People

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."

Enterprise

The limits of AI and automation for digital accessibility

AI and automated software that promises to make the web more accessible abounds, but people with disabilities and those who regularly test for digital accessibility problems say it can only go so far.

The everyday obstacles blocking people with disabilities from a satisfying digital experience are immense.

Image: alexsl/Getty Images

“It’s a lot to listen to a robot all day long,” said Tina Pinedo, communications director at Disability Rights Oregon, a group that works to promote and defend the rights of people with disabilities.

But listening to a machine is exactly what many people with visual impairments do while using screen reading tools to accomplish everyday online tasks such as paying bills or ordering groceries from an ecommerce site.

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Sponsored Content

Foursquare data story: leveraging location data for site selection

We take a closer look at points of interest and foot traffic patterns to demonstrate how location data can be leveraged to inform better site selecti­on strategies.

Imagine: You’re the leader of a real estate team at a restaurant brand looking to open a new location in Manhattan. You have two options you’re evaluating: one site in SoHo, and another site in the Flatiron neighborhood. Which do you choose?

Keep Reading Show less
Fintech

The crypto crash's violence shocked Circle's CEO

Jeremy Allaire remains upbeat about stablecoins despite the UST wipeout, he told Protocol in an interview.

Allaire said what really caught him by surprise was “how fast the death spiral happened and how violent of a value destruction it was.”

Photo: Heidi Gutman/CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire said he saw the UST meltdown coming about six months ago, long before the stablecoin crash rocked the crypto world.

“This was a house of cards,” he told Protocol. “It was very clear that it was unsustainable and that there would be a very high risk of a death spiral.”

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

A DTC baby formula startup is caught in the center of a supply chain crisis

After weeks of “unprecedented growth,” Bobbie co-founder Laura Modi made a hard decision: to not accept any more new customers.

Parents unable to track down formula in stores have been turning to Facebook groups, homemade formula recipes and Bobbie, a 4-year-old subscription baby formula company.

Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

The ongoing baby formula shortage has taken a toll on parents throughout the U.S. Laura Modi, co-founder of formula startup Bobbie, said she’s been “wearing the hat of a mom way more than that of a CEO” in recent weeks.

“It's scary to be a parent right now, with the uncertainty of knowing you can’t find your formula,” Modi told Protocol.

Keep Reading Show less
Nat Rubio-Licht

Nat Rubio-Licht is a Los Angeles-based news writer at Protocol. They graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in newspaper and online journalism in May 2020. Prior to joining the team, they worked at the Los Angeles Business Journal as a technology and aerospace reporter.

Enterprise

Celonis vows to stay independent despite offers from SAP, ServiceNow

Celonis is convinced standalone mining vendors can survive. But industry consolidation paints a different picture, and enterprise software giants are circling.

Celonis CEO Alex Rinke turned down offers from ServiceNow and SAP, according to sources.

Photo: Celonis

For the past decade, any software vendor that touted new levels of automation and data-driven insights appeared to have seemingly unrestricted access to capital. Now, as valuations drop and fundraising becomes more difficult, founders and company leaders are facing a difficult decision: look to be acquired or try to go it alone.

At Celonis — which, at an $11 billion valuation, is one of the buzzier software upstarts — that question appears to have already been decided. Enterprise software giants ServiceNow and SAP made offers in the past year to buy the process-mining firm, according to sources familiar with the deliberations, which were turned down because the Celonis leadership team wanted to remain independent.

Keep Reading Show less
Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a writer-at-large at Protocol. He previously covered enterprise software for Protocol, Bloomberg and Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JoeWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

Latest Stories
Bulletins