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AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism


  • I feel like I was able to create a role that played to my strengths, and I feel excited about the expected value of my career.
  • I care a lot about my work.
  • I really like my colleagues.



  • It can be stressful. I feel like I'm working on important things, and care a lot about how they go. When things don't go well or there's something time-sensitive and important to get right, it can feel stressful. This might be particularly related to my role (I handle risky situations a lot).
  • It can be hard to take my brain off of work. I'm a lot better than I used to be, but it's a concerted effort I have to make. (e.g. my partner will remind me not to look at my work computer, I've uninstalled my work slack from my phone)
AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism

I have a lot of "life shit" that has happened (chronic health issues, I'm accident-prone, my mom died). In addition, my role can be inherently stressful sometimes (I do some risk mitigation work). CEA has been amazingly supportive. CEA has helped me figure out a schedule that feels sustainable and part of a thriving life for me. CEA has helped me orient towards my "life shit" in much healthier and constructive ways. I now have an automatic reminder (or "TAP") installed to talk to our people ops person whenever I feel angsty or stressed, or uncomfortable. She's so good at helping me identify what's going on and helping me figure out what to do about it.

AMA: Working at the Centre for Effective Altruism

What Amy said above! I've also been doing some thinking about how to improve the community's epistemics in a more targeted way. As part of this, I conducted a small test run of a project that I hope will help (the "EA Librarian" project mentioned in Max's link). I've also developed a few other ideas (e.g., a coaching program). Unfortunately, the work here has been pretty limited so far due to capacity constraints. Right now, I'm focusing on trying to hire to add more capacity. I've also been working on my project management skills to try to increase my ability to push things forward in this space.

My mistakes on the path to impact

I love this post. Thanks so much for sharing.

Brief book review 2020

Thanks so much for writing this! Added a couple to my "to read" list.

Desperation Hamster Wheels

Thanks for the links!

I think my professional and social spaces at this time both made this feeling worse (because others felt this too and there was feeding on each other's angst cycle) and enabled me to get out of it/provided a healthy path forward (because others had navigated this before and gave me thoughtful and insightful advice, and also supported me as I made steps in this direction). I also think it's a broader dynamic than my personal professional and social spaces -- I was mostly within EA at this time, but I've seen this dynamic play out in a lot of other "do-gooder" friends from college who were never involved at all with EA.

Desperation Hamster Wheels

Thanks! This is an interesting point, and I'll mull on it.

Desperation Hamster Wheels

Thanks for the link! I'm adding it to my to listen to list :)

A few rambly reactions/thoughts in response to your message in case they are helpful:

  • I wonder if doing some experiments here would be useful. e.g. do you seem to have more impact if you assess your impact/usefulness daily, weekly, monthly, yearly? (or whatever intervals feel worth a test to you) What happens if you experiment with just leaning into your interests (rather than usefulness)? Seems worth trying some things out and then taking time to reflect on how they went. I've benefited a lot from experimentation of this form.
  • FWIW I find assessing my impact more than a couple of times a year to be quite stressful and not very helpful (often a distraction from actually doing things). Interestingly and perhaps counterintuitively, I find prioritizing based on expected value to be useful in my role daily. Somehow the frame of prioritization enables me to make those trade-offs without kicking up this sort of desperation hamster wheel/stress cycle. I wonder if trying on different frames could be useful for you too? Prioritization depersonalizes it a bit for me in a useful way.
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