Joseph Lemien

2592 karmaJoined Pursuing a graduate degree (e.g. Master's)Working (6-15 years)Seeking work



I have work experience in HR and Operations. I read a lot, I enjoy taking online courses, and I do some yoga and some rock climbing. I enjoy learning languages, and I think that I tend to have a fairly international/cross-cultural focus or awareness in my life. I was born and raised in a monolingual household in the US, but I've lived most of my adult life outside the US, with about ten years in China, two years in Spain, and less than a year in Brazil. 

As far as EA is concerned, I'm fairly cause agnostic/cause neutral. I think that I am a little bit more influenced by virtue ethics and stoicism than the average EA, and I also occasionally find myself thinking about inclusion, diversity, and accessibility in EA. Some parts of the EA community that I've observed in-person seem not very welcoming to outsides, or somewhat gatekept. I tend to care quite a bit about how exclusionary or welcoming communities are.

I was told by a friend in EA that I should brag about how many books I read because it is impressive, but I feel  uncomfortable being boastful, so here is my clunky attempt to brag about that.

Unless explicitly stated otherwise, opinions are my own, not my employer's.

How others can help me

I'm looking for interesting and fulfilling work, so if you know of anything that you think might be a good fit for me, please do let me know.

I'm looking for a place to be my home. If you have recommendations for cities, for neighborhoods within cities, or for specific houses/communities, I'd be happy to hear your recommendations.

How I can help others

I'm happy to give advice to people who are job hunting regarding interviews and resumes, and I'm happy to give advice to people who are hiring regarding how to run a hiring round and how to filter/select best fit applicants. I would have no problem running you through a practice interview and then giving you some feedback. I might also be able to recommend books to read if you tell me what kind of book you are looking for.


How to do hiring


I have mixed feelings about this. The consequentialist part of me thinks that this great. The virtue ethicist part of me flinches away from this. I am happy to see people who have unmet desires (medical care, improved housing, education, food, etc.) getting access to money which allows them to meet those desires. The video also feels very manipulative.

There is something about poverty porn. The heartfelt music while we are being shown video clips of a child getting a single meal per day, the slow motion video of people smiling and laughing with inspirational music and narration about the good things GiveDirectly will do, a clip of a group of children performing a song... I know that there has been a lot written about exploitation and stereotypes when it comes to development and aid. And I can't exactly claim that there is something wrong about using standard video editing techniques or selecting a soundtrack that sparks the emotional reaction you want in your audience. I also know that plenty to kids start performing what they think you expect as soon as they see that they are being recorded, and this happens in tourism situations as well (giving the tourists what they want, in a sense).

The knife sharpening seemed like pretty standard performative YouTube behavior. A couple of outsiders goofing around and being the center of attention, a large crowd of people standing around watching, a friendly and low-stakes rivalry, affectations, etc. I'm aware that "competitions" like this are common for these kinds of videos. And maybe a video lacking that kind of competition would be shared less, and spread the message less.

If this generates lots of donations that otherwise wouldn't have happened, if this reduces the suffering in the world, then who am I to criticize or whine or complain about it?

EDIT: Of course, a perfectly appropriate response would be "your approval is not the criteria by which I measure worth, Joseph." I do understand that in a certain sense it is kind of silly for random internet strangers to share to what extent they approve or disapprove of other people's actions. Please interpret all of this as musings and explorations rather than as harsh  and confident judgements.

For anyone who is interested in tech policy, I thought I'd share this list of books from the University of Washington's Gallagher Law Library:

The collection ranging from court-focused, to privacy-focused books, to ethics, to criminal justice. There is an excellence breadth of material.

I will also need to use my laptop during meetings to take notes

Might it be possible to inform your conversational partners and get their consent to either A) use some type of transcription software (such as, or B) use your smartphone to record the audio of the conversation so that you can take notes manually later on? This would allow you to focus fully on the conversation, but it would also remove the limitation of typing on your laptop and would thus allow you to have walking meetings.

Haha, thanks for bringing a smile to my face.

Because my best estimate is that there are different steps toward different paths that would be better than trying to rewind life back to college age and start over. Like the famous Sylvia Plath quote about life branching like a fig tree, unchosen paths tend to wither away. I think that becoming a software developer wouldn't be the best path for me at this point: cost of tuition, competitiveness of the job market for entry-level developers, age discrimination, etc.

Being a 22-year old fresh grad with a bachelor's degree in computer science in 2010 is quite a different scenario than being a 40-year old who is newly self-taught through Free Code Camp in 202X. I predict that the former would tend to have a lot of good options (with wide variance, of course), while the latter would have fewer good options. If there was some sort of 'guarantee' regarding a good job offer or if a wealthy benefactor offered to cover tuition and cost of living while I learn then I would give training/education very serious consideration, but my understanding is that the 2010s were an abnormally good decade to work in tech, and there is now a glut of entry-level software developers.

I just looked at [ANONYMOUS PERSON]'s donations. The amount that this person has donated in their life is more than double the amount that I have ever earned in my life. This person appears to be roughly the same age as I am (we graduated from college ± one year of each other). Oof. It makes me wish that I had taken steps to become a software developer back when I was 15 or 18 or 22.

Oh, well. As they say, comparison is the thief of joy. I'll try to focus on doing the best I can with the hand I'm dealt.

I suspect that you are correct, Ulrik. A lot of EAs (myself included) often informally refer to people being EA as if that is a particular thing, but in reality it is actually an accumulation of dozens of little bits of knowledge, traits, preferences, and professed beliefs (like most identities/cultures). There are plenty of people that are 100% on board with using evidence and reasoning to do the most good that haven't heard of specific terminology that EAs tend to use, or that haven't considered the repugnant conclusion, and in my mind that doesn't make them any less EA.

Maybe we could think of it as the core stuff that really matters, and all the surface-level stuff that happens to come along. Actually trying to do good matters and being intentional about helping others matters. Interest in particular topics or having read specific books just happens to come along.

I think that is a good point, and I wish that we had included this in the post!

We approached this mainly from the perspective of a community building work (Tatiana's main work), which as a meta-EA job is probably the only type of work for which there is such high overlap between "alignment with EA" and "alignment with my organization's mission." But you are correct. I can see how there would be a lot less overlap for an organization focused on a specific cause.

The banner looks lovely. Great work.

FYI, there is at least one bit of false/inaccurate information on the banner. The bit about universal right to vote is referencing a database that considers Chinese people as having the right to vote since the late 1940s. While there is some voting that occurs in China at the local level with candidates that have to be pre-approved by the ruling party, it strikes as pretty inaccurate to claim full adult suffrage for China. It appears to references a dataset from this research paper, and I'm not sure why that dataset has this miscategorization.

(sorry to be nitpicky. I don't want people to read that almost everyone in the world lives in a democracy when in reality about 20% of people don't)

It's great to see that your efforts are expanding and paying off, and I'm looking forward to seeing Leaf's future development. Bravo on all of your hard work so far.

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