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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."

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