Rebekah Tweed from All Tech is Human Introduces Students to Careers in Public Interest Technology

Rebekah Tweed, Executive Director of All Tech is Human, came to GC to speak with graduate students about Public Interest Technology (PIT) Careers on December 13, 2023.

This event culminated a series of events and initiatives supported by the Public Interest Technology University Network Challenge Fund, a fiscally sponsored project of New Venture Fund. The Public Interest Technology University Network’s challenge as well as career fair grants were funded through the support of the Ford Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, and Mastercard Impact Fund with support from Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, Schmidt Futures, and The Siegel Family Endowment.

Rebekah introduced the work of All Tech is Human, a nonprofit organization based in New York City, with a global lens and audience designed to “tackle tech and society issues and co-create a tech future aligned with the public interest.” Their focus is on community building, education, and diversifying tech pipelines, and they do this work through monthly mixers, a Slack community, working groups and numerous reports and resources, a mentorship program, a job board, a talent pool, and social impact talent matchmaking platform Tekalo. Rebekah invited anyone interested in the organization, public interest technology or responsible technology to visit All Tech is Human’s web site to learn more about their programming and extensive resources.

The presentation covered the difference between public interest technology and responsible tech. According to New America, public interest technology refers to “the study and application of technology expertise to advance the public interest, generate public benefits, and promote the public good.” Responsible technology, according to the Responsible Tech Guide, “refers to the versatile, multidisciplinary field that aims to better align the development and deployment of digital technologies with individual and societal values and expectations.”

Rebekah shared that there are some ways to categorize the verticals in the responsible tech realm, which can help job seekers and those new to the field. These include: Public Interest Technology, Responsible AI, Trust and Safety, Tech and Democracy, and Youth, Tech & Wellbeing.

Rebekah then spoke about relevant skills for entering the field of public interest technology. She shared that the skills needed for careers in PIT were general technical skills and knowledge, the ability to look at problems from a social impact lens, and then industry/role specific technical skills (for instance, to work in research, product or design). She encouraged students to reflect on three key questions when deciding how to best contribute to the field.

  1. What are my interests?
  2. Where can I have impact?
  3. Where are the gaps that exist?

Rebekah shared that there are roles for technologists (e.g. software engineers, data scientists, product managers and UX Designers) and those with humanities, social sciences and legal backgrounds in ethics, governance, research, marketing/communications, and project management. Rebekah shared that the field is nascent, and in big companies, teams related to PIT can often be the first to be cut. However, with the growth of AI, the need for people with specific skills and interests in these arenas will likely grow.

The presentation then covered different industries and roles where PIT work is currently centered.

The first is within the government sector, where President Biden has signed an Executive Order to advance agencies’ efforts across the federal government, building on previous actions to harness the benefits and mitigate the risks of AI. Students can learn more via the National AI Talent Surge site. The website shares ways for students to Build their AI Skills and get Hired for their AI Skills in the government sector. Rebekah specifically mentioned programs like Presidential Innovation Fellows, Science and Tech Policy Institute Fellowship, US Digital Corp, Coding it Forward, Tech Congress Innovation Scholars. She encouraged students to identify the programs they’re interested in now and note their general application timeline so they could plan, as they typically recruit once per year.

Rebekah also covered major players in civil society where students could pursue PIT careers. These include nonprofits, including those in the Responsible Tech space, like Ada Lovelace Institute, Center for Democracy and Technology, Family Online Safety Institute, and Anita B Org.

In terms of careers in industry, Rebekah shared that roles exist both in technology, and outside, in consumer products, finance, consulting, and fashion. She referenced a number of roles in big tech at companies like Google, IBM, Met, Salesforce and Spotify with titles like AI Ethics Global Lead, Director of Responsible Innovation and Director of Research & Algorithmic Impact and Accountability. Outside of technology, roles at American Express, Mayo Clinic, H&M and Pfizer included Director of Data Ethics, Responsible AI & Data team members and VP of AI Research (Fairness). Rebecca mentioned that there are many start-ups in the responsible tech space like Credo AI, Eticas Tech, Fiddler, and Holistic AI, as well as large consulting firms working in the sector like Accenture and Avanade.

Finally, Rebekah covered opportunities in academia, outside of faculty positions. She encouraged students to look at positions on the administrative side and in research institutes, noting roles like program managers, tech policy strategists, data analysts, and data scientists at NYU, Stanford, UMass Amherst, and Carnegie Mellon. She specifically mentioned NYU’s Center for Responsible AI, Stanford’s Institute for Human-Centered AI, Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, UVA’s Center for Data Ethics and Justice, Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics and UC Berkeley’s Center for Human-Compatible AI.

Rebekah encouraged everyone interested in the field to join All Tech is Human’s monthly gatherings and to visit the resources on their web site for more information.