In the wake of mass layoffs, tech workers are rethinking their future

When Quinn transitioned from the video game industry to a corporate tech gig in 2019, job security was a big part of the reason.

The gaming world was “feast and famine,” hiring and firing people all the time, said Quinn, who asked that her last name be withheld to avoid damaging future job prospects. A more traditional software role, working in learning and development at a customer service company, seemed like a safer bet.

Quinn, now 28, wasn’t alone. For years, a job at a big Silicon Valley company was one of the best gigs an American could find. Even after all the rhetoric of the early 2010s about making the world a better place began to ring hollow in the wake of scandals at Facebook, Uber and other companies, a killer combination of high wages, ample benefits, management flexible and collegiate San Francisco Bay Area. campuses made for a lifestyle that seduced many early career self-starters.

The pandemic seemed to confirm this thesis. As everyone’s lives suddenly migrated online, software giants saw their stocks soar and tech workers enjoyed the luxury of coding from a living room couch.

Quinn’s decision to enter the industry seemed prescient at the time. “It gave me a very strong sense of security and stability that, in retrospect, really wasn’t there,” he said.

In November, Quinn was fired, part of a wave of big tech companies. cut jobs and implement hiring freezes which started last summer and gathered momentum until the end of 2022 and this year.

since January 1, legions of employees have been placed on Amazon’s chopping block (18,000 dismissals), Microsoft (10,000 dismissals), Salesforce (8,000 dismissals) and Google (12,000 dismissals). These cuts occurred as a result of pre-Meta excisions (11,000 dismissals in November) and Snap (1,300 dismissals in August), as well as on Twitter, which is they melt for other reasons.

The industry-wide downturn has led many tech workers, no longer engaged in the fervent attentions of an industry desperate to attract the best and brightest talent, to reevaluate their careers just as Quinn did.

Where they are headed now could reshape the industry for decades to come.

“Somebody’s loss is somebody else’s gain,” said Dan Ives, technology analyst and managing director at Wedbush Securities. Highly skilled software developers and engineers won’t be unemployed for long, Ives said, and the companies that hire them will likely be the ones at the forefront of exciting new sectors like artificial intelligence, the electric vehicles, cloud storage and cyber security. “I think it’s a repositioning of technology.”

The cuts come after unsustainably rapid hiring over the past five years, Ives said. “Now the clock has struck midnight for hypergrowth, [and] You’re seeing tech CEOs rip off the band-aid.”

It’s a moment with remarkable similarities to the bursting of the dot-com bubble in the early 2000s, when a fledgling version of the Internet economy blurred before investors’ eyes amid the collapse of and other sparkling Web 1.0 companies.

However, that collapsed empire provided the raw material for the next 20 years of technology, Ives said, returning a wealth of talented software engineers to the market. These latest layoffs, he said, could have the same effect.

“I see it more as a redistribution and change in the pecking order, rather than a sign of darker times,” the analyst said.

The distance from the so-called FAANG companies Facebook (now Meta), Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, is part of a broader trend in which tech workers are growing disillusioned with many of Silicon Valley’s biggest employers, most of whom have now accumulated reputational stains if not blatant scandals.

Some workers now, after being laid off and with their golden shackles cut off, may take the opportunity to find jobs that are more aligned with their values.

“Since COVID, really, what I’ve noticed is that tech workers across the board, but especially those with experience, don’t want to work for the Facebooks, the Googles, the Microsofts anymore,” said John Chadfield, secretary from United Tech. and the Allied Workers Union in Great Britain. “It’s no longer an aspiration.”

Some software engineers will now prioritize working at smaller companies that can offer them the flexibility of remote work, a four-day work week and a better quality of life, Chadfield predicted. Others will resort to very flexible freelance work.

But the coming changes could be more radical than just employees moving from big tech companies to smaller, cheerier ones. It is sometimes said that every company is now a software company, given how ubiquitous technology is in every facet of the economy, and many non-tech companies still have good reasons to hire the people that tech companies traditional have just fired.

Chadfield said he recently saw tech workers taking roles in government agencies and NGOs.

“They don’t run for cover; A lot of them don’t need to take what’s coming their way,” he said of tech workers. “They’re filling wide-open gaps in the market and they’re being selective about where they’re going.”

The Allstate Insurance Company recently flagged plans to hire laid-off tech workers to help bolster its tech capabilities. The Department of Veterans Affairs has done it similar openings.

An engineering manager, Jace, who was laid off from a San Francisco software company in December, said the current turmoil at big traditional tech companies is not representative of tech careers in general, which now span a wide range of sectors, including healthcare. and banking

“Every company has an app, they have a website, they have a service,” said Jace, who withheld his last name because he is actively looking for work. “You might see an expansion of what it means to work in technology, what it means to work in engineering.”

A tech job isn’t necessarily “in a place with a slide and a ball pit,” he said, alluding to the famous summer camp atmosphere that many Silicon Valley companies cultivated before the pandemic.

Some college graduates, however, are still attracted to the tech giants despite the new lack of job security available.

Allison, a senior studying computer science in the Bay Area, said she accepted an offer at a FAANG company over two defense industry opportunities in Pennsylvania and Idaho.

“Better to apply for a place that offers $250,000 and be fired in 6 months … than to go to Idaho and get $100,000,” he said. “I’m willing to take the risk for a lot more money.”

Some of his friends, who previously did tech internships at companies outside the traditional tech ecosystem, are also continuing to pursue full-time positions at larger companies, he said. Again, pay is their motive.

But not everyone has been so lucky in getting a job before graduation, he said; Many of his friends have sent hundreds of applications, some even settled for internships, with no response.

Non-technical tech workers, meaning those who don’t write code or possess other engineering skills, have been particularly hard hit by the layoff, said Nataliya Nedzhvetskaya, a UC Berkeley doctoral candidate who studies the ‘activism of technological employees.

“Most of these layoffs are affecting people. [working in] recruitment or customer service in these companies, “said Nedzhvetskaya.

Many tech companies also rely on temporary or contract workers who, even in boom times, face substantially less stable working conditions than their full-time counterparts, he said.

“Google has more than 50% of the labor force on contract,” said Nedzhvetskaya, “and if these people are not rehired, or if their contract is terminated before its end date, this is not register as dismissal”.

For Quinn, the tech worker who switched from video games to software in 2019, only to be laid off late last year, economic changes have forced him to reconsider his commitment to the tech industry.

Although he initially thought he would simply find a similar job at another tech company after being laid off from customer service, he has since struggled to replicate what he lost. Applications to several companies in recent months were nearing the final stages, he said, only for a sudden hiring freeze to send him back into the hunt.

Quinn is now looking at roles in healthcare, game and app development, and even mortgage underwriting — sectors that use technology but where the employers aren’t tech companies themselves. He’s not sure if he’s “committed” to sticking with traditional technology, he said. Many of his colleagues, he added, wonder the same thing.

“I think everyone I’m talking to is at least having a soul-searching moment of, ‘Hmm, is this what I thought it was?'” Quinn said. “‘Am I insulated from all these economic changes? “

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