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Tech job listings darken: Lab 'overlord,' well-being research, self-harm policy

Tesla needs community relations help, Facebook seeks loneliness researchers and Color aims to automate its coronavirus lab.

A person staring at a blank screen

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, YouTube is hiring for several human managers to deal with topics including election misinformation and self-harm.

Photo: Artur Debat

So much for office-perk coordinators and happiness ambassadors. In the age of coronavirus, new tech job postings have taken a distinctive turn to more pragmatic, crisis-oriented roles.

Where just a few months ago we cataloged a glut of listings for data-savvy recruiters and niche personnel at moonshot startups, this month's most intriguing job listings from Silicon Valley and beyond skew dark, hinting at uncertain waters ahead for both tech companies and the users who rely on them.

In the early weeks after COVID-19 shutdowns began, before unemployment hit Depression-era numbers, we tracked a surge in jobs revealing companies' need to adjust to public health concerns, like space planning and office cleaning. Google's suddenly very noteworthy Verily life sciences division was hiring as well.

Now that it's clear the pandemic will be an enduring feature of the labor market for the foreseeable future, companies are diving deeper into this murky new world.

It's noteworthy how many open jobs are at big tech companies and well-positioned startups, given that many other sectors of the economy are in free fall. Amazon lists a whopping 34,373 jobs on its website, and there were some 2,300 global positions at Facebook and its subsidiaries posted to LinkedIn in the last month.

Here are five of the most illuminating job postings currently online:

Tesla: Community Relations Partner

Fremont

Last week was a chaotic one for Tesla personnel tasked with reopening the company's 10,000-person Silicon Valley factory at the direction of CEO Elon Musk, despite local government orders to keep the plant closed in line with COVID-19 orders. If that sounds like a fun political saga to navigate, Tesla is hiring a community relations lead in the factory's home city of Fremont. This person will act as "the primary interface with local community officials and business leaders." Given that there's disagreement between state, county and city officials over how manufacturers like Tesla should be expected to operate during a pandemic, it's guaranteed to be an interesting ride. Godspeed!

Requirements: MBA, MPP, JD or other advanced degree preferred; five years of experience in policy advocacy; "ability to diffuse situations and forge consensus among divergent views."

Color: Automation Engineer, COVID-19 (Temporary)

Burlingame

Genetic testing startup Color is one of many health tech companies wading into the nascent market for COVID-19 testing. But to get its new Silicon Valley testing lab all the way up and running, the company has a need for a very specific kind of contractor: "a highly motivated robotic overlord to wrangle our semi-sentient liquid handling and sample processing robots into submission!" Don't ask me exactly what that means, but the job listing calls for a scientist or engineer to join Color's R&D team and help automate the testing process to scale up and expedite operations.

Requirements: Bachelor's or master's in engineering; expertise in lab or manufacturing automation; "you have probably designed a Raspberry Pi-controlled device to needlessly automate some aspect of your life."

Facebook: Well-being Quantitative Researcher

Menlo Park

Facebook's "well-being team" is tasked with no less than "understanding of the impact Facebook and our family of apps have on people's lives." In complicated times like these, when concerns abound about health misinformation, conspiracy theories and fake news, it makes sense that the company is hiring for a social scientist with "subject matter expertise in well-being, loneliness, social capital" or related fields. The researcher will work with external researchers and teams at Facebook subsidiaries like Instagram, WhatsApp and Oculus to design and execute studies to help "develop novel approaches where traditional methods won't do."

Requirements: Master's or doctorate in the social sciences; knowledge of data manipulation and programming; desire to establish "research partnership opportunities with leading academics."

Twitter: Crisis Management Analyst

Manila, Philippines

Yes, the U.S. is flailing now when it comes to containing COVID-19. But Twitter knows that's not the only crisis it's likely to have to confront. The company, which announced this week that it will allow many U.S. employees to permanently work remotely, is hiring for an analyst in Manila to plan and implement strategies for handling the social media chaos that often results from "major business threats such as shootings, election support, natural disasters, riots, etc." In addition to creating proactive risk assessments, this analyst will be one of several other people in similar roles to rotate on-call duty to respond to new or unfolding crises.

Requirements: Bachelor's degree or local equivalent; 12 years of related experience; "can speak for and collaborate directly with the management team"

YouTube: Policy Enforcement Manager, Suicide and Self-Harm

San Bruno

Content moderators who police some of the darkest corners of the internet are a class of tech workers that have proven especially difficult to adapt to remote work. With AI moderation systems going haywire in recent weeks, it's little surprise that YouTube is hiring for several human managers to deal with topics including election misinformation and self-harm. The policy enforcement manager focused on suicide and self-harm will be a full-time employee who works with contractors to spot trends and prevent "violative content" from showing up on YouTube. The role will be subjective, with the manager asked to "review decisions about the appropriateness of different content, including considerations of cultural and political sensitivities."

Requirements: Bachelor's degree in business, experience with mental health, SQL and spreadsheets, "ability to work nonstandard, on-call rotation work hours."

Protocol | Workplace

In Silicon Valley, it’s February 2020 all over again

"We'll reopen when it's right, but right now the world is changing too much."

Tech companies are handling the delta variant in differing ways.

Photo: alvarez/Getty Images

It's still 2021, right? Because frankly, it's starting to feel like March 2020 all over again.

Google, Apple, Uber and Lyft have now all told employees they won't have to come back to the office before October as COVID-19 case counts continue to tick back up. Facebook, Google and Uber are now requiring workers to get vaccinated before coming to the office, and Twitter — also requiring vaccines — went so far as to shut down its reopened offices on Wednesday, and put future office reopenings on hold.

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Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.

After a year and a half of living and working through a pandemic, it's no surprise that employees are sending out stress signals at record rates. According to a 2021 study by Indeed, 52% of employees today say they feel burnt out. Over half of employees report working longer hours, and a quarter say they're unable to unplug from work.

The continued swell of reported burnout is a concerning trend for employers everywhere. Not only does it harm mental health and well-being, but it can also impact absenteeism, employee retention and — between the drain on morale and high turnover — your company culture.

Crisis management is one thing, but how do you permanently lower the temperature so your teams can recover sustainably? Companies around the world are now taking larger steps to curb burnout, with industry leaders like LinkedIn, Hootsuite and Bumble shutting down their offices for a full week to allow all employees extra time off. The CEO of Okta, worried about burnout, asked all employees to email him their vacation plans in 2021.

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Stella Garber
Stella Garber is Trello's Head of Marketing. Stella has led Marketing at Trello for the last seven years from early stage startup all the way through its acquisition by Atlassian in 2017 and beyond. Stella was an early champion of remote work, having led remote teams for the last decade plus.
Protocol | China

Livestreaming ecommerce next battleground for China’s nationalists

Vendors for Nike and even Chinese brands were harassed for not donating enough to Henan.

Nationalists were trolling in the comment sections of livestream sessions selling products by Li-Ning, Adidas and other brands.

Collage: Weibo, Bilibili

The No. 1 rule of sales: Don't praise your competitor's product. Rule No. 2: When you are put to a loyalty test by nationalist trolls, forget the first rule.

While China continues to respond to the catastrophic flooding that has killed 99 and displaced 1.4 million people in the central province of Henan, a large group of trolls was busy doing something else: harassing ordinary sportswear sellers on China's livestream ecommerce platforms. Why? Because they determined that the brands being sold had donated too little, or too late, to the people impacted by floods.

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Zeyi Yang
Zeyi Yang is a reporter with Protocol | China. Previously, he worked as a reporting fellow for the digital magazine Rest of World, covering the intersection of technology and culture in China and neighboring countries. He has also contributed to the South China Morning Post, Nikkei Asia, Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. In his spare time, Zeyi co-founded a Mandarin podcast that tells LGBTQ stories in China. He has been playing Pokemon for 14 years and has a weird favorite pick.
Power

The video game industry is bracing for its Netflix and Spotify moment

Subscription gaming promises to upend gaming. The jury's out on whether that's a good thing.

It's not clear what might fall through the cracks if most of the biggest game studios transition away from selling individual games and instead embrace a mix of free-to-play and subscription bundling.

Image: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Subscription services are coming for the game industry, and the shift could shake up the largest and most lucrative entertainment sector in the world. These services started as small, closed offerings typically available on only a handful of hardware platforms. Now, they're expanding to mobile phones and smart TVs, and promising to radically change the economics of how games are funded, developed and distributed.

Of the biggest companies in gaming today, Amazon, Apple, Electronic Arts, Google, Microsoft, Nintendo, Nvidia, Sony and Ubisoft all operate some form of game subscription. Far and away the most ambitious of them is Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass, featuring more than 100 games for $9.99 a month and including even brand-new titles the day they release. As of January, Game Pass had more than 18 million subscribers, and Microsoft's aggressive investment in a subscription future has become a catalyst for an industrywide reckoning on the likelihood and viability of such a model becoming standard.

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Nick Statt
Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.
Protocol | Policy

Lina Khan wants to hear from you

The new FTC chair is trying to get herself, and the sometimes timid tech-regulating agency she oversees, up to speed while she still can.

Lina Khan is trying to push the FTC to corral tech companies

Photo: Graeme Jennings/AFP via Getty Images

"When you're in D.C., it's very easy to lose connection with the very real issues that people are facing," said Lina Khan, the FTC's new chair.

Khan made her debut as chair before the press on Wednesday, showing up to a media event carrying an old maroon book from the agency's library and calling herself a "huge nerd" on FTC history. She launched into explaining how much she enjoys the open commission meetings she's pioneered since taking over in June. That's especially true of the marathon public comment sessions that have wrapped up each of the two meetings so far.

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Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

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