Update:

We are now called High Impact Engineers and have migrated over to Slack (see this post for our reasoning) but our organisational goals are still the same.

tl;dr

EA Engineers is an organisation focused on increasing the quantity of impactful work done by physical engineers. We aim to do this by: a) providing access to engineering expertise to the EA community to connect projects that need engineering expertise with people who have these skills; b) providing resources for engineers to enable them to have a greater impact with their careers; c) increasing the coordination of engineers to create new product/projects in EA cause areas. Sign up to our mailing list here and spread the word!

Why We Exist

Bridging Talent Gaps

Despite ample need for materials science in pandemic prevention, electrical engineers in climate change, civil engineers in civilisational resilience, and bioengineering in alternative proteins, EA has not yet built a community fostering the talent needed to meet these needs.

EA Engineers aims to be that community, connecting current and future projects that lack engineering expertise to people with those skills and experience. As EA grows and develops, my guess is that there will be more object-level work that can be done, and more engineers will be needed to build physical solutions.

Our vision is for EA Engineers to become a hub for engineering expertise within EA so that engineering knowledge can be disseminated to the wider EA community and non-engineering EAs can design and scale projects requiring physical engineering more effectively.

Increasing Individual EA Engineers’ Impact

There is little information currently available for physical engineers on how they can have an impact with their engineering careers. It wasn’t until March this year that 80k updated their Engineering career review which has “Exploratory career profile” status and is relatively sparse on concrete ways (skills/expertise needed, career paths) to contribute to these cause areas.

We plan to address this by building a website with resources like job/internship opportunities, career case studies, open engineering research questions, etc. for engineers to have more impact with their careers. This will include resources for how to pivot to AI Safety or Policy if those are a better fit for the individual. The aim here is to facilitate the transition of existing EA Engineers to direct work as well as to enable non-EA engineers to transition to higher-impact career trajectories.

Increasing Coordination Between Engineers

Many of the members of our community didn’t know any other physical engineers in EA before being a part of this community. I certainly didn’t! Although I joined the Engineering & EA Facebook group (which has existed since May 2019), there has been minimal engagement from the 125 members, which suggests that just having an online place to congregate is not enough to make things happen.

Building a network of engineers focused on impact is only the first step for us. Once established, we will then aim to provide structured events and activities to enable engineers to come together to do collaborative ideation and work in EA cause areas (hackathons, workshops, etc.). This will provide an engineering perspective on potential projects in EA cause areas and, hopefully, lead to the creation of new projects/products and increase the amount of direct work done by engineers in EA.

Next Steps for EA Engineers

One Year Plan

(Shamelessly ripped off the High Impact Professional’s introductory post with permission- thanks Devon and Frederico!)

We have 4 main strategic goals for our first year of EA Engineers:

  1. Build a community of EA Engineers
  2. Test different approaches to support EA Engineers and find the most promising ones
  3. Create a minimum viable organization
  4. Build a strong presence in the EA community

Goal 1: Build a community of EA Engineers

Having a community of EA Engineers is the foundational step in our project. As with HIP, we believe in the power of the network, where individuals can share their experience and knowledge, help each other in their quest for impact and feel more engaged.

Goal 2: Test different approaches and find the most promising ones

To make sure we build something that is effective, we want to run inexpensive tests on the different branches of our theory of change and check if the underlying assumptions hold true. This ensures we are only scaling what EA Engineers really need. These tests will take the form of pilots, outlined in the upcoming section entitled Pilots.

Goal 3: Create a minimum viable organisation

The organisation will be as operationally lean as possible, which will allow us to maximise resources allocated to the development of the intervention to ensure it has the highest chance of success.

Goal 4: Build a strong presence in the EA community

From our target audience and collaborators to our source of funding, EAs form the core community surrounding our organisation. Therefore, we want to build strong connections with EA organisations and non-engineering EAs to better understand their needs and be better able to serve the wider community.

Pilots

We aim to test our assumptions and theory of change over our first year by running the following pilot interventions:

  1. Resource-gathering - Gathering career resources for EA Engineers to transition their careers into higher-impact jobs e.g. case studies and interviews, internship/job opportunities, and problem profiles.
  2. Matchmaking - Matchmaking EA engineers to non-engineering EAs and high-impact organisations to transfer skills, knowledge, and experience.
  3. Hackathons - Running competitions to turn community membership into high-impact ideas and potentially spin-off projects.

These widely fall into 3 domains of change in our theory of change: access to expertise for non-engineering EAs, increased coordination of engineers, and resources for engineers.

(Miro board link)

We will scrutinise the methodology and outcome of each pilot, continually refining our approach and strategy. In this spirit, we are open to adjusting the pilots as more evidence becomes available.

A more thorough theory of change with measurable deliverables will be linked here once available.

Key Metrics

  • Number of events organized
  • Number of attendees per event
  • Number of EA-aligned engineering research questions answered
  • Number of ideas generated for physical solutions to EA problems
  • Number of engineers who self-report pivoting to high-impact careers due to the EA Engineers community

Pitfall Acknowledgement

There have been a lot of (well-founded) criticisms of community-building within EA - e.g. this, this and this post. It seems to me that the main concern is that too much effort/time/money/resources are put into recruitment/operations/marketing/coordinating, and not enough effort/time/money/resources are put into object-level work. These are pitfalls we are actively trying to avoid when creating the EA Engineers community.

Who We Are

Jessica Wen is an early career earning-to-giver working as a mechanical engineer at a multinational automotive company. She graduated from Oxford University in 2021 with an MEng in Materials Science.

Sean Lawrence is finishing up his PhD with the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace engineering at Monash University and holds a BEng in mechanical engineering.

Get Involved

Follow Us

Sign up for our newsletter.

Check out our website.

Join the Discord server Slack.

Join the Facebook group.

How We Can Help You

We are helping EA Engineers have more impact with their skills and experience, either by contributing their knowledge, brainstorming solutions to the world’s biggest problems with other engineers, or pivoting their career to work in a high-impact role. Please email Jessica at jessica@highimpactengineers.org if you’d like to get involved.

How You Can Help Us

  • EA Engineers interviews - if you are a physical engineer who is looking to have more impact, we’d love to chat. Please reach out if you’d like to get involved.
  • Effective organization interviews - we are also conducting interviews with EA-aligned organisations that need engineering skills to better understand their needs so that the EA Engineers community can support them with their resources (skills, knowledge, expertise). If you work for such an organisation, please reach out to talk.

EAG(x) Conferences 2022

Sean will be attending the EAGx Australia conference this month, and both of us will be at the upcoming EAG San Francisco conference. Please book a slot with us over Swapcard or approach us during the conference - we’d love to chat!

EA Engineers was founded in March 2022 at EAGxBoston by Jessica Wen and Cass Springer, continuing the field-building work started by Will Bradshaw. Our current team members are Jessica Wen, Sean Lawrence, Vivian Belenky and Bryce Rogers.

Updated Thursday 4th August to include updated email and links.

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25 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 10:46 PM
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Despite ample need for materials science in pandemic prevention, electrical engineers in climate change, civil engineers in civilisational resilience, and bioengineering in alternative proteins, EA has not yet built a community fostering the talent needed to meet these needs.

Also engineers who work on AI hardware, e.g. to help develop the technologies and processes needed to implement most compute governance ideas!

Just came here to comment the same. :)

See this profile by 80k, this post, and my sequence for more.

Also, don't hesitate to reach out if you want to hear more about roles for AI hardware experts or if someone is interested.

Thank you! Would definitely like to chat :)

You're absolutely right! I think there are probably many more areas where engineers are needed, as well as future cause areas that we haven't discovered/explored yet so this is definitely not an exhaustive list. We're open to chatting with anybody/any organisation who has or forecasts a deficit of engineering expertise to find out how we can help!

Perhaps also put up a LinkedIn group - it is perhaps a nice complement to facebook which at least for my generation is usually reserved for more non-work topics. There one can with premium accounts search within a group for specific expertise, geographical location etc. to quickly find the most relevant talent (I am a bit frustrated that I cannot without paying a high price tag search the large 80k hrs LinkedIn group for engineering talent!)

Thanks Ulrik - I have set up a LinkedIn group but I don't plan on advertising it very much as we don't have the capacity to manage all of FB, Discord, LinkedIn groups and a newsletter! We are currently growing a directory of engineers, which might be easier to search if you're looking for specific expertise.

Maybe a consideration for you (uncertain how relevant this is for your target group though): for the Effective Altruism and Consulting Network LinkedIn and the group work quite well to invite people to events with only 2 clicks. 

Hi there! I'm a Civil Engineer, new to EA, and I've definitely felt lost among the Econ/Policy/SWE people that seem to be overly represented in EA circles. Dont get me wrong, they make for great company, but it does feel like the physical implementation of High Impact Projects has been largely overlooked. I'm so glad to hear that there will soon be a community based around implementation and I would love to learn more!

Do you do HVAC at all? There’s a big need for people with experience in this space for biorisk mitigation.

HVAC is mechanical engineering. ASHRAE is the main professional body of mechanical engineers that works on ventilation standards and guidance for reducing aerosol transmission.

Awesome! There are a lot of high-impact projects that require civil engineering expertise in biorisk mitigation (as AllAmericanBreakfast has said), but also general civilisational resilience. There's a SHELTER weekend happening in August where you can help to explore concrete steps (pun not intended) for the implementation of civilisational shelters (read more here).

If you're looking to do something more long-term, Ulrik Horn (also commented on this post) is looking for talent to join his bioweapons shelter project, which you can read more about here: Fønix: Bioweapons shelter project launch. We will keep the Discord and newsletter updated with any other relevant projects/initiatives that we hear about!

What a great initiative! There is a lot to do around this, from energy/climate change issues to AI safety, engineers have very relevant knowledge and skills in solving some global catastrophic risks. I think this will definitely be of interest to people in the "EA maths&physics" slack group! 

Thanks Angélina - I have posted in the EA Maths & Physics group and I think we'll be working closely in the future for sure!

If possible, I’d suggest adding an “already on the discord server” option :)

Really happy to see this starting and eager to learn how I can help. Looking forward to talking soon at EAG.

I resonate with your pitfall statement. Although I haven't been actively exploring the non-SW engineering space in EA for very long, it does seem that there is a scarcity of technical information publicly available about where and what the specific needs are from a ME, EE, CE, MatSci, robotics, systems, manufacturing, or other non-SW perspective on a variety of problems.

For example, take the biosecurity cause area needing more materials science expertise for better PPE. Intuitively there is a core MatSci aspect to this most people can easily recognize, but there are 1) probably a lot more types of challenges you would discover once you dig into the details of the problem or begin basic conceptual synthesis, and 2) even the MatSci-specific aspects of this problem are hard to find without actually just digging into the decades-long literature on the general topic of PPE. And I think this might be generally true across domains, though I haven't tried looking exhaustively yet.

Having dashboard-like visibility (whether it's a literal SW-enable dashboard or not) into the technical problem landscape across disciplines and across cause areas sounds like the holy grail to me, which is obviously a lot to ask for at the moment, but that's the general direction I personally hope for.

Kudos to you all for starting this.

Thanks Vlad! We spoke at EAG SF but wanted to put a comment here for anyone interested in contributing to or viewing of the map of the technical problem landscape to reach out to me or Vlad :) we will have updates soon so keep posted!

I love this! EA needs more engineers of all varieties, IMO. I don't think you say explicitly what your funding model will be - would you aim to be a nonprofit or a fee-paid consultancy, or something else?

Thanks Arepo! We're not really sure what our funding model will be, because that will depend on what approach has the biggest impact and makes the most sense. For now, we're just applying for grants, testing out our assumptions and hoping for the best!

Congrats on the excellent progress! Very excited to see where your journey will lead and what learnings you can share 

Thanks Jona! We'll definitely keep you updated :)

Thanks so much for this effort. I just wanted to say again that EA engineers, including physical engineers, are always very welcome to apply for volunteering, internship and/or open positions at ALLFED - Alliance to Feed the Earth in Disasters.

Thanks Juan! ALLFED definitely has a lot of interesting and impactful projects that engineers can contribute to

So excited you are launching this! Great to see more field-building efforts.

Thanks Miranda, appreciate all your help when I had a career crisis and for having faith in my community building skills :)