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Oh, and regarding the degree itself... I liked my MS CS program for the most part. The cost of tuition is becoming a tougher sell with all the cheap options to learn online. Hour-for-hour, you could probably get a better education by reading articles and practicing skills, because you can learn exactly what you want, and classes are not quite as cutting edge as podcasts/articles/meetups/etc.. For example my neural nets class taught theory but no practical skills like tensorflow/keras/pytorch, which really annoyed me. But the structure does help you stay focused and organized for multiple years. Mine was online, so I can't speak to the value of networking. The value of the degree on the resume is definitely real, but only a little better than 2 years of experience, and probably not much better than a promotion. I can't speak directly to a PhD, but I was on the fence, skipped it, and definitely do not regret my decision.

Hey Oliver, this is a tough call. I would hold out for the promotion and vesting if it's only a couple years. Personally, I did a MS in CS/ML part time while working. It was a little brutal at times, took almost 4 years, and limited my choice of schools. But it was very good for my career, since I didn't have to sacrifice any job progression time. It's not the right choice for everyone (I don't have kids, so more flexibility), but it's one option.

I will say that while a year or two to wait for a promotion/vesting might seem like a lot, it will fly by, and you will be in a very strong position from there. If you are donating and enjoying your job in the meantime, all the better!

If possible, I wonder if you could negotiate a 1.5-2 year break from your company to go for the MS, pause the vesting (rather than lose it), and come back in at the senior position. This would be the best of both worlds if you could swing it, I've definitely heard stories like that. If you get into a top school, you could have good leverage because it looks good for your company. I've even known people to swing the deal so that the company pays the tuition with a 2 year commitment after. If after a year you love research, back out of the deal and continue for the PhD. 

Sounds like you are in a good position right now for all the reasons you state, so be careful before throwing that away, you could always get unlucky and find yourself simply starting over at a new company after getting the degree.

Good luck!

I agree with Oliver. This is a tricky question, and the path might be narrow. I was a management consultant and am now a data scientist (basically a software engineer). From your project description, I also immediately thought of management consulting. However, it can be difficult to gain technical consulting credibility without technical skills. In fact, I've read that  Elon Musk  hates consultants, presumably for this reason. I've applied for jobs managing technical projects, and I'm ALWAYS asked about my technical skills. Presumably Musk also likes people who aren't afraid to get get their hands dirty and in the weeds. 

I'd ask, what do you like about Musk's companies? If it's that they are building things and solving tough challenges, keep an open mind about engineering. There are many types of 'technical skills', and you might find something you like. Remember, Musk, Gates, Bezos, and even Steve Jobs got their start by trying to solve a specific problem and diving deep into the technical details. 

If it's just the global impact of Musk's accomplishments that attracts you, then maybe something 'softer' like an MBA (to go for management consulting, or to be an entrepreneur), or studying a specific field of public policy could be a good option.  But beware, unless you can get into Harvard Business School, those types of jobs are generally more competitive, less numerous and pay less than engineering ones. 

And most entrepreneurs fail. Sorry to be a buzzkill, but don't overlook this fact. It's difficult to 'create a vision and oversee its implementation' if you have no money and no one to help you implement. As Oliver mentioned, getting a few years experience under your belt first can be a great way to position yourself for entrepreneurship down the road (and make sure you actually like your chosen field). 

Like Oliver, I love software engineering (I'm in machine learning/AI), even though I originally wanted to do something more in 'policy'. A good software engineer can absolutely help guide the vision of a project. In fact, the ability to see the bigger picture will help you stand out among your peers who just write code and don't ask questions. Presumably other fields of engineering are similar. 

Good luck!

Hello! I am a math BS, CS MS w/ 8 years experience, am in Fintech doing AI and deep learning (not as a quant, but close), so hopefully I can shed some light for you :) To cut to the chase, I'd strongly consider the quant trading firm option, largely just because you have a great offer and shouldn't overlook that. (especially if you think the work-life balance will be good! That is a major downside to many trading jobs)

First, you can get 1000 opinions about a phD, but my personal opinion is to skip it. It does help lend some credibility, but sacrificing 5 years of career progression and salary is just such a high cost. I work with a lot of PhDs and I hold my own just fine.  

Second, I've been donating 10% of my income for about 5 years now, and it ABSOLUTELY DOES feel good. Especially if you are like me and like looking at numbers and can let go of not "seeing" the impact first hand. I have a family member who did peace corp, and I feel just as strong connection to  my impact as they do. I had the same hesitations you did, but I ultimately realized my desire to "feel" like I was doing good was more tied to a desire to "show off" on linked in that I was doing good based on my employer or title. Most friends and family don't know I E2G, and I'm fine with that. I'm still doing a hell of a lot of good, and I sleep fine at night. 

Third (not about PhD, but regarding quant vs policy), ask yourself: if you pick wrong, which switch will be easier. Few trade shops will hire someone with a non-technical policy background, even in AI. Many AI policy jobs would love to hire a highly technical person who has inside knowledge on how the financial industry works. 

Finally, don't underestimate the intellectual stimulation of a quant job. To an outsider, I stare at a stock market activity and python code all day. But I find it incredibly thought provoking. Our company has "journal clubs" and I find time to read ML articles and books. Obviously if you truly hate coding, then avoid it. But I still code daily, and it's not nearly as "draining" as I expected. Don't forget AI is hot stuff in fintech right now, so the two topics are not mutually exclusive.

Good luck!!

You are relying quite heavily on the 18 animals/dollar figure, which seemed very high to me. Does it really seem likely that spending 6 cents on corporate outreach can save a life that brings several dollars in profit per month?

In fact, it seems that ACE has updated this to less than one for THL in 2018. Granted, ASF, another ACE top charity, does maintain a very high figure, however, I'm concerned by this fluctuation year-over-year that we saw with THL. It seems driven by one-off wins, not a sustainable, predictable pattern.

To be very specific, I'm concerned with the figure of the proportion of credit (roughly 0.25-0.6 for these guesstimates) that goes to the advocacy organization. If the advocate gets 60% of the credit for increasing cage size for example, how much credit goes to the CEO who listens to the advocate and decides to reform the supply chain? How much of the credit goes to the sustainable farmer who buys more expensive equipment and take a hit to their profit? What about the animal-conscious consumer who accepts a slight price hike to buy meat with less suffering attached, or even helps pressure the companies to comply?

As a vegan, I like to think I get most of the credit for the ~20-30 animals I save each year, even if my choice was catalyzed by some video I saw or book I read. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful to those working hard to get the word out, but to claim that an add campaign gets most of the credit for saving these lives seems a little extreme.

I agree that animal charities are probably also very cost effective, but I don't think the advantage over human ones is a stark as you present. An effectiveness of 1 bird/dollar puts ROI just below that of the Malaria Consortium by your calculations.