COO at Rethink Priorities.

I previously co-founded and served as Executive Director at Wild Animal Initiative and one of its predecessor organizations, Utility Farm. I also ran corporate animal welfare campaigns for Mercy For Animals.

I run a monthly newsletter on invertebrate welfare. Archives are here: https://www.invertebratewelfare.org/newsletter


Notes on "Managing to Change the World"

Sorry to callously steal your thunder Peter!

Notes on "Managing to Change the World"

I know this question wasn't directed at me, but my impression was that we had a lot of people do the training and many also read the book, and most came away thinking that the training was not worth the time / covered a lot of the material in the book but in a less useful format.

That being said, I think it's possible that having all managers just being in a situation where they sit and think about good management practices for 3 days can be really helpful, even if the feeling of being there is negative / the training itself is bad, and I wouldn't be surprised if having a large number of people go through the training improved management at RP overall.

Why is Operations no longer an 80K Priority Path?

Yeah that makes sense to me - RP definitely is at an advantage in being able to recruit people interested in tons of different topics, and they might still be value aligned? I'd say that we've gotten some very good longtermism focused ops candidates, but maybe not proportional to the number of jobs in EA? Not sure though. I think remote work really factors heavily - most of the organizations mentioned in this thread as having open positions that they are struggling to fill aren't hiring remotely, and are just hiring in the Bay Area it looks like.

Why is Operations no longer an 80K Priority Path?

Looking at other comments here, it seems like more people share your thought. I think maybe the remote/non-remote line is still important. But given that other ops people perceive a bottleneck, I added a note to my answer that I don't think it's really accurate.

Why is Operations no longer an 80K Priority Path?

Yeah, I think it sounds like people are saying that there is a lack of executive-level talent, which makes sense and seems reasonable - if EA is growing, there are going to be more Executive-y jobs than people with that experience in EA already, so if value-alignment is critical, this will be an issue.

But, I guess to me, it seems odd to use "ops" to mostly refer to high-level roles at organizations / entrepreneurial opportunities, which aren't the vast majority of jobs that might traditionally be called ops jobs. I definitely don't think founding an organization is called Ops outside this context. Maybe the bottleneck is something more like founders/executives at EA orgs? 

I think my experience is that finding really high quality junior ops folks like you describe is not that difficult (especially if we're willing to do some training), and that might hinge more on the remote factors I mentioned before, but I guess I totally buy that finding founders/execs is much harder.

I do think that ops skills matter for founding things, but also just having the foresight to hire ops-minded people early on is a pretty equivalent substitution. E.g. if I was running something like CE, I probably wouldn't look for ops related skills (but also I say all this as a person who founded an organization and is ops-inclined, so maybe my life experience speaks to something else?)

Why is Operations no longer an 80K Priority Path?

Edit: Given the other answers here it seems like there probably is a higher unmet demand for ops roles than I suggest here, so I don't think this comment should be the top answer here. I think my comments below might still be helpful for indicating why we and some other organizations have had less trouble hiring for ops than other organizations, but it seems like a bunch of groups are struggling to hire for ops.


I've hired operations people for EA-aligned organizations both during the period that 80,000 Hours had ops as a priority area and after.

Some quick thoughts:

  • I've never perceived there to be a bottleneck in operations talent. I remember hiring for a role around 2018 that received probably 50+ applications that seemed worth at least looking at, and now we regularly receive 100+ for ops roles.
  • My experience is that there are way more aligned and strong ops candidates than previously (e.g. in 2018 we'd probably have 2-3 highly skilled ops candidates per round, and now we have more like 10, though this is across two different organizations, so not a direct comparison).
  • At the time they made ops a priority area, I was fairly surprised, as were several other people in ops I spoke to, because we had not had any trouble at all hiring ops people (my impression is now it's even easier, but it didn't feel like a bottleneck then either).
  • The organizations I've hired for have been 100% remote. I think this is likely where the dividing line is between organizations that have trouble with hiring ops people, and those that don't.
    • From the perspective of people considering EA careers during college, I think the non-remote ops jobs are pretty unappealing — they are relatively low salaried and status despite being mostly in some extremely expensive cities (e.g. San Francisco, London). If I was a college student considering in-person jobs, salaries for ops roles vs. technical roles in San Francisco would strongly bias me toward pursuing technical roles.
    • Right now, I think remote organizations are in a way better market for EA-aligned talent. I'd guess in terms of EAs-per-job, the number is much lower in the Bay Area, Oxford, etc. vs outside those cities, and remote organizations can hire in the hub cities too. Plus, remote organizations can offer highly competitive salaries outside expensive cities without breaking the bank.
    • I think it is fairly likely that this was made a priority area in the first place because of bottlenecks at some non-remote organizations or because of very high standards for value-alignment that might now be looser, but I am uncertain about this.
  • Identifying talent for projects that haven't been started seems like a fundamentally different bottleneck that operations for existing projects.
What's the Theory of Change/Theory of Victory for Farmed Animal Welfare?

I don’t know if I buy any specific theory of change as being particularly useful, but my impression is most people in the animal welfare world are working under something like scenarios 1, 3, or 4 on your list, but not in any deeper detail than you have here. It also doesn’t seem like you have to have a Theory of Victory if you think corporate campaigning is highly cost-effective and otherwise making progress on animal welfare issues is hard.

The closest thing I’ve seen to something explicit and detailed is DxE’s Roadmap to Animal Liberation - https://docs.google.com/document/d/1YN7KpuShiZItqVuQtWv6ykrjrNv6rAnmjVOcsofRj0I/

Is it no longer hard to get a direct work job?

Here are roles Rethink Priorities has hired for since 2020. There hasn't been any real trend as far as I can see, except that my subjective impression is that the number of highly qualified applicants for research roles and operations roles is up, suggesting that it is getting harder to get a job at RP.

Our most competitive hiring round was for an Operations Associate a few months ago. Our researcher roles are in specific cause areas, so it's hard to compare directly to when we hired general researchers, but my impression is that they are up. We consistently get far fewer applications for management roles. For non-management roles, we still regularly get 60+ applications per offer we make.

The roles with * are ongoing hiring processes, so this is just my best guess at how many people we might end up hiring for each.

We’re Rethink Priorities. Ask us anything!

This potentially sounds useful, and I can definitely write about it at some point (though no promises on when just due to time constraints right now).

Rethink Priorities - 2021 Impact and 2022 Strategy

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