How to be an ethicist - resource management




If you’re on this site the chances are you’re all too aware of where technology can go wrong. It can create societal inequalities, increase surveillance of citizens and damage the environment. But there are techniques to increase the good that technology can do in society. We advocate the role of a technology ethicist. But it is a challenging position - particularly because there isn’t too much information about what to expect as a new technology ethicist, how you should start and how you progress.


We’re kicking off a new content series at Hattusia where we follow the journey of a new ethicist in an organisation. We want to find out first hand what they are struggling with, where they succeed and how they navigate various challenges.


Their name is Autumn Beaudoin (they/them) and they have been working in tech indirectly since their first full time role. With an education focused on where personal finances meet economic systems, they’ve been applying justice-centered systems thinking to their roles in innovation, design, and curriculum across the public and private sectors. Autumn works for a public-interest technology startup out of Brooklyn, NY, but lives in Providence, Rhode Island with their CrossFit, hiking, and D&D playing friends.

Please note, Alice Thwaite is offering mentoring to Autumn in exchange for the time they spend writing these pieces.


Month Two - July 2022


This month’s blog post is going to be a little brief because I’ve been having some issues with my capacity lately.


Some context: the organization I work for is a public interest tech startup. This year, we’ve added three team members and plan to add four more in order to double from 7 to 14 in the space of twelve months. Meanwhile, we’re running tests on 3 potential products at different stages of development, and growing 2 more thoroughly built-out services (one of which is a consulting service that I independently run).


This is a very common problem. As you switch roles, you find yourself tasked with new responsibilities whilst trying to manage the old ones.


When I was hired a year ago, I was brought on to be the principal investigator on our qualitative and community-focused research design consulting services, while doing some of the R&D for future products on the side. In the slow season my responsibilities shifted toward ethics with the goal of a promotion to Head of Ethics by the end of 2023. Now that the slow season has passed, I’ve realized that my responsibilities have only grown, and I don’t have enough time to centre myself on the learning and practice I need to do to build out our ethics department and strategy - I’m overworked and under-resourced.



Thank goodness, I have a team that truly centres work-life balance, so at least I can rest assured that my new focus on our company’s ethics won’t need to start by addressing an unhealthy culture of over-working and under-valuing employees!

This is a very common problem. As you switch roles, you find yourself tasked with new responsibilities whilst trying to manage the old ones.


I’ve requested a restructuring of my responsibilities now that my role has grown, and even brought a business case to the founder seeking an additional hire to share in these responsibilities. I thought about what was achievable with the resources I had and where those intersected with the priorities of the company. With this intersection identified, the founder and I made a plan that would make sure we were both getting the most out of my time.


That request was accepted and reflected with a promotion, raise, new job description, and an additional employee. Thank goodness, I have a team that truly centres work-life balance, so at least I can rest assured that my new focus on our company’s ethics won’t need to start by addressing an unhealthy culture of over-working and under-valuing employees!



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@AutumnBeaudoin




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