Joseph Lemien

1883 karmaJoined Dec 2020Pursuing 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


A brief thought on 'operations' and how it is used in EA (a topic I find myself occasionally returning to).

It struck me that operations work and non-operations work (within the context of EA) maps very well onto the concept of staff and line functions. Line function are those that directly advances an organization's core work, while staff functions are those that do not. Staff functions have advisory and support functions; they help the line functions. Staff functions are generally things like accounting, finance, public relations/communication, legal, and HR. Line functions are generally things like sales, marketing, production, and distribution. The details will vary depending on the nature of the organization, but I find this to be a somewhat useful framework for bridging concepts between EA and the broader world.

It also helps illustrate how little information is conveyed if I tell someone I work in operations. Imagine 'translating' that into non-EA verbiage as I work in a staff function. Unless the person I am talking to already has a very good understanding of how my organization works, they won't know what I actually do.

Basically no one knows about any of the times they do things well because why would they?

This line particularly resonated with me. There are some types of work where doing it successfully means nobody ever hears about you: we generally don't pays attention to people who prevent bad things because we don't notice the absence of bad things as anything... well, as anything notable. It is almost like publication bias or some similar I don't see it so I think it doesn't exist situation. I imagine that community health work is often (although not always) a kind of invisible labor.

I suspect that the culture of EA is a little more likely to acknowledge and respect this kind of work (and I think it does a decent amount better than the broader society), but it still strikes me as less respected than the people doing more active, visible, and promoted things.

This is also strongly reminiscent of ideas in The Innovation Delusion, which describes how "maintenance and care workers, including IT helpdesks, nurses, and people who take out the trash both on our streets and on our social media networks, are underpaid and disrespected."[1]

  1. ^

    These are not my words. This is from a book review

Elizabeth, if the meaning coming across is that I am proposing the mere acknowledgement of a partner's existence as rude, then I have phrased my writing poorly. I agree that talking about about a partner's existence or day to day life with them is not widely considered private or rude. It seems that we both agree that mentioning (What'd you do this weekend? Went roller skating with my girlfriend) is fine, and getting into specifics is more private.

I think maybe the misunderstanding might be focused on what "talking" means. 

Maybe this would provide a little more context. Politics, sexual and romantic relationships, money, and religion are topics that are traditionally considered somewhat private in the USA, and are widely viewed as somewhat rude to talk about in public. I would feel fine talking about any of these topics with a close friend, but I wouldn't want to hear a colleague discuss the details of their romantic relationship anymore than I want to hear the particulars of their money issues or their faith. Naturally, these norms can vary across cultures, but there is a fairly strong norm to not discuss these topics in a workplace in the USA, at least.

The other big factor that comes to mind for me is the difference between a mere mention in passing and a repeated/regular topic of conversation. On a very superficial level, we are there to work, not to talk about relationships. On a more social/conversational level, I don't want to be repeatedly badgered with an someone else's relationship status or romantic adventures. I don't think that polyamory should be a prohibited topic any more than "do you want to have kids someday" or "I'm excited for a date this weekend" should be prohibited. But if any of those are repeatedly brought up in the workplace... Well, I'd like to have a workplace free from that type of annoyance. So (for me at least) it is less about there shouldn't be discussion of polyamory in the workplace, and more about there shouldn't be regular and extended discussions of people's personal relationships in the workplace.

  1. ^

    I'm assuming that the colleague is an acquaintance, rather than a friend.

"Here is a list of behaviors/circumstances that tend to be risky. You should give serious consideration to avoiding these circumstances unless you have reason to believe that the risks don't apply to you. Be very careful if you choose to engage with these."

In my mind I'm thinking that it is roughly parallel to certain sports or certain financial investments: plenty of people come out fine, but the risks are much more elevated compared to the average/norm in that field (compared to the sports that people normally play, or compared to similar investments). I think that the personal circumstances matter a lot: to continue the financial and sport analogy, some people have the discipline to not pull money out of a bear market, or have years of practice walking a tightrope, and thus they are less likely to be hurt/damaged from certain behaviors.


EDIT: based on on a comment from Jeff Kaufman, I am now somewhat less confident that a restraining order is strong evidence of harassment actually having occurred. I know practically nothing of the legalities of harassment and restraining orders, so I advice any readers to not consider my opinions on this topic very heavily.

In service of clear epistemics, I want to flag that the "horror stories" that your are sharing are very open to interpretation. If someone pressured someone else, what does that really mean? If could be a very professional and calm piece of advice, or it could be a repulsive piece of manipulation. Is feeling harassed a state that allows someone to press charges, rather than actual occurrence of harassment? (of course, I also understand that due to privacy and mob mentality, you probably don't want to share all the details; totally understandable.)

So maybe these really are scenarios in which the community health team dropped the ball. But maybe they aren't. And the snippets shared here aren't enough for me to have confidence in either of those interpretations. I guess I mainly want to remind readers to not pass judgement based on tiny snippets of narratives.

While I don't have an objection to the idea of rebranding the community health team, I want to push back a bit against labelling it as human resources.

HR already has a meaning, and there is relatively little overlap between the function of community health within the EA community and the function of a HR team. I predict it would cause a lot of confusion to have a group labelled as HR which doesn't do the normal things of an HR team (recruitment, talent management, training, legal compliance, compensation, sometimes payroll, etc.) but does do things that are frequently not part of a normal HR team (handle interpersonal disputes).

I don't have any proposals for a good label, but I predict that using HR as a label would cause a lot of confusion.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. :) 

Thanks for sharing this. I like seeing this kind of stuff on the EA Forum.

By "this kind of stuff" I roughly mean "correcting commonly held perceptions that are false, and providing not-too-much and not-to-little context." The falsehood of these perceptions might be obvious to someone who has dug into the topic a bit, but there are a large number of topics that I never explored beyond the superficial level.

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