Working (6-15 years of experience)
2535Berkeley, CA, USAJoined Jan 2017


Let's make nice things with biology. Working on biosecurity at iGEM. Also into lab automation, event production, donating to global health. From Toronto, lived in Paris, currently in the SF Bay. Website: tessa.fyi


Topic Contributions

One thing that sort of did this for me at EAGxBerlin, which I wonder if we could have some kind of infrastructure for, was hosting "unofficial office hours" where I put my name on a piece of paper and sat in a specific place for two hours, and talked with people who came past. (I was also able to tell people  in Swapcard that we could talk during that time as well as or instead of in a 1:1.)

I could imagine unconference-y or "host your own conversation table" infrastructure for this as well (instead of or in addition to "unoffical office hours with X").

Related to some recent posts about linguistic inclusion ― allow people to indicate on Swapcard if they're open to having 1:1s in non-English languages?

A few I'd add:

  • CBW Events (daily reports from Bioweapons Convention meetings) → subscribe here
  • You might also find it useful to keep up with developments in biotechnology, for which I'd point you at:
  • There are a lot number of interesting public health and epidemiology newsletters as well; I don't feel like I have an amazing recommendation here, though I've recently been skimming Force of Infection

Items 1 through 4 rhyme with the advice in the Learning By Writing post on Cold Takes, which I found quite inspiring (emphasis in the original):

[During this process I am] trying to “always have a hypothesis” and re-articulating it whenever it changes. By doing this, I try to continually focus my reading on the goal of forming a bottom-line view, rather than just “gathering information.” I think this makes my investigations more focused and directed, and the results easier to retain. I consider this approach to be probably the single biggest difference-maker between "reading a ton about lots of things, but retaining little" and "efficiently developing a set of views on key topics and retaining the reasoning behind them."

For virtual contexts, you can also try turning on auto-captioning, which Zoom (https://blog.zoom.us/zoom-auto-generated-captions/) and Google Meet (https://support.google.com/meet/answer/9300310) support. It helps!

In terms of trivial inconveniences / perception and gratitude for the work people are doing to speak English, one other small note: there may be more native English speakers than you realize who have spent periods speaking another language?

In EA contexts, it's pretty much always the case that the shared level of English between myself and my conversation partner is higher, since my Spanish is around a B2 level and my French around B1... but I have spent ~6 months each in countries that speak those languages and know it's hard!

I've gotten feedback before when I'm speaking too quickly, and I've always been grateful for it. Do you have any other suggestions for how native English speakers can indicate willingness to receive feedback ― I sometimes worry about making people self-conscious by drawing attention to their (good but non-native) level of English, but maybe adding something in my EAG bio like "I know it can be exhausting to speak English all day if you're not a native speaker, please tell me to slow down if I'm speaking too fast!" would be helpful?

I love the subject line suggestion, this seems really helpful! A few other suggestions (also based on my experiences as a native English speaker living in non-English-speaking countries):

  1. Slow (especially with distinct gaps between words) makes more of a difference than simple, and is MUCH better than loud, which mostly distorts what you're trying to say.
  2. Be careful about mistaking accent for content; if you're not careful, you might assume someone isn't putting together fluent sentences when in fact they are just mispronouncing some words.
  3. Speaking in your non-native language is very cognitively demanding, and if someone taps out of a discussion early, it might be because of that rather than because of a lack of interest or things to say.
  4. Comprehension of a second (or third) language is much easier than speaking; don't necessarily assume someone isn't following the discussion because they speak hesitantly.

Thanks for this post!

I wanted to link a few previous discussions of this topic on the EA Forum, as I think the discussion there might also be relevant to this issue:

+1, thanks for designing this! Another thing that wasn't entirely clear to me was whether questions like "Have you made professional decisions based on wanting to escape a particular group of coworkers or company culture?" and "Have you ever experienced any of these behaviors while at work, or from your coworkers, managers, or other individuals you knew in a professional setting?" were meant to refer to my current role, or my entire career.

Thanks for writing out a reaction very similar to my own. As I wrote in a comment on a different topic, "it seems to me that one of the core values of effective altruism is that of impartiality― giving equal moral weight to people who are distant from me in space and/or time."

I agree that "all people count equally" is an imprecise way to express that value (and I would probably choose to frame in in the lens of "value" rather than "belief") but I read this as an imprecise expression of a common value in the movement rather than a deep philosophical commitment to valuing all minds exactly the same.

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