When Ryan Stevens joined Meta Platforms 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 one of more than 11,000 workers who 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 Big Tech’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. 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 and Amazon have all cut their ranks, or said cuts are coming. HP said it plans 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, even as tech giants slow or freeze hiring.
“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, Zoha Pajouhi, a machine learning engineer, 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, is questioning her decision.
As she speeds up her job search, she senses a cooling in the market.
As tech layoffs accelerate, “we’re all in this together and also kind of competing with each other,” Pajouhi said.
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.
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.”
Bloomberg reporters Jo Constantz, Spencer Soper and Alex Barinka contributed to this report.
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