Thursday, November 6, 2014

Mysteries of the 0.000001%: Mega Successful Entrepreneur Seeks Personal Assistant

Right now The New York Review of Books is running this ad in their classifieds:
RESEARCH ASSOCIATE/PERSONAL ASSISTANT—Highly intelligent, resourceful individuals with exceptional communication skills sought to undertake research projects and administrative tasks for a successful entrepreneur. We welcome applications from writers, musicians, artists, or others who may be pursuing other professional goals in the balance of their time. $90K–$110K to start (depending on qualifications). Résumé to:
Earlier in this millennium I came across a discussion of that ad in Working With Worlds. The discussion started in August of 2004 and is still going, at some 218 comments. I made this comment in February of 2009:
About two weeks ago I was looking at ads at The Chronicle of Higher Education and saw a dozen ads placed by DE Shaw. Some wanted specific skills, e.g. Windows administrator, but some were fishing for raw talent and had titles like: "Tired of Academica?" "Tired of Consulting?" and "Ideal Day Job." While the wording of these ads was very different from that old ad, the one under discussion here, the effective content was the same: we're looking for somewhat really really smart and talented regardless of background, but art, etc. is fine. So I sent in a resume and cover letter to DE Shaw and got an auto-reply saying that they'd contact me shortly if they wanted to pursue my candidacy. Two days later I got an email from someone in their Strategic Growth department (seems to be their name of HR) asking me to fill out the attached questionnaire (which wanted to know SAT scores, GPA, salary history, major, science & math classes, immigration status if applicable) and to submit a five to ten page writing sample. So I filled out the questionnaire, sent in a writing sample and waited. A few days ago I got an email from them saying there's no ideal fit, good luck, we'll keep your resume on file.

If you look up DE Shaw on Linkedin you'll see that they have done some hiring in the last six months, at senior and junior levels. Whether or not they've hired anyone through the spsfind ads, I don't know. But, judging from what's been posted in this thread, at least one person has gotten an interview through one of those ads. I can believe it's legit. Finding black swans in a white swan world is tough.

How many person-hours does DE Shaw devote to reading all those resumes?
It seems that Hacker News is now on the scent. There's a link there to mathbabe, who once worked at DE Shaw where she heard a rumor about one assistant hired to test 15 mattress by sleeping on each of them for a several nights. She observes:
You could say that [David Shaw is] just a weirdo, but here’s where I’d disagree. Before making $2.5 billion, he was just a computer science nerd at Columbia. Sure, he was intense and probably competitive, but he had normal worries and isn’t famous for being a total jerk. For that matter he’s still not famous for being a total jerk, but he’s clearly got not enough to worry about.

In other words, I’m convinced that if I had that much money, I’d be doing stuff like that too, and so would you. The existence of asstons of money around you makes you weird and entitled. Add to that that everyone around you is either your servant or someone who assumes you are living a perfect happy life, and you become increasingly isolated and misunderstood on top of it, which leads to more weirdness.
Actually, I don't think such weirdness is inevitable. It's merely an option. But it's why court jesters existed, to keep the Big Guy honest. Of course, it didn't always work. The White House Correspondents' Dinner, same idea, sorta'.

An exercise for the reader: Rewrite the original ad to reflect the requirements of being personal jester to the CEO. A more interesting exercise: How many powerful executives have someone in their inner circle who actually serves in that fashion, if only informally?

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