As job cuts rock Silicon Valley, workers are grappling with post-boom reality

(Bloomberg) — When Ryan Stevens joined Meta Platforms Inc. as Head of Product Operations for WhatsApp in August 2021, he was drawn to the opportunity to help build a messaging app used daily by 2 billion people.

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He also reasoned that caring for a service that touches so many people would result in some 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, informing employees that layoffs were coming. After tossing and turning, Stevens, 39, received another letter at around 6am: he was one of 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 fired people who are all looking for tech roles at the same time,” said Stevens, who lives in San Jose, Calif., with his wife and young son. . “This gives me a lot of anxiety.” He believes the industry is in the midst of a cyclical reset and is open to focusing on something “a little smaller” until things pick up again.

After years of buoyant growth and hiring, the layoffs burst Silicon Valley’s sanity bubble. As of Nov. 15, tech companies had announced 31,200 job cuts so far this month, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. would cut thousands of jobs. Meta, Twitter Inc., and Amazon.com Inc. have all cut their ranks, or said cuts are coming. As this story was being readied for publication on Tuesday, HP said it plans to cut as many as 6,000 jobs over the next three years.

While tech workers lost their jobs during the early days of the pandemic, the subsequent boom has benefited the industry. This time workers are preparing for a longer-lasting recession. Accelerating layoffs have shaken up a cohort that just a few months ago felt safe skipping work in search of better wages and benefits. Now those who have been fired are eager to re-enter a job market flooded with other recently fired candidates, even as tech giants slow or block recruitment.

“People will hire through this, but it’s not going to be as much of a candidate market as it was in 2021,” said Peter Walker, head of insights at Carta, a platform that manages equity for startups.

Unlike the dot-com crash of the early 2000s, when many fledgling start-ups failed, this recession has prompted 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 fired and left decisions to the highest levels of leadership. , according to an internal memo. As a result, the company has lost some top talent, including people who had recently been promoted and received stellar performance reviews, according to a recently fired employee.

Despite the chaotic nature of the layoffs, the worker said he believes Meta is still not as lean as it should be. “If I had to make a bet,” he told her, “I think there’s more pain to come.” The company declined to comment.

Job cuts have left some workers struggling to find safe ground. After joining Meta in January, Zoha Pajouhi, a machine learning engineer, was given the choice between working on the company’s augmented reality and virtual reality efforts, a top priority for CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and work on recommendation algorithms for the Facebook app. She chose the latter, figuring the company would be unlikely to cut back on its core business if times got tough. After losing his job earlier this month, Pajouhi, who lives in Kirkland, Washington, is reflecting on his decision.

As she speeds up her job search, she’s detecting a thrill in the market. An engineer in a coveted field, she had become accustomed to the regular approaches of recruiters. Since she lost her job, she has written to recruiters who have contacted her previously, but have been slow to respond. Those who responded say they have few positions available.

As tech layoffs accelerate, “we’re all in the same boat and we’re also competing with each other,” Pajouhi said.

Some workers see their layoffs as an opportunity to work on a side passion. 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 manager at 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 in Meta.

Rather than look for a new gig, Harper, 35, decided to focus on Everloom. To help pay the bills, she applied to Funded Not Fired. The program, recently started 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 got fired it was kind of like, I don’t mean it’s like a sign, but it was like, ‘I have some 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 about this next chapter.”

Other fired technicians plan to look for a new job, but are determined to take their time to find the right fit. Marc Weil, a technical lead, lost his job at Stripe Inc. earlier this month, about 19 months after joining the digital payments company. After receiving a generous settlement, Weil, who is 35 and lives in Boulder Creek, California, plans to “spend some time trying to find the next role instead of scrambling to find the next thing that fits the expectations”.

An Amazon worker recently lost his job because the team he worked for was terminated. This person, who requested anonymity to avoid jeopardizing a severance pay, has 60 days to find another position at the e-commerce giant. For now, the employee doesn’t plan to put much effort into finding a new job with Amazon or anywhere else.

“LinkedIn is a pit of despair right now,” the person said. “Looking for work is not what I want to do. I just want to embrace the headspace of not having to work at Amazon anymore.

Recruiters say they see some bright spots in the hiring market. Laura LaBine, chief talent officer at LaBine & Associates, said she has been listening to companies looking for engineers in biotechnology and life sciences, as well as analytics and data science.

Technical skills remain valuable in an economic downturn, said Neil Costa, founder and CEO of HireClix, a recruitment marketing agency. He represents a retailer who is looking to hire software engineers for his e-commerce business and sees a larger opportunity for smaller companies to gather talent.

Just over a week after losing his job as director of business development at AI startup Arctica, Brandon Moore has set up several interviews. He is optimistic that he will secure a job soon, but wonders if the scale of the ongoing layoffs in the Valley is necessary.

“The leaders of these companies are trying to send a message to the market that they will do whatever it takes to control the decline in stock prices that we’re seeing,” said Moore, who is 36 and lives in Seattle. “But they originally hired all these people for a reason, and they’re just going to have to rehire.”

Stevens’ research is also well underway. While he searches for his next job, he focuses on finding a key role for the company.

“What is something I will be involved in that will make me feel valued and make me feel like I am making a real impact with a company?” he said. “That’s really my focus right now.”

–With assistance from Jo Constantz, Spencer Soper and Alex Barinka.

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