(Epistemic Status: Uncertain and from an outside view – Talent bottlenecks keep invading my thoughts in the shower; I just want them to stop)

Tl;dr: If you are someone who either works or will begin working at a non-EA company this summer, consider joining, supporting or starting a workplace or professional EA group. It seems like a great way to contribute to EA community building and you might be well-placed to reach EA-aligned people that others in the community can’t. 

The argument

  • The EA movement and the longtermist causes are famously talent constrained (see here, here, here, etc.)
  • One demographic needed in EA orgs and prioritized cause areas is mid and senior-career professionals who have experience with people, project & product management, software engineering, ML engineering, operations, etc. [1]
  • These people are beyond the reach of university EA groups and may also be difficult to reach through city EA groups [2]
  • However, workplace and professional EA groups at companies have the potential to reach new people and/or support the retention of existing members of the EA community. They can also play an important role in fostering connections between these and other parts of the EA community, especially by helping people connect the dots[3]
  • You may or may not be in the right position to share EA with employees directly, but you can support an existing group or active EAs who are more permanently present in the company or profession to create such a group. [4]
  • Moreover, I feel confident that you can think hard, start a conversation in the comment threads and talk to people from organizations like High Impact Professionals (HIP), the Center for Effective Altruism (CEA) esp. Jona Glade, the EA Consulting Network (EACN), etc. and maybe me (?), to determine your theory of change for supporting a Workplace and Professional EA group and whether this is worthwhile for you.

Some additional details

  • With the amount of university EA groups popping up and thriving, there will likely be a large demand for Workplace and Professional EA groups in a few years
    • Yes, some students will go on to pursue direct work like research or entrepreneurship. A lot however, maybe the majority, will start their careers skilling up at various non-EA companies.
    • Creating a community for them as they transition from university to the workplace seems all around great
    • These groups could also support a lot for coordination between different parts of the EA community
  • The different environment of Workplace and Professional EA groups compared to University EA groups can have a significant effect on your theory of change and activities

Some objections and caveats:

  • Wait… this seems risky – Are you really expecting me to talk the ears off my boss and coworkers about EA?
    • No!! Please don’t and my intention is not to actively encourage that. Truthfully, I am not fully sure what I am encouraging – just that those interested in EA group organizing think hard about how they can support growing the number of mid and senior career people in EA
    • The goal is to support efforts that make Effective Altruism accessible to aligned professionals, including mid and senior-level professionals, NOT to poach talent
  • Is this really better than the opportunity cost of my time?
    • Often, it can make sense to just focus on building your brand, developing a good reputation and being successful at your job, especially in the first few years of your career. If this describes you, prioritize that!
    • If you are able to support university community building, it might make sense to prioritize that since students tend to be more open to EA.
  • There is already a thriving workplace EA group at my company
    • It may be worth considering whether you can just support the work of others by doing logistical tasks or freeing up their time to do more impactful, internal community building
    • If you are an organizer of such a workplace group, consider posting or commenting about how different people can support you

Next steps

  • Check here if the company/organization you are working for has a group and proceed accordingly.
    • You can connect to organizers at the company or find active EAs via Giving What We Can (GWWC), Linked-In, the Forum Community features.
  • Depending on who you are, you could:
    • Start a Workplace or Professional EA group – more advisable for those already working at the company or in a field for some time, but you could also try to find or encourage someone else to start one
    • Support a Workplace or Professional EA group – for anyone wanting to contribute, but consider if you might be better placed to do something else like organize a university group or work really hard to build your brand 
    • Join a Workplace or Professional EA group – for everyone! :) 
  • Start thinking about other ideas… here are two:
    • Consider running / supporting a retreat for your Workplace or Professional group
    • Connect already EA-aligned people with others in the community according to their skills and experiences
      • There might be reasons to think that these people aren’t well-connected to the movement and are underestimating the impact they can make in EA orgs or in top cause areas
      • There might be a lot of room for this specifically in AI Safety, Biosecurity and the longtermism community where there are a lot of opportunities and funding but not enough experienced individuals
  • Check out some of these resources and posts that could be helpful[5]

 

Thanks to Jona Glade and Elika Somani for providing comments on a draft of this. Please note that this is my perspective and might not entirely represent the perspective of Jona and Elika. My primary intention with this post is to start a conversation about Workplace and Professional EA groups and present some arguments for focusing on them more, so please let me know what you think. Are you convinced to support one?

  1. ^

    Based on general output and conversations with multiple people from various organizations in the movement. Also kinda odd since 50% are professionals in non-EA orgs from this post)

  2. ^

    Just an intuition, but also mid-career employees seem outside the scope of city groups especially since they have families. (see this comment on this post)

  3. ^

    I really like the framing in this post from someone who made a career change and discusses the pushes, pulls, signs and connecting of dots that contributed to their eventually decision to switch to an EA org. More generally, I think that just being someone who is aware of many different opportunities and sub-communities in EA and who can connect others is so valuable to helping the right people do the right things.

  4. ^

    It seems very important that people in workplaces are sensitive about sharing an outside idea like EA since companies can differ in culture, openness, etc.

  5. ^

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Hi Anjay, thanks for the shoutout and we at HIP couldn't agree more that EA workplace and professional groups are important: that is why we are putting such a focus on them in our organization. 

If anyone is interested in starting a group at their organization or for their industry, please pm us here. Also, we are going to publish a current list of workplace and professional groups on our site and in the forum some time next week, so look out for that if you are a professional looking to join a group.