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The Best Job Ever? What Life Is Like As An EFF Activist

DEEPLINKS BLOG
July 6, 2015

The Best Job Ever? What Life Is Like As An EFF Activist

Most mornings, I wake up, turn on my computer, and check to see if there are any new threats to digital rights. Perhaps a new surveillance program has been revealed, or a bill to censor the Internet has been introduced, or there’s a privacy policy change to a major social network that will affect millions of people's privacy. When a major threat is on the horizon, I’ll check in with the other activists at EFF, and we’ll formulate a game plan for our response. Since I’m leading the team, I’m more of an editor than a blogger on the front lines of the digital rights fight. But I still wade into the fray every week or so, helping articulate the civil liberties impact of some obscure technical issue or proposed surveillance law. 

When there isn’t a breaking threat, we focus on long-term writing, education, and strategizing projects.

I start my day working from home, but I tend to head to the office by midmorning. Once there, I spend the day surrounded by brilliant attorneys, technologists, activists, and supporting team members all deeply committed to making sure the technology of tomorrow upholds values of free speech and privacy. EFF is a place filled with true believers, where the passion for civil liberties echoes through the halls.

People often ask me, "What’s a typical day like for you?" The answer is: the details change, but every day I’m grateful for getting to work on complicated, cutting-edge policy issues that influence the digital experiences of people across the world. My coworkers are some of the smartest people I’ve ever met, the office environment is funky and relaxed, and I get a lot of self-direction in my work. Most importantly, I get to do something I love: write about technology policy.

And doing this work helps change the world. One blog post can fuel a national media firestorm. An annual scorecard can force billion-dollar tech companies to overhaul their policies. With an action alert, we can kill bad legislation, and with a letter we can influence policy makers to introduce better measures the next time. It’s hard to be a cynic when you can objectively measure your impact on the world. 

I bring this up because we’re searching for a new activist to add to the team, and we want people to know how awesome this job is.

If you’re intrigued, then there are a few things you should know before you apply:

1. We win through words. The single most important part of an EFF activist’s job is writing. We blog about tech policy, craft mailings, engineer activism campaigns, unleash the power of social media, and work on longer-form documents, like whitepapers, coalition letters, and formal comments to rule-making bodies. We also do a fair amount of public speaking, whether that’s presenting to a packed house at a major tech conference, giving an interview to a national cable TV show, or engaging with a dozen EFF members at a small hacker space.

Suffice to say, being an activist means producing a lot of high-quality writing on tight deadlines and being able to set aside your ego to work collaboratively with attorneys, computer scientists, and folks at other organizations. The job also involves diving headfirst into new, difficult policy issues and conceptualizing fresh ways to have an impact. This job requires someone whose analytical skills are as strong as their imagination. Former journalists tend to thrive in these positions, as do creative writing majors. However, you don’t need to be formally trained in writing. We are considering a wide range of experience level to find the right person to join our team. What's important is that you have a passion for writing and that you write often. A personal blog and Twitter account are often great ways to showcase writing talent.

Not much of a writer? Check out our listings for a Ruby developer and a junior designer.

2. You’ll be obsessed with software patents before you know it. The specific position we’re hiring will work closely with the patent reform team, pushing for strong legislation in Washington and showcasing horrible trolls. Patents are a hot topic with huge implications on speech, innovation, education, and businesses big and small. We realize that many people applying to the job won’t have a background in patent reform. So don’t stress about that. If you care about civil liberties online and you’re excited about technology policy, then we can teach you about software patents.

3. San Francisco is actually really great. I often hear from people who’d love to work at EFF, but want to know why they can’t work remotely from Austin or Amsterdam or someplace else. The short answer is: we are an organization of very opinionated people trying to use consensus-driven conversations to craft policy positions. In many years of doing this work, we’ve learned time and again that having people in one room together helps us reach consensus faster and more efficiently (and with good will intact!).

We also find that we’re able to create a community by having people work together from the same office, and that’s something we value tremendously. Everybody at EFF feels connected both to each other and the mission, and we like that we can meet in the halls, have spontaneous conversations, and connect outside of the workplace. While we continue to experiment with people working remotely, this is a position that involves stopping by somebody’s office almost as often as it necessitates sending an email.

The Bay Area is a truly amazing place, packed with culture, diversity, acceptance, and innovation. And, yes, it’s true that San Francisco is expensive. We work to help make the city affordable for everyone at EFF by offering help with student loans, rental assistance and home-buying programs. We also cover the cost of moves for out-of-town new employees.

4. A culture like no other. EFF is committed to creating an environment that accepts everyone for who they are. We are the type of place that has gender-neutral restrooms, vegan options in the snack machine, and an internal staff list for sharing grindcore music recommendations. (Also, dogs! So many dogs!) We’re not just coworkers, but a community, organizing game nights, movie outings, and home-brewing lessons on the side.

From the outside, the hierarchy of EFF isn’t immediately recognizable. That’s because many of our decisions are arrived at by consensus; whether you’re a 15-year veteran of EFF or our newest employee, everyone’s views and experience are valued. If you identify an injustice that you’d like to correct, it isn’t hard to find someone else on staff to join your team.

Excited? We hope so. Check out the job listing for details and please send in a resume ASAP. We’re beginning interviews later this week.

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