(Cross-posted from MIRI's blog.)
MIRI's looking for a full-time office manager to support our growing team. It’s a big job that requires organization, initiative, technical chops, and superlative communication skills. You’ll develop, improve, and manage the processes and systems that make us a super-effective organization. You’ll obsess over our processes (faster! easier!) and our systems (simplify! simplify!). Essentially, it’s your job to ensure that everyone at MIRI, including you, is able to focus on their work and Get Sh*t Done.
That’s a super-brief intro to what you’ll be working on. But first, you need to know if you’ll even like working here.
A Bit About Us
We’re a research nonprofit working on the critically important problem of superintelligence alignment: how to bring smarter-than-human artificial intelligence into alignment with human values.1 Superintelligence alignment is a burgeoning field, and arguably the most important and under-funded research problem in the world. Experts largely agree that AI is likely to exceed human levels of capability on most cognitive tasks in this century—but it’s not clear when, and we aren’t doing a very good job of preparing for the possibility. Given how disruptive smarter-than-human AI would be, we need to start thinking now about AI’s global impact. Over the past year, a number of leaders in science and industry have voiced their support for prioritizing this endeavor:
- Stuart Russell, co-author of the leading textbook on artificial intelligence and a MIRI advisor, gives a compelling argument for doing this work sooner rather than later.
- Nick Bostrom of Oxford University, another MIRI research advisor, published Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, which details the potential value of smarter-than-human AI systems as well as the potential hazards.
- Elon Musk (Paypal, SpaceX, Tesla), Bill Gates (Microsoft co-founder), Stephen Hawking (world-renowned theoretical physicist), and others have publicly stated their concerns about long-term AI risk.
- Hundreds of AI researchers and engineers recently signed an open letter advocating for more research into robust and beneficial artificial intelligence. A number of MIRI publications are cited in the corresponding Research Priorities document.
People are starting to discuss these issues in a more serious way, and MIRI is well-positioned to be a thought leader in this important space. As interest in AI safety grows, we’re growing too—we’ve gone from a single full-time researcher in 2013 to what will likely be a half-dozen research fellows by the end of 2015, and intend to continue growing in 2016.
All of which is to say: we really need an office manager who will support our efforts to hack away at the problem of superintelligence alignment!
If our overall mission seems important to you, and you love running well-oiled machines, you’ll probably fit right in. If that’s the case, we can’t wait to hear from you.
What it’s like to work at MIRI
We try really hard to make working at MIRI an amazing experience. We have a team full of truly exceptional people—the kind you’ll be excited to work with. Here’s how we operate:
We do not have strict office hours. Simply ensure you’re here enough to be available to the team when needed, and to fulfill all of your duties and responsibilities.
Modern Work Spaces
Many of us have adjustable standing desks with multiple large external monitors. We consider workspace ergonomics important, and try to rig up work stations to be as comfortable as possible.
Living in the Bay Area
We’re located in downtown Berkeley, California. Berkeley’s monthly average temperature ranges from 60°F in the winter to 75°F in the summer. From our office you’re:
- A 10-second walk to the roof of our building, from which you can view the Berkeley Hills, the Golden Gate Bridge, and San Francisco.
- A 30-second walk to the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), which can get you around the Bay Area.
- A 3-minute walk to UC Berkeley Campus.
- A 5-minute walk to dozens of restaurants (including ones in Berkeley’s well-known Gourmet Ghetto).
- A 30-minute BART ride to downtown San Francisco.
- A 30-minute drive to the beautiful west coast.
- A 3-hour drive to Yosemite National Park.
Our vacation policy is that we don’t have a vacation policy. That is, take the vacations you need to be a happy, healthy, productive human. There are checks in place to ensure this policy isn’t abused, but we haven’t actually run into any problems since initiating the policy.
We consider our work important, and we care about whether it gets done well, not about how many total hours you log each week. We’d much rather you take a day off than extend work tasks just to fill that extra day.
Regular Team Dinners and Hangouts
We get the whole team together every few months, order a bunch of food, and have a great time.
We provide top-notch health and dental benefits. We care about our team’s health, and we want you to be able to get health care with as little effort and annoyance as possible.
Our ops team follows standard Agile best practices, meeting regularly to plan, as a team, the tasks and priorities over the coming weeks. If the thought of being part of an effective, well-functioning operation gets you really excited, that’s a promising sign!
- Moving to the Bay Area? We’ll cover up to $3,500 in travel expenses.
- Use public transit to get to work? You get a transit pass with a large monthly allowance.
- All the snacks and drinks you could want at the office.
- You’ll get a smartphone and full plan.
- This is a salaried position. (That is, your job is not to sit at a desk for 40 hours a week. Your job is to get your important work done, even if this occasionally means working on a weekend or after hours.)
It can also be surprisingly motivating to realize that your day job is helping people explore the frontiers of human understanding, mitigate global catastrophic risk, etc., etc. At MIRI, we try to tackle the very largest problems facing humanity, and that can be a pretty satisfying feeling.
If this sounds like your ideal work environment, read on! It’s time to talk about your role.
What an office manager does and why it matters
Our ops team and researchers (and collection of remote contractors) are swamped making progress on the huge task we’ve taken on as an organization.
That’s where you come in. An office manager is the oil that keeps the engine running. They’re indispensable. Office managers are force multipliers: a good one doesn’t merely improve their own effectiveness—they make the entire organization better.
We need you to build, oversee, and improve all the “behind-the-scenes” things that ensure MIRI runs smoothly and effortlessly. You will devote your full attention to looking at the big picture and the small details and making sense of it all. You’ll turn all of that into actionable information and tools that make the whole team better. That’s the job.
Sometimes this looks like researching and testing out new and exciting services. Other times this looks like stocking the fridge with drinks, sorting through piles of mail, lugging bags of groceries, or spending time on the phone on hold with our internet provider. But don’t think that the more tedious tasks are low-value. If the hard tasks don’t get done, none of MIRI’s work is possible. Moreover, you’re actively encouraged to find creative ways to make the boring stuff more efficient—making an awesome spreadsheet, writing a script, training a contractor to take on the task—so that you can spend more time on what you find most exciting.
We’re small, but we’re growing, and this is an opportunity for you to grow too. There’s room for advancement at MIRI (if that interests you), based on your interests and performance.
You’ll have a wide variety of responsibilities, including, but not necessarily limited to, the following:
- Orienting and training new staff.
- Onboarding and offboarding staff and contractors.
- Managing employee benefits and services, like transit passes and health care.
- Payroll management; handling staff questions.
- Championing our internal policies and procedures wiki—keeping everything up to date, keeping everything accessible, and keeping staff aware of relevant information.
- Managing various services and accounts (ex. internet, phone, insurance).
- Championing our work space, with the goal of making the MIRI office a fantastic place to work.
- Running onsite logistics for introductory workshops.
- Processing all incoming mail packages.
- Researching and implementing better systems and procedures.
Your “value-add” is by taking responsibility for making all of these things happen. Having a competent individual in charge of this diverse set of tasks at MIRI is extremely valuable!
A Day in the Life
A typical day in the life of MIRI’s office manager may look something like this:
- Come in.
- Process email inbox.
- Process any incoming mail, scanning/shredding/dealing-with as needed.
- Stock the fridge, review any low-stocked items, and place an order online for whatever’s missing.
- Onboard a new contractor.
- Spend some time thinking of a faster/easier way to onboard contractors. Implement any hacks you come up with.
- Follow up with Employee X about their benefits question.
- Outsource some small tasks to TaskRabbit or Upwork. Follow up with previously outsourced tasks.
- Notice that you’ve spent a few hours per week the last few weeks doing xyz. Spend some time figuring out whether you can eliminate the task completely, automate it in some way, outsource it to a service, or otherwise simplify the process.
- Review the latest post drafts on the wiki. Polish drafts as needed and move them to the appropriate location.
- Process email.
- Go home.
You’re the one we’re looking for if:
- You are authorized to work in the US. (Prospects for obtaining an employment-based visa for this type of position are slim; sorry!)
- You can solve problems for yourself in new domains; you find that you don’t generally need to be told what to do.
- You love organizing information. (There’s a lot of it, and it needs to be super-accessible.)
- Your life is organized and structured.
- You enjoy trying things you haven’t done before. (How else will you learn which things work?)
- You’re way more excited at the thought of being the jack-of-all-trades than at the thought of being the specialist.
- You are good with people—good at talking about things that are going great, as well as things that aren’t.
- People thank you when you deliver difficult news. You’re that good.
- You can notice all the subtle and wondrous ways processes can be automated, simplified, streamlined… while still keeping the fridge stocked in the meantime.
- You know your way around a computer really well.
- Really, really well.
- You enjoy eliminating unnecessary work, automating automatable work, outsourcing outsourcable work, and executing on everything else.
- You want to do what it takes to help all other MIRI employees focus on their jobs.
- You’re the sort of person who sees the world, organizations, and teams as systems that can be observed, understood, and optimized.
- You think Sam is the real hero in Lord of the Rings.
- You have the strong ability to take real responsibility for an issue or task, and ensure it gets done. (This doesn’t mean it has to get done by you; but it has to get done somehow.)
- You celebrate excellence and relentlessly pursue improvement.
- You lead by example.
- Your technical chops are really strong. (Dabbled in scripting? HTML/CSS? Automator?)
- Involvement in the Effective Altruism space.
- Involvement in the broader AI-risk space.
- Previous experience as an office manager.
Experience & Education Requirements
- Let us know about anything that’s evidence that you’ll fit the bill.
How to Apply
Click here to apply by July 31, 2015!
P.S. Share the love! If you know someone who might be a perfect fit, we’d really appreciate it if you pass this along!