About five years ago a
had recently started at
encouraged me to join them. It sounded like a great startup doing
really important work in East Africa, and potentially more valuable
than continuing my "earning to give" approach, but because it was a
fully remote company and I like being in the same place as my
coworkers I told him I wasn't interested.
(With the pandemic, after nearly a year of working remotely for an "in
person" company this is still a strong preference!)
About a year later we ended up talking again, and there were now
several other Wave engineers in Boston; if I joined I would
potentially be the fourth engineer here. We could get a coworking
space, possibly hire more local people, and I wouldn't need to be
I was still unsure about the remote aspect, and whether four Boston
engineers would feel good, but I already knew the three others
socially, and it seemed promising. We spent some time together and I
decided to interview. Throughout the interview I was thinking about
fit: would I like working at Wave? Would I work well with people?
Did their current engineering staff and I have similar enough ways of
thinking about it?
They ended up deciding to make me an offer, and I accepted! I planned
to stay at Google until I got my annual bonus, and then switch.
A few weeks later, though, I realized something and my stomach
dropped: I hadn't properly thought through this decision from an
impact perspective. Yes, it seemed plausibly very important, but how
sure was I? Especially compared to GiveWell's recommendations which
had stood up to a lot of scrutiny? I had made the mistake of letting
"it's remote" expand subconsciously from being a blocker to being my
only reason for not taking the job.
I felt very stuck. If it wasn't actually better than what I was
already doing I really shouldn't switch. I'd already accepted the
job, and I don't like going back on my word, but I still could if I
really needed to.
As it was I was in luck. Days earlier, Tavneet Suri and William Jack
had published "The long-run poverty and gender impacts of mobile
money" (pdf) which looked at almost
exactly the question I was interested in. I dug into it, wrote a
draft of Estimating
the Value of Mobile Money, and ran it by some friends for help.
After working through the numbers it looked like the work I would be
doing at Wave was, if we succeeded, really valuable stuff. I did go ahead with the
transition, though it ended up not working
I'm still open to potentially moving away from earning to give at some
point (especially if the money I would be donating is going to be lost to means testing), but
next time I'm considering making such a big decision I need to be much
more careful to thoroughly think it through first.
 My options did end up being
worth something, unlike the previous
time, though I don't fully know how much yet.
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