Is the community short of software engineers after all?

It often seems like software engineering is the most over-represented career in the community. On this ground, at 80,000 Hours we’ve discouraged more people from going into the area, in order to increase the diversity of skills in the community.

However, recently the following organisations have been trying to hire EA-aligned software engineers:

  • Wave

  • New Incentives (given a seed grant by GiveWell)

  • GiveDirectly

  • 80,000 Hours

  • CEA

And I don’t think any of these groups have found it particularly easy.

Might this mean we’re actually short of software engineers after all? It’s a bit hard to tell at this point, but if these positions continue to be unfilled, then it’ll look that way.

If we are short of engineers, what’s the explanation? Some ideas:

  • Lots of people in the community have entered the path, but few have become skilled enough to take these positions. In our hiring, it seemed like the choice was between an experienced non-EA or an EA with under a year of experience.

  • A large fraction of the community are in the path, but the skill is so useful that we’re still short of it.

  • Lots of people are in the path, but they prefer to earn to give, either because they believe it’s higher impact, or switching to direct work would involve too much sacrifice.

Are you an engineer with over 2yr experience who’s involved in effective altruism, and interested in switching to direct work? Get in touch with these organisations.