Pre-announcement and call for feedback: Operations Camp 2019

Eirin M. Ev­jen, Exec. Dir. EA Nor­way
Jør­gen R. Ljønes, Ass. Exec. Dir. EA Norway

EA Nor­way plans an op­er­a­tions camp this sum­mer with the long term goal of nar­row­ing the op­er­a­tions tal­ent gap in EA. In this post we an­nounce our cur­rent plans and un­cer­tain­ties, how we plan to re­solve this un­cer­tainty and we call for feed­back and ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est in par­ti­ci­pat­ing. We want to em­pha­size that this is not an an­nounce­ment of the event it­self, and that any or all of the de­tails stated here may change be­fore we ac­cept any ap­pli­ca­tions.

To achieve the goal of nar­row­ing the op­er­a­tions tal­ent gap we en­vi­sion three main mechanisms:

  1. Provide the par­ti­ci­pants a chance to test their fit and get to know the field of op­er­a­tions in or­gani­sa­tions in the EA com­mu­nity.

  2. Aid the par­ti­ci­pants to get an in­tro­duc­tion to rele­vant sub­fields, sign­post great re­sources and help them grow as op­er­a­tions ex­perts.

  3. Create a strong and re­li­able sig­nal for par­ti­ci­pants to send to po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers of their skill level, high fidelity EA un­der­stand­ing and ad­her­ence of EA val­ues.

Other side ob­jec­tives of this pro­ject in­clude:

  • Provide the wider EA com­mu­nity ac­cess to what we learn in or­ganis­ing this event.

  • En­gage the EA com­mu­nity in Nor­way, and Oslo in par­tic­u­lar to help or­ganise, net­work and get in­spired by the pro­ject.

What we have done so far

We have fol­lowed the dis­cus­sions of the op­er­a­tions tal­ent gap in EA, and since Oc­to­ber last year done some re­search to bet­ter un­der­stand the prob­lem and what we could do to help out. Please read our pre­vi­ous posts on the topic here and here (two at the time of writ­ing).

A main take­away from our re­search is that prac­ti­cal op­er­a­tions ex­pe­rience is im­por­tant. It is no bet­ter way of test­ing your in­cli­na­tion to plan well ahead, keep calm un­der pres­sure and not drop the ball, which are all es­sen­tial traits for an op­er­a­tions pro­fes­sional. Hav­ing rele­vant pro­jects in your port­fo­lio is of­ten more valuable than ed­u­ca­tion or other for­mal train­ing as a sig­nal of fit to em­ploy­ees.

Another im­por­tant take­away that is par­tic­u­larly rele­vant for our idea of an Oper­a­tions camp is that the tal­ent gap is not merely about a lack of available can­di­dates for the po­si­tions posted, but that there is sig­nifi­cant fric­tion in the hiring pro­cess. Espe­cially for se­nior op­er­a­tions roles, the cost of a bad hire is high. Ap­pli­cants’ tal­ent, re­li­a­bil­ity, cul­ture fit, and high fidelity EA un­der­stand­ing are very hard to es­ti­mate re­li­ably through ap­pli­ca­tions, in­ter­views, and even work tri­als.

From what we have learned, and with fur­ther in­put from op­er­a­tions peo­ple, CEA and 80,000 hours, we came up with the idea of or­ganis­ing a camp for can­di­dates in­ter­ested in do­ing op­er­a­tions at an EA or­gani­sa­tion. We be­lieve we can provide value by re­duc­ing the co­or­di­na­tion prob­lem through helping can­di­dates test their own fit for such po­si­tions, and fur­ther­more figure out what EA or­gani­sa­tion they would be a good fit for. More­over, by cre­at­ing a stronger sig­nal for ap­pli­cants to send to EA or­gani­sa­tions, we can re­duce the cost and re­source-in­ten­sive­ness of the hiring pro­cess.

We are now in­creas­ing our fo­cus on this pro­ject and want to re­solve our core un­cer­tain­ties so that we may de­cide on a con­cept and start plan­ning the de­tails and call for ap­pli­ca­tions.

Core uncertainties

Tar­get group We need to de­cide on a tar­get group for the camp. We are cur­rently con­sid­er­ing two differ­ent tar­get groups:

  1. Can­di­dates for ju­nior op­er­a­tions roles: Peo­ple with lit­tle or no job ex­pe­rience (but prefer­ably vol­un­teer ex­pe­rience or equiv­a­lent) and an in­ter­est in do­ing ops at an EA or­gani­sa­tion. Th­ese can­di­dates are in­ter­ested in test­ing their fit and gain rele­vant skills. For such a tar­get group, the length of the camp would be 4-6 weeks and we would aim for 10-15 par­ti­ci­pants. The fo­cus would be to test fit for op­er­a­tions roles, ac­quiring rele­vant skills, and cre­at­ing a strong sig­nal of level of skill and mo­ti­va­tion. After the camp, we would fa­cil­i­tate fur­ther up­skil­ling and con­nect can­di­dates with or­gani­sa­tions when rele­vant jobs are available.

  2. Can­di­dates for se­nior op­er­a­tions roles: Peo­ple who have sev­eral years or more ex­pe­rience in op­er­a­tions, pro­ject man­age­ment or similar, that are in­ter­ested in work­ing at an EA or­gani­sa­tion, but have less knowl­edge about what op­er­a­tions at EA or­gani­sa­tions en­tail. For such a tar­get group, the length of the camp would be 4-7 days with 5-8 par­ti­ci­pants. Here, the fo­cus would be to learn about EA or­gani­sa­tions, get to know their mis­sion and cul­ture, in ad­di­tion to pro­vid­ing a strong sig­nal of skill level and knowl­edge of EA. We imag­ine we would work closely with EA orgs be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter the camp to as­sess can­di­date fit and sup­port them in ap­pli­ca­tions or in­for­mal hiring at EA or­gani­sa­tions.

Some cru­cial con­sid­er­a­tions to de­cid­ing the tar­get group are:

  • What will be the de­mand for ju­nior and se­nior op­er­a­tions roles in EA or­gani­sa­tions the next few years? Is there a dis­crep­ancy in ex­pected, to­tal tal­ent gap be­tween the two?

  • How is the par­ti­ci­pant in­ter­est in at­tend­ing the two ver­sions of the camp? What are the main ob­sta­cles for in­creas­ing this in­ter­est?

  • Is our ca­pac­ity and fit more in line with or­ganis­ing a camp for one or the other tar­get group?

  • What are the es­ti­mated risks at­tached to or­ganis­ing such a camp for the two tar­get groups?

Rel­a­tive effec­tive­ness of the differ­ent mechanisms Another ques­tion is the rel­a­tive im­por­tance of the differ­ent mechanisms for reach­ing our goal, men­tioned at the be­gin­ning of this post. A camp with more weight on pro­vid­ing par­ti­ci­pants a way of test­ing their own fit for such roles might be very differ­ent than a camp em­pha­sis­ing pro­vid­ing fu­ture em­ploy­ees with a re­li­able sig­nal of their skill level and mo­ti­va­tion. There could also be other mechanisms and side ob­jec­tives that we have not thought of, but that are very im­por­tant.

Choos­ing ap­pli­cants When we are ready to call for ap­pli­ca­tions, mak­ing sure that we get rele­vant ap­pli­cants and have a fair, fast, and effec­tive way of choos­ing be­tween them seems cru­cial for the suc­cess of this pro­ject. Here we be­lieve that many groups and or­gani­sa­tions in the move­ment has ex­pe­rience with de­sign­ing ap­pli­ca­tions pro­cesses that don’t tax us or the ap­pli­cants un­nec­es­sar­ily, and are effec­tive in fil­ter­ing the best ap­pli­cants for the po­si­tions at the camp.

Pro­vid­ing a use­ful sig­nal We be­lieve that helping with the co­or­di­na­tion prob­lem through re­duc­ing fric­tion in the hiring pro­cess is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant and tractable. Our cur­rent think­ing is that this might be the more im­por­tant mechanism. Figur­ing out how to pro­duce and com­mu­ni­cate a strong and re­li­able sig­nal will be cru­cial, and we are un­cer­tain about how to do this effec­tively. We think that col­lab­o­rat­ing with peo­ple re­spon­si­ble for hiring at EA orgs when de­sign­ing this part of the camp is es­sen­tial. A ma­jor source of in­spira­tion here we be­lieve will be EA orgs ac­tual hiring pro­cess, as the sig­nal we want to give is the same as they are try­ing to mea­sure through ap­pli­ca­tions, in­ter­views and work tri­als.

Ex­pec­ta­tion man­age­ment A po­ten­tial failure mode is that ap­pli­cants be­lieve the camp is a guaran­teed way of be­ing hired. Par­ti­ci­pants should not ex­pect that this camp is guaran­tee­ing, or mak­ing any promises what­so­ever, about in­creas­ing the chances of get­ting a rele­vant po­si­tion. We ac­knowl­edge that com­mu­ni­cat­ing this is cru­cial, and would like to get in­put on how to en­sure ap­pli­cants un­der­stand this be­fore ap­ply­ing.

Fol­low-up of alumni As the over­ar­ch­ing goal of the camp is to nar­row the op­er­a­tions tal­ent gap at EA or­gani­sa­tions, we should have a good strat­egy of fol­low­ing alumni af­ter­wards. This could provide value in strength­en­ing the alumni net­work with each other and with EA orgs, as well as as­sist­ing alumni and orgs in a po­ten­tial hiring pro­cess. We be­lieve this is im­por­tant both to as­sess the value of the camp, but also to in­crease the chances that an alumni gets a po­si­tion that would oth­er­wise not have been filled.

Im­pact mea­sure­ment This is an ex­plo­ra­tory pro­ject and we be­lieve that most of the po­ten­tial value comes from learn­ing how to ex­e­cute the camp effec­tively so that we may re­peat it in the fu­ture. Doc­u­ment­ing what we have learned and mea­sur­ing the im­pact of the pro­ject is there­fore es­pe­cially cru­cial with this type of pro­ject. We have thought of differ­ent ways of mea­sur­ing and es­ti­mat­ing coun­ter­fac­tual value, but at this stage we want to en­courage oth­ers to provide ideas and sug­ges­tions with­out hear­ing our thoughts first. In fu­ture posts we will dis­cuss this fur­ther and share our plans of mea­sur­ing im­pact, and of course later share the re­sults.

Call for feed­back and ex­pres­sions of interest

We would greatly ap­pre­ci­ate feed­back on how we should se­lect the best tar­get group and the other un­cer­tain­ties out­lined above. Fur­ther, we are also in­ter­ested in what you think are other cru­cial con­sid­er­a­tions in car­ry­ing out such a pro­ject suc­cess­fully. Lastly, if at­tend­ing an op­er­a­tions camp in Oslo this sum­mer sounds in­ter­est­ing for you per­son­ally, feel free to send us an email at post@effek­ti­valtru­isme.no. By do­ing this, we can email you more in­for­ma­tion about ap­pli­ca­tion dates and so on, and it would give us an in­di­ca­tion of the gen­eral in­ter­est in the pro­ject. Please also send us tips about can­di­dates you think we should in­vite to ap­ply, or in­vite them to get in touch with us. To get a bet­ter sense of the de­mand for the two differ­ent ver­sions of the camp as out­lined above, please also in­di­cate your level of ex­pe­rience.