Wanna Work for One Laptop Per Child Warm & Fuzzies?


Lucky Mary Lou Jepsen of OLPC

Did you read the excellent IEEE Spectrum article on Mary Lou Jepsen? Were you in awe of her job hunting luck:

If you’re an engineer and a job interview turns into a brainstorming session, that’s probably a good sign. It certainly was for Jepsen, who spent 2 hours of her “interview” kicking around ideas for the laptop with Nicholas Negroponte, the Media Lab’s cofounder.
Or better yet her amazing globetrotting lifestyle where she survives 13 hour flights to Taiwan with apparent ease - she doesn't even suffer from jet lag! And lucky she doesn't:
Jepsen still lives one week a month at her home on a peninsula outside Boston, from which she commutes to OLPC's Cambridge offices by ferry. The rest of the month is devoted to shuttling to various places in Asia and meeting with manufacturers. She spends so much time in southern Taiwan, near display maker Chimei Corp., that she now has an apartment there overlooking a canal
Would you want a job like hers, being part of the OLPC leadership? Well One Laptop Per Child is hiring, but you might not like the pay. In the Digital, Life, Design panel "How to Be Good," Nicholas Negroponte reveals that OLPC has an interesting compensation structure:

Negroponte at DLD
I draw no salary. […] My COO [Walter Bender] earns $200,000 dollars a year, which is not very high. And I was looking for a CFO recently. How can I find a CFO that's really good for under $200,000 dollars a year?

So I put out a job description at $0 zero salary and the queue for the job was endless. People had such extraordinary careers and wanted to be CFO of One Laptop Per Child.

With OLPC riches dashed from your dreams, maybe you're thinking there could be a paycheck if you worked with the OLPC Foundation, a separate non-profit that will stimulate local grassroots initiatives of XO laptops as learning tools? Good luck.

If you want to contribute your services in support of XO laptop programs throughout the world, be prepared to fund your own journey:

All activities undertaken as a result of contacts made through this OLPC Foundation Volunteer Service must be done on a strictly volunteer basis and all intellectual property generated as a part of this Service will be considered in the public domain and therefore not subject to any royalty or copyright fee. Volunteers may not charge a fee for the time, effort invested or ideas generated as a part of this service.
So while working volunteering at One Laptop Per Child is apparently only financially lucrative for Walter, everyone there is getting paid in a better currency than cash: the warm and fuzzy feeling of doing good in their day job.

Congrats! I know the feeling also, and I love it. Warm and fuzzies beat quarterly bonuses with ease.

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Sorry Wayan, Warm and Fuzzies dont pay the bills ;)

I put a high value on my skills and no one gets me for free :)

Agreed, warm & fuzzies don't pay the bills, but they sure do make it easier to look at the bank account after you write the checks.

That being said, non-profits are businesses too, and in the case of large nonprofits like the Red Cross (and the hopes of OLPC), they are Billion-dollar businesses who can afford to pay staff quite well.

Personally, I look at warm and fuzzies as another form of compensation. You know the OLPC crew get untold fawning when they show up with an OLPC XO. Just look at Flickr for proof.

Or all the professional publicity (future job offers) the OLPC team is getting. They even have companies donating services to get corporate quals. W2 is a case in point: http://www.redorbit.com/news/technology/789569/w2_to_head_up_media_efforts_for_100_laptop/index.html

Staffing Update: I've changed the post to reflect that Mary Lou Jepsen is now the official OLPC CTO. http://laptop.org/vision/people/MaryLouJepsen.shtml

I originally identified Walter Bender as CTO per previous press releases and articles identifying him as such.

If Negroponte was referring to Jepsen, with her dual-mode screen, she is worth every penny of $200,000, and then some, in addition to endless warm and fuzzies.

Hey Wayan,

My title is Chief Technology Officer or CTO, I'm not the COO and that's not my salary.

- Mary Lou

Woops - right, you're the CTO. I confused myself re-reading/editing the post.

Negroponte was talking about the COO, which isn't identified on the laptop.org website, but prior press releases/new reports did say was Walter Bender. Yet he was never mentioned as CTO, nor you as COO.

I've re-re-editied to post back to its original status and no matter your salary, if any, kudos on the screen.

I just got hired by OLPC. I can assure you that they are not paying me nothing. Your insinuation is completely wrong. The salary I was offered was actually only 5% below the offer I got from a local startup.

C. Scott Ananian,

I'm glad you're being rewarded both financially and emotionally, I hope everyone involved with OLPC, or any nonprofit, is compensated to their desires.

It was Negroponte who insinuated that the OLPC CTO would get $0 salary, which suggests that others would also be working for free. Good to know that was just hype.

C. Scott Ananian wrote:
'I just got hired by OLPC. I can assure you that they are not paying me nothing. Your insinuation is completely wrong. The salary I was offered was actually only 5% below the offer I got from a local startup.'

One would guess by your statement that the OLPC did not require you to sign a NDA with a clause stating that you cannot tell anyone you now work for OLPC ;)