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  • Leaving Google, Joining Wave

    January 3rd, 2017
    work, giving, switching_jobs  [html]
    Later this month I'll be leaving Google, after four—nearly five—good years. I'm finding myself quite wistful: it's the best place I've worked, with a great culture and so many wonderful people. Google's reputation as an excellent place to work is well-deserved, and the Cambridge office is awesome. So why am I leaving?

    I joined Google so I could earn money to donate, and over my time here I've been able to donate over half a million dollars. Now I have the opportunity to do something even more valuable: building a mobile money system in a low-income country. I previously estimated that expanding mobile money would be extremely beneficial, and I think Wave can make it happen. [1]

    This does mean taking a pay cut: I'll be making about half as much, if you don't count stock options. [2] At the same time, I'm moving from a job that was primarily valuable for what it would let me donate, to one that is primarily valuable for the work I'm doing. So I'm making two changes to my donation plans:

    • I'm planning to donate 30% instead of 50%. This is also 30% of a smaller number, so my total donations will look more like $50k than $150k.

    • I had been splitting my donations evenly between things that do good directly and things that try to grow the effective altruism movement. Working for Wave is in the former category, so I'm planning to focus donations on EA movement growth.

    I'm pretty excited about this move, though sad to be leaving Google. Wish me luck!


    [1] Doing a conservative (and very rough) calculation, if my first three years at Wave are on this project, my contribution is vaguely inversely proportional to Wave's number of employees, we get mobile money to a large low-income country one year sooner, and we have a 50% chance of failure, this is still over twice the value of what I would be able to donate staying at Google. [1a]

    [1a] I also have some doubts about the value of earning to give, now that there is a lot more money available in the EA-sphere than there was. I think additional money is still very valuable, but possibly at GiveDirectly levels instead of Against Malaria Foundation levels. Since GiveWell estimates that money to the AMF goes ~5x farther, this is another consideration pushing me toward direct work.

    [2] For medium term and cashflow considerations, valuing stock options at zero is clearly right: I can't use them to buy food or pay our mortgage. More long term they will probably be worth something, but it's pretty hard to say what; valuing stock options is hard. (And didn't work out for me well last time.)

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