Plan change story: interview with Dillon Bowen, founder of Effective Altruism group at Tufts University

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I recently interviewed Dillon Bowen, who runs the EA student group at Tufts University, about how his career plans changed as a result of interacting with 80,000 Hours. Dillon’s original plan was to do a Philosophy PhD and then go into philosophy academia. After going to a talk at Tufts by our co-founder Will MacAskill and receiving career coaching from 80,000 Hours, he started taking classes in economics, now intends to do an Economics PhD instead.

More details of the key points from the interview are below.

Summary of the interview

  • Dillon’s original career plan was to go into philosophy academia – he was extremely passionate about it and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
  • He was introduced to Peter Singer and GiveWell in an Intro to Ethics class at Tufts.
  • Midway through his second year at university, Dillon went to a talk at Tufts by our co-founder Will MacAskill. Will recommended to Dillon that he study Economics and/or Computer Science instead of philosophy.
  • Dillon was unsure whether he would enjoy Economics and Computer Science, but he signed up for career coaching with 80,000 Hours to explore whether he should change his career plan.
  • In his coaching session he was told about the End of History Illusion – that our interests change much more often than we expect them to. Thinking about how much his interests have changed in the past made him more open to trying out economics and computer science.
  • As a result of this he took classes in Economics and Computer Science, enough to have a minor in both. He says underestimated how much he’d enjoy these subjects, and he’s now excited to be gaining skills and knowledge that will give him more options for having a social impact with his career.
  • His plan now is to do an Economics PhD after which he’d be interested in working at the World Bank, IMF, or think tanks like RAND
  • This year he applied for masters and PhDs in Economics.
  • While studying abroad at Oxford, he became president of the 80,000 Hours student group there.
  • When he came back to Tufts last fall, he started a new EA student group at Tufts. They’ve already run several events, including a talk by staff from MIT’s Poverty Action Lab, and they have many events lined up for this semester, including talks by Joshua Greene and Daniel Dennett.
  • There’s now around eight people in leadership roles at the student group at Tufts — enough to ensure that the group will continue after he graduates at the end of this academic year.

Author: Roman Duda

Roman did a fully-funded Masters in Philosophy at Oxford, during which he also consulted for a major energy company on their business strategy, whilst also studying Mandarin Chinese. With a strong interest in Quantified Self, he has worked at the start-ups Memrise and Self Spark.