The value of information

I sometimes wonder how many people are missing out on the best jobs, or relationships, or experiences for lack of better information about the expected value of pursuing them.

When I went to NYC, I stayed a couple nights with a friend. When I saw he was living in a beautiful Brooklyn high-rise with floor-to-ceiling windows and a pool in the basement, I got some idea of the amount of money he was making.

Don’t get me wrong – I knew NYC salaries were high. But having some idea of what your peers are making (as opposed to knowing the average salary) is incredibly valuable. With that information, I can start to price in what it would cost to explore getting a visa, and whether the expense and hassle of it makes financial sense.

Visas are similarly opaque. Reading official documents gives you a gist of what might be required to get one. But hiring an immigration lawyer is totally different. Their job is to exploit loopholes on your behalf to get you a visa, no matter how eccentric a scheme they have to employ. Another friend told me that initially he came to the US on a J1 visa, ostensibly meant for interns and trainees. His lawyers diligently drew up a “training schedule” for him to ignore once he arrived.

As the J1 isn’t a “dual-intent” visa, you can’t apply for a green card while holding one. You even have to sign a document promising not to. But that doesn’t stop someone else applying on your behalf – which is exactly what his lawyers did. His green card came through last year.

Being able to peek behind the veil and see how things are actually done – not just what the official rubrik says – is vital.

Currently CTO at Mast. Formerly engineering at Thought Machine, Pivotal. Makers Academy alumnus.

I've pledged to give 10% of my income to highly effective charities working to improve animal welfare. If my startup is successful, I hope to give away much more.

Also founded EA Work Club, a job board for effective altruists, and Let's Fund, a crowdfunding site for high-risk, high-reward social impact projects.

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