Working at EA organizations series: 80000 Hours

by SoerenMind 4y21st Oct 2015No comments

4


[This post is part of the Working at EA organizations series.]

The following are my notes from an interview with Ben Todd (the co-founder and executive director of 80000 Hours) which he reviewed before publishing.


Current talent needs

Applications for the product engineer role are closed since 18 October, but 80000 Hours is potentially looking for a full-time coach for early 2016.


Future talent needs

Since the future is uncertain, the following are rough guesses estimates for the coming two years.

Researchers

One extra research per year may be hired. Demonstrated writing ability (e.g. via a blog) plus strong research and analysis skills would be important for this role. For the next hire the bar would be relatively high.

Coaches

In one year, on-campus career coaches for the Bay area, Boston and London/Oxbridge, or several Skype coaches based in the main office in Oxford. In two years, if we decide to scale up coaching, as as many as 10 coaches in total. Some characteristics that will earn you points for these roles:

  • Good at talking to new people and making them feel at ease.

  • Reasoning skills and being well-calibrated to help with decisions under high uncertainty.

  • Able to get lots done without much supervision.

  • Fit with the 80000 Hours team.

  • Having some impressive experience is good for your credibility and knowledge as a coach. E.g. having worked in a competitive career, run a project, expertise in an important cause.

  • The first coach we hire will also have management potential.


How to get involved on a lower-commitment basis

Getting involved with 80000 Hours is a great way to get noticed and evaluate your fit as a potential employee. 80,000 Hours puts significant weight on working with people who are recommended by someone in the community, have worked with the team before, or have at least used their advice before.

Ways of getting involved that may get you noticed as a potential future employee:

  • If your career plans have been changed due to 80000 Hours they would like to interview you or have you write up your own case study for the blog. You could also publish an interview with someone you know about their career or other relevant things they know. Writing about career choice in other places, such as the EA forum, would be another opportunity to demonstrate your analysis skills and writing ability.

  • Get involved in a local effective altruism group (and use that to promote 80000 Hours content). This is a good way to get in involved, showing that you’re organized, persuasive and can get things done.

  • Working with or interning at another organization in the community, especially CEA, would also get you noticed.

Other ways to help out and stay in the loop:

  • Subscribe to the organisational updates, which will also tell you how to best to help out.

  • Join the 80000 Hours mailing list.

  • Promote 80000 Hours in places like Reddit, e.g. upvote articles, and recommend friends to check it out.

  • Learn more about how to support 80000 Hours here.

Currently there are no plans to have interns.


How competitive are the positions?

As 80000 Hours is a start-up, they look for generally competent people who they can trust a lot i.e. your general fit and track record are often more important than specific skills (except in the case of tech and design roles). This makes it possible to be hired straight out of university if your track record is strong. For the competitiveness of the individual roles see the previous sections.


What's the application process like?

The process usually has three phases:

Stage 1: Application and initial screening

Fill out an application form. The staff will then look at your responses, relevant past work and track record in the community and make an initial narrow down.

Stage 2: Interview, test work and references

Discuss the role more in-depth; may follow up on references and give 1-3h of test projects (something as close as possible to the work itself).

Stage 3: Trial work

A 1-3 day trial project to complete, as well as meetings with everyone on the team. 2-3 applicants per role usually make it to this stage. Sometimes there are also longer trials and a probationary period when you first start.


At what yearly donation would you prefer your last hire to earn to give instead of directly working for you?

Ben notes that the answer to this is extremely crude. His initial reaction was $50,000, but anything from $20,000 to $100,000 seems plausible. It’s highly sensitive to the person - an extremely good fit could be worth even more than that.


Why work at 80000 Hours?

I can’t bring this point home any better than 80000 Hours themselves. So I’m ending this post with a long quote from the recent blog post advertising the product engineer role. It’s mostly applicable in general.


If you’re a good fit, this job is probably by far the highest-impact thing you can do with your life.

The reason is the multiplier argument. Think about the next highest impact job you could take. At 80,000 Hours, you can enable more people to make even higher impact positions, having far more impact you would have had otherwise.

We’re recording 10 significant plan changes per month at the moment, each worth over $1 million of social value. With the help of a good product engineer, we think we can grow that to 100 per month in the next year. Read more about our plans and progress.

Moreover, this is an exceptional opportunity to build career capital:

  • Skill build – Since we’re trying to grow as fast as we can, you’ll need to stretch your skills in product management, design, engineering and more. We’ll make sure you have great mentorship. You’ll also be able to spend some of your time building whatever other skills you’re most interested in.

  • Credentials – You’d be taking a leading role in one of the only non-profits to be funded by Y Combinator. You’ll be able to notch up some impressive achievements.

  • Figure out what to do with your life – we spend all our time thinking about this, it’s what we do.

  • Learn about effective altruism – we helped to found it!

  • Meet amazing people – working at 80,000 Hours gives you great access to people in the effective altruism community, tech community and nonprofit sector, including leaders of multibillion dollar companies, world-renowned academics and people working at the highest levels of government.

 

Working at 80,000 Hours is also a lot of fun. You’ll get a huge amount of autonomy doing something challenging and meaningful with people who want to make the world a better place.”