Job posts were starting to feel stilted to me so I decided to write a letter instead. Ought is a machine learning research lab and we’re looking for someone to help manage business operations. The title is vague because there’s room for both people early and later in their careers.
Ought wants to help people answer some of the hardest and most important questions in life - questions about what people should or ought to do. Some of the most powerful technologies of our time - machine learning and AI - will not help us answer these questions by default. So our goal is to figure out how to use ML and AI to solve these open-ended questions.
We’re doing this by breaking down these complicated questions into smaller questions that are easier to answer and evaluate. If we can go from “Should I get this surgery?” down to “How effective was this strategy for these 5000 people?” and “How similar am I to these 5000 people?” then down into smaller questions still, those big questions become easier to answer. Eventually, we’ll use this approach to train and evaluate ML systems to make sure they are helping us answer these questions effectively.
To make progress on this project, I need an operations generalist that can contribute to all of our business operations - recruiting, legal, HR, project management, etc. Additionally, I’d love for you to help structure broader ops strategy questions like:
- How can we attract the best people?
- How can we provide a great research and work environment?
- How can we help our staff grow beyond what they thought was possible?
Depending on your level of experience, I’ll hand these entire functions off to you, or you’ll start working with me on more defined projects. Some of those initial projects include:
- Implementing a strategy for diversifying our donor base
- Updating our website so that it conveys our mission and work more effectively
- Debriefing past projects and distilling what we can learn from them
- Improving our financial forecasts and scenario planning
We're a research lab run like a startup. You’ll be surrounded by researchers who want to figure out how to use AI to help people solve real problems without the constraints of academia. We’re tiny right now, but we’re ambitious and we'll grow a lot, building out operations, research, and engineering teams. You'll wear many hats. Your work matters to everyone in the company. You can shape the culture. If you thrive and create order in these types of environments, I want to work with you.
Some people are at their best when they can focus on a single project without interruptions and struggle when they have to juggle many balls. I wouldn’t recommend this role to them.
If you resonate with any of the following, I think we may make a great team:
- You care about reasoning, evidence, and structured arguments. You want to become a better thinker.
- You give and receive feedback frequently. You want to improve, help me improve, and help Ought improve. You push yourself and others to be better than they thought possible.
- Lists. Agendas. Calendar holds. Slack reminders to buy people cake for their birthday.
- You are authentic. Your values shape your work as they shape the rest of your life.
Managers usually make or break a person’s experience at a job so you probably want to know what working with me is like. (In general, it seems unfair that candidates get much less time to evaluate a company than companies do candidates.) If we get far enough into the process, I’m happy to share lots of information about working with me, including:
- Docs and blog posts I’ve written about efficiency, my vision for ops at Ought, how I manage hiring, how I think about skills development and performance reviews, etc.
- References from past teammates and coworkers, whom I still cherish
I’m excited for walks on which we debrief the week, talk through that weirdness you felt in that meeting, and discuss your career goals. I’m excited to create or find opportunities to help you practice communication, analytics, structuring open-ended problems, or whatever you want to work on. I’m excited for that moment when I ask you for something vague and undefined like “I have this feeling that we need to be thinking about this thing that might happen in a few years” and you come back with something far better than anything I could have done. Those are some of my favorite moments.
I’m excited about you and the things we can accomplish together.
PS if you think this was a bad way to introduce candidates to what we’re looking for, let me know! Not crazy to think that job descriptions are the way they are for a reason.