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.