FAQ about the Tech Projects Director Role

We’re hiring a new Director of Technology Projects. That’s the team at EFF that develops and maintains Privacy Badger, HTTPS Everywhere, the Certbot client for Let’s Encrypt, and Panopticlick, as well as housing our Threat Lab research group. On top of building and coding, the team also includes EFF’s public interest technologists, who use their deep understanding of technology to weigh in on policy, law, and regulatory fights in defense of users.

Since we published the job description, we have had many people reach out with questions about the role. We decided to publish our answers publicly, so that everyone who is potentially interested could have access to this information.

Please note that we are still accepting applications for the Director of Technology Projects role. However, we are starting resumé review this week and we strongly urge interested applicants to submit an application soon!

I am not sure I have all of the experience and qualifications. Should I still apply?

Yes, we think you should. 

We get it—lots of people have imposter syndrome, or worry that they may have some of the skills but not every listed qualification. And many people have career trajectories that are complex and don’t line up with traditional paths. So we want to be very explicit: we want to have a chance to connect with you even if you don’t think it’s a perfect fit for some reason. 

There are a few reasons for that. First of all, you might be the best candidate for the job even if your qualifications don’t seem “perfect,” because we also prioritize characteristics like good judgement, strategic thinking, a collaborative approach, and commitment to our mission—which are characteristics that aren’t based on any particular skills or work experience. And even more importantly, once you submit an application, we can start a conversation. It’ll give us a chance to know you, and you a chance to learn more about the job. Often, just getting into a dialogue can help us recognize where we can be flexible and make adjustments so that we can find a way forward that works for everyone.

And finally, it’s useful to submit an application even if you don’t think you’re a perfect fit because we never know what future roles at EFF might become available. It’s possible this particular role won’t be the right one, but maybe there’s another one at EFF that would be.

If you’re still really on the fence, you can drop a note to rainey@eff.org and she or someone else on the team will be happy to talk more about your questions or concerns.

Is this position based in San Francisco?

This role is based in San Francisco, and that’s for two reasons. First, the team doing the work is almost entirely based in San Francisco, and so we want a team leader who can nurture that team’s community by being in the office where they all work. And second, the EFF’s leadership team (which this role is part of) is based in San Francisco, and we value having conversations in-person, from brainstorming and dreaming up big plans to making critical strategic and policy decisions for the organization. All of this means that our office is a fun, intellectual interesting place where we like to think through problems together as a team, and we want this role to be a part of that.

For folks moving to San Francisco, we recognize it can be a big leap. That’s why EFF is committed to supporting the staff members who relocate to the Bay Area for the job: we sort out a timeline that works for your schedule, we offer moving costs benefits to get you here, and we offer innovative benefits like rental assistance and home buying assistance to make Bay Area living affordable. We also try to be really flexible with our employees who have family in other places or enjoy traveling, so it’s not unusual for EFF staffers to take a week working remotely so they can spend time with family or explore the world.

Many people move to San Francisco sight-unseen for the EFF job, and end up falling in love with the city. San Francisco encompasses so many different communities that you’re likely to find a niche that works for you. For starters, the city has an incredible arts community, bike-friendly streets, and is surrounded by natural playgrounds for hiking, skiing, and more. Plus, the coffee is great.  

Many, many EFF staffers took the leap of faith to move to San Francisco to work for EFF. Here is a bit of what they have to say about it:

“I moved to San Francisco 5 years ago, and I never want to leave. I’ve lived in New York City, Washington DC, and Seattle, but San Francisco is home. The city is alive, diverse, international, cosmopolitan, adventurous, and new. I think it is one of the most beautiful cities in America, surrounded by gorgeous California at the center of a world-changing industry. You never run out of places to explore, and you never feel like you’re missing something by not living somewhere else. It even has decent bagels and pizza.” -Daniel from EFF, moved here in 2014

“Since moving to San Francisco, it’s been amazing to see how vibrant and active the art and music communities are throughout the bay area. The creative community is everywhere you look, it’s literally spilling out onto the walls and into the streets. It feels like every weekend there’s a festival, a group making zines for an important cause, and an endless amount of workshops being offered if you’re looking to try something new. As someone who’s been here for less than a year, I wasn’t sure where to jump in, but I shouldn’t have worried. Everyone has been incredibly welcoming and I’ve already gone to several casual art meetups to just sketch with other artists; this weekend, there’s a picnic planned for sketching at the nearby regional park!” – Hannah from EFF, moved here in 2019

I moved to San Francisco to work at EFF after eight years in Boston and NYC, and I couldn’t be happier with that decision. With rental assistance from EFF, my apartment here is three times the size of my apartment in NYC. I walk to work past flowers that bloom all winter long. My produce comes from the year-round farmer’s market near the EFF office and the lemon tree in my backyard. And I go hiking every weekend even without owning a car.  As a lover of natural beauty and the outdoors, it’s hard for me to imagine a better place to live than the Bay Area.” – Naomi from EFF, moved here in 2019

If moving to San Francisco is your biggest hesitation about this role, we encourage you to reach out and we can talk about it.

I’m not currently authorized to work in the U.S., should I still apply?

Due to the complexity, cost, and time involved with getting a working visa or permit, EFF can’t help bring in candidates from overseas who are not permitted to work in the U.S.

How many direct reports will this role have?

The role starts with two direct reports, both of whom are managers for the 16-person Tech Projects team, helping with goal-setting, personnel issues, and day-to-day tasks keeping projects on track. The main management task of the Tech Projects Director role is providing support, mentorship, and guidance to those managers. While there are two now, the number of direct reports for this role could grow to four over time.

If I take this position, what kind of support will I have?

In addition to support from the managers reporting to you on your team, you’ll also have a great deal of direct support from the Chief Program Officer (to whom this role reports) and the Executive Director. They are committed to making sure you and your team are successful.

Nobody expects you to walk in on the first day with everything sorted out. We expect there to be lots of learning and exploring—not just for the first few weeks of the role, but really for the first year. EFF provides extra help to new employees through teach-ins, chat channels geared toward new folks at EFF, and internal events.

How long will the interview process take and what is the process?

We see the interview process as a chance for you to get to know the team and ask questions as much as it is a chance for us to get to know you. You can expect there will be a phone screen, and then potentially a small interview with a few people from the hiring committee. The final interview takes place in San Francisco over the course of most of the day, and we’ll fly out final candidates who are coming from far away. This is a chance to meet directly with your future team, see the office, and do several small-group interviews with the hiring committee. You’ll get to meet and interact with folks from the Tech Projects team, learn about our benefits, and get to know the community at EFF. 

In addition, there may be other skills-based assessments, if certain skills weren’t ascertained during the interviews. We end with reference checks.


What kind of things might come up during the interview process?

Our goal is to make the interview process as low-stress as possible. We don’t expect any applicant to have an encyclopedic knowledge of esoteric security concepts. Instead, we talk through the many different types of topics this role will eventually cover. Various topics related to our digital rights work—such as basic Internet infrastructure, web tracking, and encryption—might come up. We’ll also ask about your experience managing people and how you might handle various situations. There are also questions to help us learn more about your preferences in the workplace, like what kind of a working environment you enjoy and what you look for in a manager.

We don’t think there’s any one right answer to any of our questions. We also don’t think that not having knowledge in a specific topic means you’re necessarily a bad fit for the role. Rather, we just try to get to know you and get a good understanding of where you happen to be right now, where you’d need to grow to fulfill the role, and how excited and ready you are for that growth.

We encourage applicants to just be themselves and, if it’s possible, have fun with the process. You’ll have a lot of chances to ask us questions, so feel free to ask about anything you’re wondering.

Can I bring my dog to work at EFF?

Absolutely. In fact, we’re going to be sad if you don’t. 

What are the greatest challenges of this role?

There are lots of challenges, but here are a few of the big ones we can anticipate:

  • Managing managers: How can the Tech Projects Director be supportive of two managers who are often dealing with complex decisions? Managing managers doesn’t mean jumping in with the quick and easy solution, but being willing to sift through complexity and create space and support for difficult choices. 
  • Not getting distracted by shiny things: Responding to current events is part of our job, but constantly chasing the newest topic can lead to burn-out and ineffectiveness. This role needs to balance responsiveness with moving ahead on long-term goals.
  • Cultivating a diverse, inclusive, and resilient team: Hiring and maintaining a diverse technical team in the Bay Area has a lot of challenges, especially at a nonprofit where we can’t offer the salaries that big tech companies offer.  We’ve made a lot of progress in diversity and inclusion, and we want a director who is deeply committed to that vision and can keep that progress going forward. 
  • Helping EFF think strategically when faced with technical challenges: The new tech director needs to be scanning the horizon and helping us answer hard questions about how we can best use EFF’s resources to create long-term change for users. 
  • Mentoring our public interest technologists: EFF pioneered the idea of the public interest technologist: someone with deep technical knowledge who specializes in weighing in on policy, law, and regulatory fights in defense of users. These technologists spend most of their time thinking, writing, and educating, rather than coding and building. We want to help ensure that concept continues to thrive within EFF, and acting as a mentor and support for our public interest technologists is a high priority. 
  • Ensuring good communication among teams: This role is the glue between our Tech Projects and our other programmatic teams like EFF’s legal team and activism team, so we’re looking for someone who can build bridges, systems, and relationships that are rooted in good communication.
  • Keeping an eye on many different projects: The docket of things Tech Projects works on is very broad, and this role is key to being able to connect them to our big picture-strategy.

What is it like to work on the Tech Projects team?

The Tech Projects team is a diverse group of engineers and technologists who are knowledgeable about many different aspects of EFF’s issue space, and who offer that knowledge freely to their colleagues. Not everyone has expertise in every area, and that’s fine; we see new challenges as a chance to learn and explore. It’s a supportive and curious team, where folks respect the expertise of their colleagues and where it is always safe to ask questions. That trust is really important, and something we want to make sure the next Director can continue to foster.

We try to help each other on work projects and with research, and it’s also a very caring environment. Folks are genuinely invested in the well-being of their colleagues. While there is a lot of expertise on the team, there is also a lot of humility; most folks are well aware that we have so much still to learn, and that any new challenge will likely involve doing some research. That’s a big part of the fun for us.

There’s a deep sense of camaraderie on the team, and a sense that everyone genuinely wants their colleagues to succeed. 

Interested in learning more? You can send in an application or read more

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2020/03/faq-about-tech-projects-director-role