About five years ago a friend had recently started at Wave, and encouraged me to join them. It sounded like a great startup doing really important work in East Africa, and potentially more valuable than continuing my "earning to give" approach, but because it was a fully remote company and I like being in the same place as my coworkers I told him I wasn't interested.
(With the pandemic, after nearly a year of working remotely for an "in person" company this is still a strong preference!)
About a year later we ended up talking again, and there were now several other Wave engineers in Boston; if I joined I would potentially be the fourth engineer here. We could get a coworking space, possibly hire more local people, and I wouldn't need to be entirely remote.
I was still unsure about the remote aspect, and whether four Boston engineers would feel good, but I already knew the three others socially, and it seemed promising. We spent some time together and I decided to interview. Throughout the interview I was thinking about fit: would I like working at Wave? Would I work well with people? Did their current engineering staff and I have similar enough ways of thinking about it?
They ended up deciding to make me an offer, and I accepted! I planned to stay at Google until I got my annual bonus, and then switch.
A few weeks later, though, I realized something and my stomach dropped: I hadn't properly thought through this decision from an impact perspective. Yes, it seemed plausibly very important, but how sure was I? Especially compared to GiveWell's recommendations which had stood up to a lot of scrutiny? I had made the mistake of letting "it's remote" expand subconsciously from being a blocker to being my only reason for not taking the job.
I felt very stuck. If it wasn't actually better than what I was already doing I really shouldn't switch. I'd already accepted the job, and I don't like going back on my word, but I still could if I really needed to.
As it was I was in luck. Days earlier, Tavneet Suri and William Jack had published "The long-run poverty and gender impacts of mobile money" (pdf) which looked at almost exactly the question I was interested in. I dug into it, wrote a draft of Estimating the Value of Mobile Money, and ran it by some friends for help. After working through the numbers it looked like the work I would be doing at Wave was, if we succeeded, really valuable stuff. I did go ahead with the transition, though it ended up not working out. 
I'm still open to potentially moving away from earning to give at some point (especially if the money I would be donating is going to be lost to means testing), but next time I'm considering making such a big decision I need to be much more careful to thoroughly think it through first.
Comment via: facebook