say it's different because we're very close, but to be honest I think it's harder to give professional advice to a close one than to someone you're not biased about or protective of.
I'm the CTO of a ~40 employees startup that aims to solve a big healthcare issue, and generally an very experienced engineer.
An hour with @hibukki is one of the best things I can do to improve my daily work.
Last but not least - I suggest the name Cheshire Cat Mentoring 😸
Context: CBelle is my girlfriend, and she believes I am a cat. She is correct.
I spoke with Yonatan at EAGx Oxford. Yonatan was very good at drilling down to the key uncertainties and decision points.
The most valuable thing was that he really understood the core "make something that people really want" lesson for startups. I thought I understood this (and at least on some abstract level did), but after talking with Yonatan I now have a much stronger model of what it actually takes to make sure you're doing this in the real world, and a much better idea of what the key steps in a plan between finding a problem and starting a company around it should be.
I am Yonatan's mentee. I am co-founder of EA IBM, EA Uwaterloo, and EA related-startup OpenPrinciples. Yonatan has been given me some critical guidance in building my startup and in transitioning my job from a Data Scientist/Developer to Product Manager/Product Owner.
I'm a web and data generalist, in my 4th year of an undergrad in CS. I started speaking with Yonatan ~3 months ago while starting to apply for my first full-time job.
Some ways he's helped:
I wish we started speaking years ago. I think I'd be in a very different place now. I've had technical mentors in the past-- professors and senior work colleagues. None have been as helpful as Yonatan.
If you are in a similar place in your career, or anxious/uncertain whether this would be helpful for you: I'd highly recommend reaching out to him!
I am a developer working on computer hardware so strictly speaking I am not a “Software” developer. Do I still qualify?
Guess this may also apply to other fields where people do not work on software but the nature of the job is very similar.
This mainly depends on what's on your mind
If it's "how to get this board to use less voltage" then probably not
If it's "how to find a better job" then probably yes
Would you like to share (here or in private) what's on your mind? You're also invited to book with me if you think it would be useful
It’s definitely the “how to find a better job” thing.
Will book then, thanks!
Thanks for doing this! I organize the nascent EA Public Interest Technologists Slack space - I encourage you to connect with us!
Yay, thank you <3 I joined
There's also a Software Engineers in Effective Altruism Slack for those interested in private, for-profit, EA-aligned startups and other areas not covered by the incredibly awesome EA Public Interest Technologists Slack space. You can join both!!
Hey Alex, the slack invite for Software Engineers in EA seems to have expired, I tried googling for another link that works but can't seem to find any. Would you be able to generate a new one?
Does this work?
Sorry for late response here, but seems like it's not working either. There might only be a small window where the link is active it seems.
Well it’s been months, so it may not be a small window.
Would it work for you if you ping someone else to get a new link? I am on mobile and cannot immediately grab it off Slack.
Resources thread: Common links I send people.
Learning ML (well enough for an entry level position)
Confidence in this resource: I can't vet it myself since I don't know ML. It is the default recommendation of the biggest Israeli ML/DS community, so I assume people would point out problems and I assume the big ones would be fixed. I am always aiming for maximum efficiency when learning and I can't say for sure that this is it, but I do think it will "do the job".
Here's the guide [Hebrew]. I used Chrome to translate it to English and it's still totally readable, so that's my current recommendation. Sorry this is so hacky!
EA/Rationalist Software/DS/ML communities
Getting into AI-Safety
(I'm very open to suggestions here; Not my field)
Brainstorming is a method of group problem-solving where participants share ideas without interruption. The purpose of brainstorming sessions is to reduce social inhibitions and maximize the overall creativity of the group. In a brainstorming session, participants share ideas as soon as they pop into their heads. The ideas are then ranked for further action https://mlsdev.com