Ben, to recap a bit what people have said: working as a software engineer at an EA organization
may not be the most technically challenging/engaging job
may not be great for future career development
may not pay much
This probably applies more to EA organizations like CEA and 80,000 Hours. Give Directly may be different since you probably work with Mpesa, similar to Wave; and maybe New Incentives too since they do conditional cash transfers.
And Wave is basically like a regular tech company in the above aspects (and probably better because it’s a startup hence work could be more challenging and interesting than say at Google). They pay less than Google. So it’s a good example that when you have to make sacrifices in 1 dimension, out of the 3 I mentioned above, you can still find really good EA-type software engineers to join.
But for EA organizations like CEA and 80,000 Hours, you need to make sacrifices in all 3 dimensions (and pay is probably less than Wave) -- no wonder it’s harder.
That being said, there’s no reason it can’t work. Just think about people doing similar jobs to the IT positions you want to hire for at CEA/80k—there are plenty of people doing them at other companies or organizations. In this sense, the EA organizations may pay less than the alternative but offers the opportunity to work for an EA organization, so the EA-types among these people would be attracted to such jobs, like EA-type Google engineers would be attracted to Wave.
If the job isn’t the most technically challenging/engaging, you probably shouldn’t be looking for people who value these too much, since they already need to take a pay cut which is a sacrifice even for EA-types, and asking people to make sacrifices on more than one dimension makes it harder to attract them. Look for people who are EA-types working in similar jobs in non-EA places, or people who would be at least indifferent between working these jobs at a non-EA org with lower pay and working these jobs at another place with higher pay.
(But maybe the jobs ARE technically challenging/engaging and great for future career prospect.. I don’t know, you should probably ask actual engineers for their views on these!)
Following up on this more than a year later, I can vouch for some but not all of these conclusions based on my experience at the high-impact organization I work for, the Human Diagnosis Project (www.humandx.org).
We’ve found it very difficult to recruit high-quality value-aligned engineers despite the fact that none of the above items really apply to us.
Our software engineering team performs very challenging work all over the stack—including infrastructure, backend, and mobile.
Working here is probably great for career development (in part because we’re on the bleeding edge of numerous technologies and give our engineers exposure to many technologies).
We pay similar salaries to other early-stage startups in Silicon Valley (and New York).
On problem I can identify right now is that I’ve attempted to recruit from the EA community a few times with very limited success. Perhaps I’ve gone about this via the wrong fora or have made other mistakes, but I’ve found that generally any candidates I did find were not good fits for the roles that we have to offer.
This problem continues to this day. Given that we don’t have the issues identified above (to my knowledge), my best hypothesis right now is that we’re simply unable to reach the right people in the right way—and I’m not sure how to fix that. If anyone has any particular ideas on this front, I’d love to hear them.
That said, if anyone wants to help us out, we’re still actively recruiting for a host of roles, including a lot of engineering positions. To learn more, take a look at https://www.humandx.org/team