When Ryan Stevens joined Meta Platforms Inc. as Head of Product Operations for WhatsApp in August 2021, he was seduced by the opportunity to help shape a messaging app used by 2 billion people daily.
He also thought that handling a service that affects so many people would result in a degree of job security. That belief was shattered when Stevens woke up around 3 a.m. earlier this month to an email from Meta management telling employees that layoffs were coming. After tossing and turning, Stevens, 39, received another missive around 6 a.m. He was among more than 11,000 workers who had lost their jobs.
“I’m not thrilled to be part of such a large and immediate pool of laid-off people who are all looking for tech roles at the same time,” said Stevens, who lives in San Jose, Calif., with his wife and youngster. child. “It gives me a lot of anxiety.” He believes the industry is in the midst of a cyclical reset and is ready to focus on something “a little smaller” until things pick up.
After years of exuberant growth and hiring, the layoffs have burst Silicon Valley’s bubble of inviolability. As of Nov. 15, tech companies had announced 31,200 job cuts so far this month, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.
The HR consultancy says it’s the highest monthly total since September 2015, when a Hewlett-Packard restructuring said it would cut thousands of jobs. Meta, Twitter Inc., and Amazon.com Inc. have all cut their ranks, or said cuts are coming.
On Tuesday, as this story was being readied for publication, HP said it planned to cut up to 6,000 positions over the next three years.
While tech workers lost their jobs at the start of the pandemic, the ensuing boom has benefited the industry. This time, workers are bracing for a more lasting downturn. The acceleration in layoffs has rattled a cohort that just months ago felt safe changing jobs in search of better pay and benefits. Now those who have been laid off are eager to re-enter a job market flooded with other recently laid-off candidates, as tech giants slow or freeze recruitment.
“People are going to hire through this, but it won’t be as much of a candidate market as it was in 2021,” said Peter Walker, chief information officer at Carta, a platform that manages startup equity.
Unlike the dot-com meltdown of the early 2000s, when many fledgling startups collapsed, this downturn prompted now-mature companies to tighten their belts.
When Meta cut jobs earlier this month, the first major round of layoffs in its history, the company did not consult with managers about which employees would be laid off and left decisions to the highest levels of management. , according to an internal memo.
As a result, the company lost some of the top talent, including people who had recently been promoted and received excellent performance reviews, according to a recently terminated employee.
Despite the chaotic nature of the layoffs, the worker said he believed Meta was still not as skinny as he should be. “If I had to make a bet,” he said, “I think there’s more pain to come.” The company declined to comment.
The job cuts have left some workers struggling to identify safe ground. After joining Meta in January, machine learning engineer Zoha Pajouhi was given a choice between working on the company’s augmented reality and virtual reality efforts, a top priority for CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and working on recommendation algorithms for the Facebook application. .
She chose the latter, believing the company was unlikely to scale back its core business if times got tough. After losing her job earlier this month, Pajouhi, who lives in Kirkland, Wash., is questioning her decision.
As she speeds up her job search, she senses a cooling in the market. Engineer in a coveted field, she had become accustomed to the regular approaches of recruiters. Since losing her job, she has written to recruiters who have already contacted her, but they have been slow to respond. Those who responded say they have few vacancies.
As tech layoffs accelerate, “we’re all in this together and also kind of competing with each other,” Pajouhi said.
Some workers see their layoffs as an opportunity to work on a passion side. Brandon Harper launched a startup in January 2021 called Everloom, a family history and ancestry platform, built over nights and weekends while working as a senior marketing rat Meta. Harper considered quitting to pursue the project full-time but, as a new father, he decided it was too risky. Then, earlier this month, he lost his job at Meta.
Rather than look for a new gig, Harper, 35, decided to focus on Everloom. To help pay the bills, he turned to Funded Not Fired. The program, launched recently by venture capital firm Day One Ventures, has pledged to give 20 laid-off tech workers $100,000 each to pursue their startup ideas. Day One says it has received 1,000 applications so far.
“When I was fired it was kind of like, I don’t want to say it’s like a sign, but it was like I had time and space here. Let’s see what I can do,” said Harper, who has a 10-month-old son and lives in San Francisco. “I’m excited for this next chapter.”
Other laid-off technicians are considering looking for a new job, but are determined to take their time to find the right person. Engineering director Marc Weil lost his job at Stripe Inc. earlier this month, about 19 months after joining the digital payments company. Having received a generous severance package, Weil, who is 35 and lives in Boulder Creek, Calif., plans to “spend time trying to find the next role instead of scrambling to find the next thing that just does check boxes”.
An Amazon employee recently lost his job because the team he worked for was eliminated. This person, who requested anonymity so as not to jeopardize a severance package, has 60 days to find another position with the e-commerce giant. For now, the employee does not plan to make much effort to find a new job at Amazon or elsewhere.
“LinkedIn is a pit of desperation right now,” the person said. “Job hunting is not what I want to do. I just want to enjoy the headspace of not having to work at Amazon anymore.
Recruiters say they see positives in the hiring market. Laura LaBine, director of talent at LaBine & Associates, said she’s heard from companies looking for engineers in biotech and life sciences, as well as analytics and data science.
Technical skills remain valuable during an economic downturn, said Neil Costa, founder and CEO of HireClix, a recruitment marketing agency. He represents a retailer trying to hire software engineers for its e-commerce business, and he sees a larger opportunity for small businesses to recruit talent.
Just over a week after losing his job as director of business development at artificial intelligence startup Artica, Brandon Moore had several interviews lined up. He’s optimistic he’ll get a job soon, but wonders if the scale of the layoffs going on in the valley is necessary.
“Executives of these companies are trying to send a message to the market that they will do whatever it takes to control the stock price slump that we are seeing,” said Moore, who is 36 and lives in Seattle. “But they hired all these people for a reason in the first place, and they’re just going to have to rehire.”
Stevens’ research is also well advanced. As he searches for his next job, he is focused on finding a critical role for the company.
“What is one thing I’m going to get involved in that’s going to make me feel valued and make me feel like I’m having a real impact on a business?” he said. “That’s really where I’m focusing right now.”
Jo Constantz, Spencer Soper and Alex Barinka contributed.
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