It’s been a month since I offered coaching for EA software developers.
The main goal of this update is to create transparency and invite outside feedback that will make a better project long-term. There are also some topics that I won’t be transparent about, but I can at least be transparent about my reasons for this (for example, the mentee’s privacy).
Since I’m writing an update, I’ll also write some requests for help, feel free to jump to that section.
I have about 5 meetings per week, including about 20 future meetings already booked.
I estimate I talked to about 20 people and have 13 chats open, out of which 8 were active in the last week. [Excuse me for off-by-one errors, I just skimmed my calendar and chats]
If you tried to schedule with me and found my schedule is full: I only noticed the problem while writing this update, but now I opened up more slots.
TL;DR: There is definitely demand for this.
How is it going?
I’ll talk about my experience so far
- I don’t feel overwhelmed, I’m enjoying this. My brain is constantly in “how can I do this better” mode, which I like very much.
- Async text/voice messages: I wasn’t sure if I’d discover why nobody is doing this except for me. So far, it’s great, and I wonder if most coaches don’t do it because they have to worry about monetization.
How is this different from coaching in Israel (what I did before) ?
- I was really worried about culture gaps, about not managing to fit into the social norms of small talk and so on. I approached this problem by being extremely informal, including posting a picture of one of my cat shirts. This seems to be working pretty well: My brain has more or less stopped trying to “fit in”.
- Rushing: I try really hard to give significant value to mentees in our first meeting, which is limited in time. What I did before didn't involved time boxed calendly meetings, but rather.. social events. I’m fun at parties.
- How useful am I? I don’t think I’m on-par with how effective my previous conversations were, but I think I had only maybe 1-2 conversations where I wasn’t useful. Perhaps I’ll write more about this.
What did I change my mind about?
- Exploration vs exploitation: At first, I’d spend ~20 minutes trying to explore “what is the most impactful thing we could talk about”. Many mentees said this was too long. Now I only ask for an overview of potential topics, and reply to each (about one minute per topic). This seems to get a “oh, wow, this was useful” response. I also go over the conversation structure in advance.
I’m splitting this into
- Technical advice: such as how I recommend maximizing one’s salary.
- Soft coaching skills: such as how I help people resolve internal conflicts.
Transparency on technical advice
I’m considering writing posts (like a blog) with common questions I get and answers I often give.
Some topics I started writing about:
- How to conduct a job search
- Option 1: If there are dozens (or more) potential companies I could work for
- Option 2: If I’m aiming for just a few specific companies (such as Google+Microsoft, or Anthropic+OpenAI)
- How to negotiate for salary?
- How to discover what I want in a job?
- How to improve a CV?
- Is being a software developer a good career path?
- Am I good enough to get accepted to $COMPANY?
- So many things to learn, where to start?
- How to improve in skill long term?
- Scale. I’m “automating” the most common parts of my “work”.
- People can comment and improve it.
Why not just write all of these?
The main downside in posting these will be that I will get far less feedback and thus won’t improve. If I could magically get every reader to tell me what was and wasn’t useful (including changes in actions), that would resolve the problem for me.
I don’t like generic advice
I believe in customized advice so much more, but that’s a topic for an entire post.
How I plan to approach this problem
Send drafts to mentees
If a mentee asks me something where I have a ready answer, I’ll try sending that answer, and based on the feedback I’ll improve the article until it’s in the level where it actually makes a difference for people.
I tried this once so far, and the conversation went amazingly from there.
Get senior people to review
I hope to find ~5 people to review this kind of thing. If that might be you, please comment or message me.
Try publishing one article
I’ll probably post the “how to conduct a job search” article and see how it goes.
Transparency for the coaching process
A lot of my conversations are saved: Text/audio messages, and lately I started asking mentees if I can record video calls too, so I have some of those.
Someone could review this (after getting permission from everyone of course).
I don’t want to publish this semi-publicly, both for privacy reasons, but also because I will be way too self aware if I expect lots of people to watch me later. I do think I’ll pick 1-2 reviewers though so if you think you’d be a good fit, let me know.
If someone will ever analyze how impactful this project is, I think that having raw recordings could be really useful.
Transparency for results
I think that talking publicly about results and statistics would be good, and almost nobody does this.
I will at least organize the information for myself before revisiting this topic. I ask for feedback a lot, and the answers are saved. Still, there are higher standards of measurement that I might try to achieve, for example following up with people.
Calls to action
Are you a data scientist? (Including Machine Learning!)
I am not. Could you help me with these questions:
- How to decide whether data science or software engineering would be a better fit for someone?
- How can someone study at home and find their first job in data science?
- Would you like to mentor data scientists sometimes? I’d be very open to special requests, like “only people in stage X of their career”, and you can also decide to stop any time.
Are you an EA org hiring software developers?
- A LOT of people are asking themselves if they should work for you or earn to give. I send those people to just ask you (“hey, would prefer that I work for you or that I donate X$ ?”), but perhaps you have something better to say.
- If there are specific ways people can prepare for an interview with you, it would be useful to publicly say so. For example “we ask leet code questions” or “we ask trivia questions about django”. I think that a common pattern for people (who don’t talk to me) might be “I’ll work in some other company for 2 more years to be sure that I’m qualified for the EA org”. I think this is a bad outcome for everyone.
- Consider keeping in touch, I will probably have more questions come up
Do you know the software ecosystem in the U.S / Europe / (somewhere that isn’t Israel)?
- How do people find good jobs there? Do you have recruiters? Are there reasons not to use them?
- In Israel, the official requirements for a job are higher than the real requirements. Are there strange things like that in your country too? (They might not seem strange from the inside, I can try helping with more specific questions)
Are you a first time tech leader or founder?
- I’d be happy to talk to you, especially if you feel somewhat overwhelmed about the technical aspects (which is the default situation! everyone is just pretending otherwise). So far, only a few people of this profile have scheduled with me and I hope to get more. See some comments in the original post.
Do you work in Algorithmic Trading?
I mean writing software that automatically trades in the stock market.
- How can an EA get accepted to such a company? (What to study? Where to apply?)
Are you a senior developer or coach who might want to review my work early on?
- Please comment or message me
Do you like meta questions?
- I’d be happy for feedback about this post, what was useful, what else would you like to hear about and why?
Until next time,
Update: Jeffrey is doing something similar, check him out too :)