Tech workers burned by layoffs rethink risk • TechCrunch

The technique is not so collegial as before. Rocket ships are presented as raging messes, mission-driven startups don’t feel so mission-driven as they respond to investor pressure, and widespread layoffs are a loud reminder that jobs are breakable contracts, not sacred vows.

Over the past few months, thousands of workers who didn’t have the privilege of being namesakes of Meta, Twitter, Stripe, Amazon, DoorDash and countless others have returned to the job market. A job market of hiring freezes, wage cuts and general anxiety that industry experts warn won’t end this year.

So where does tech talent go from here?

The answer is complex, and it’s too early to have definitive labor data. VCs want to fund the newest tech mob startups before banks, top MBA programs want fired employees to join so badly they’re ditching standardized test score requirements, and hiring tech companies really want to know what they’re hiring for.

TechCrunch spoke to laid-off employees about how they might approach their careers differently in 2023. Pseudonyms have been used where names are included to protect current and future employment prospects, in accordance with the wishes of the persons quoted. A common theme among all the responses is a rethinking of how “safe” it is to work in tech, and perhaps more importantly, what it takes to get back into the sector after being burned out.

“I’m taking back control”

Aaliyah was fired from her tech job in the spring. Just a month ago, he got a positive review from his boss and was promised a raise with more stock options.

So the layoff came as a surprise. And unlike some of her colleagues who put their name on the charts and went back to looking for work, Aaliyah took a few weeks to think. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay in tech, I wasn’t sure I wanted to work for anybody,” he said.

“I had to decide in terms of what I wanted my daily life to look like financially; Shall I rush, or do I just want to take what’s in my lap?’ he said on the phone. “After a few weeks, I felt like I was more ready to take back control than let people sway me one way or another.”

Currently, Aaliyah works two full-time tech jobs—no company knows—and she runs a consulting business on the side. While many people work multiple jobs to make ends meet, the ability to work more than one full-time job in tech has been fueled by telecommuting and layoffs. In fact, over 39,000 people are on the Overwork Discord community, which describes itself as a community of professionals looking to work two remote jobs, earn extra income, and achieve financial freedom. Free yourself from office politics and redundancies.”

“I will never again put myself in a position where I’m dependent on one income stream from one company, which may or may not do what’s in my best interest,” Aaliyah said. “They’ll do what they want, and I’ll do mine.”

It’s also a hedge against the bias she faces as a black woman in tech.

“As a black woman, sometimes I feel neglected because I’m overlooked and I don’t feel like anyone thinks I’m capable of more,” she said. “So you didn’t think I was capable of much, but I actually do—and you don’t know what’s in my bank account.”

Some see overemployment as the next step, while others are still wondering how jobs will evolve in this new environment.

Twice to the second job

Sam noticed a strange pattern in his work. It has been the second financial lease by two venture-backed startups. And he’s been fired by both of those companies in the past year.

“It’s weird because I majored in accounting and finance 15 years ago in undergrad because I was told it was the foundation of business and they needed it to run a business,” Sam said. He reached out to mentors in the space and says “their first reaction is that typically finance is not a function affected by these layoffs.” While the techie says that “accounting is an afterthought in technology,” the reality is a bit more complicated.

It seems that even a strong financial runway isn’t enough to keep people on the job, while every other CEO cites the “need to be more disciplined” as a reason for company-wide layoffs. In Sam’s case, he was first let go by a Series B software product after his funding round ended, so he began looking for a new job that promised more financial stability. Eventually, he began interviewing a number of companies and chose the ed-tech market, which promised a big cash position from the recent fundraising frenzy. Then, when that company fired him, he realized that good books weren’t enough to justify job stability.

Today, Sam juggles the part-time job he built when he started hearing rumors of a second round of layoffs and interviews for full-time gigs. There’s a clash between the steady, secure job he wants and what he’s naturally interested in as someone who’s spent time working in small teams at lean startups.

“The dilemma I’m in right now is, I’m going through every process with a company that’s healthier, they have a 401(K) match…. if an offer ever comes [those] companies, can I be attracted enough to be interested? It’s hard to know what you care about.”

He’s still upset about losing his job at the edtech company.

“They are building an edtech market here. And I have all the experience and skills and knowledge to help the company do that, and I’m not going to be able to see that happen,” he said. “I think it’s a missed opportunity for them. I still like to fight it.”

“Not everyone walks around with a year’s worth of runway in their pocket”

Shortly before Mary was fired from her HR tech company, she was given an award recognizing her contributions to the team. A few weeks later, when he got the call that he was being terminated due to the macroeconomic climate, the trophy was still engraved with his name.

Worse, this company fired him a second time. According to Maryam, the first time was in March 2020 when “the world fell apart”.

“It didn’t feel like corporate irresponsibility or anything, it just felt like everything was on fire and we’re very sorry,” he said. as we think”. Because the job market was tough — and because he didn’t feel any problems with poor management — he rejoined, got a small raise, was recapitalized, and so it was for the next two years, until he was fired again this summer. .

Mary went back on the job hunt, this time ending up at a venture-backed early-stage startup. Then a few weeks into the job, he was fired. This time, it got even worse – because it was the first job he’d earned since joining the tech world years ago that earned him a six-figure salary.

“I only broke six figures and it was only five weeks,” Mary said. “I was really excited to max out my 401(k) and now I think I should have kept those extra two grams in cash.” He currently has five weeks’ pay, one month’s worth of Cobra health insurance and plans to enroll in Medicare.

“Not everyone walks away with a year’s worth of runway in their pocket,” says Mary. “When people have really high salaries and enjoy really high salaries for a large part of their careers – they think that other people have personal savings to protect them from that.[…] but life is really expensive.”

Despite being fired, Mary isn’t leaving the tech world because she’s inspired by “incredibly bright, talented, capable people who are just trying to build something.” Next year, he plans to ask his network for job-hunting help, adding that while Stripe and Twitter talent is being laid off, no one is looking at cold job applications.

He plans to be direct. “Is it a question of being profitable enough?” he said at one point during the interview. “When is enough time to sustain your workforce—what math is going on here?”

But he also knows that what happened to him in the last twelve months could happen again.

“You can ask all the right questions, you can do all the research, you can ask about the burn and the runway and all that – and even if they say all the right things, there’s just very little power if something changes in the market. what you have as an individual,” he said. “You know, other than that, save what you can for a rainy day.”

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