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Here Comes The Big Wave!
Internet round-up for the week of January 23, 2023
Good morning, and welcome, new subscribers! Thanks for joining me! What a week it’s been! As most of you know by now, I was unceremoniously laid off from my job last Friday. It’s definitely been weird not going to work this week, and also not thinking about work like I usually would even when I’m on vacation. I think I’m just still trying to figure out how to process everything.
I’ve had a lot of time to think about this whole situation, and I have quite a bit I’d like to say — some today, some in a couple of months when my employment is *officially* terminated. For now, I’ll start with some things about the tech industry as a whole and my personal experiences.
So strap in, it’s gonna be a long one.
Firstly — let me tell you new folks a little bit about myself. I’m a writer who has been daylighting in IT, engineering, and (most recently) tech writing for about 15 years. I started this newsletter as a way to get in some writing reps each week and share all the links I would normally spam my friends with in just one spot. I am, admittedly, chronically online. Usually, this weekly newsletter is a big pile of things that made me laugh during the week and me talking about TV shows/movies. But, I’ve got some other things on my mind at the moment (clearly), so we’re gonna switch it up a little bit.
With that said, let’s dive in!
Layoffs? Don’t Talk About — Layoffs?
Are we still making Jim Mora jokes? … Am I old? (Don’t answer that.)
I’ve been through multiple rounds of layoffs in the past (at multiple companies), obviously always on the other side of it. Either I didn’t get let go, or I didn’t get let go and was responsible for helping deactivate fellow employees’ accounts (also shitty). Laying off lots of people at once, especially in the thousands, takes a massive, coordinated effort.
A coordinated effort that’s been building for weeks, if not months.
While I understand the desire not to spook all the employees ahead of time (ruins the meat), it’d be nice to give people some heads up. One way of doing that is to not continually tell folks that all the steps you’ve taken are hardening up the company to “weather the storm”. You know, like pausing hiring, freezing all team budgets, the kind of thing that makes it seem like “we’re all in this together”.
There’s also the option of having some type of meeting, either in person (hello, most of us were hybrid at this point anyway) or on a video call to notify folks, and then giving them the remainder of the day to send out an email, reach out to friends, and pack up their desks. Some of us (cough, me) also may have wanted to get some of the work we’d done for a portfolio (fully redacted, of course).
Right, right. I get it. They must protect proprietary data, which obviously has more value than giving someone 5 seconds to send a goodbye email out to their teammates and gather contact information.
Sidenote: Have you ever tried to get in contact with someone you don’t have any contact information for recently? Might as well put up a “missed connections” post on Craigslist and wait. It took me nearly 5 full days to get in contact with everyone from my team — fortunately I found a couple people on LinkedIn and played the Telephone Game to get to the rest.
Why might that be? Well, the stock price, of course!
Just ask the guy that wrote this letter:
Human, After All
FTR, I was absolutely not part of the aforementioned “excessive employee compensation”. 🙃
Maybe there are some folks who were making a lot of money, but they were being compensated for their experience, their ability, their performance, their loyalty, and their time. Sure, working at Google for 20 years will have afforded you an additional 40 weeks severance (also kind of wondering how this really helps the bottom line, to pay out these salaries without getting actual work out of folks, but don’t look at me — I haven’t done math since 2002), but there are people who actually prefer stability.
Some folks will be able to take a little sabbatical. But most of what I’ve seen from the other laid off employees is simply: stress. People who were on medical or maternity leave. People who are concerned about their visa status. People who relocated and are trying to decide whether to move (me). People who sold their house to relocate just a few months ago. People who just bought a house and now aren’t sure how to pay their exorbitant Bay Area mortgage.
It’s just a really painful process that could have been handled in a more humane way. And like, the severance package is appreciated, but it doesn’t even cover the remainder of the lease we signed after moving to California. 🤷🏼♀️
I mean, yes, ultimately everything comes down to money. 💸
But it also feels like the snowball effect of the most convenient way to make financial cuts — everyone else is doing it!
The “we over-hired during the pandemic, please feel sorry for us” excuse just isn’t working for me. I was hired in late summer 2022. Did the pandemic end on January 1, 2023? Why didn’t anyone tell me??? 😡
I’m just wondering why there isn’t consideration for cutting something like, oh, I dunno — excessive real estate investments? Seems to make more sense, I guess, to force employees back into a hybrid workweek to justify the unnecessary spend.
Honestly, why spend money on managing office spaces when your employees are generally much happier at home? I won’t deny that there are challenges to working remotely, but there are a hell of a lot of challenges working in-office, too. I’d also love to see the budget for the air conditioning specifically, since every office I’ve ever worked in has maintained the temperature of a sub-zero walk-in freezer.
It’s pretty clear that some tech companies value their real estate over real people. Zing!
Sometimes it Feels Like Everybody is a Whiny Baby
I’ve seen related tweets this week saying tech workers are “coddled” and “spoiled” and are “whining” about layoffs. Look, yes — the tech industry has some of the best benefits out there. I’ve had plenty a beer around a kegerator, played pinball in-office, and been able to go to the doctor whenever I need (what a brat!).
As far as the in-office stuff goes — free meals, etc — I’d be fine to give that up and work from home. I’ll also note that for many years, big tech “campuses” offered these perks as a way to keep employees on site. It’s designed to be like a college, where you live, work, eat, and have social interactions. But the secret hope is that you end up staying in-building for a couple extra hours a day, until the next thing you know you’re doing your damn laundry there. (Yes, laundry! On site, in the building!) By proxy, hopefully you just…do more work, which benefits the company, too!
Outside of the office though: the health & fitness stipends, the great insurance, fertility treatments, mental health support, reimbursement for both job and non-job related trainings/classes — I’ll agree that it’s a lot.
But I also have to ask: is it possible that we’ve become so accustomed to meager, limited benefits, that somehow the tech companies seem like overkill, rather than what should be the norm?
It’s Me, Hi, I’m The Problem It’s Me
Is the “I take full responsibility for this” line from CEOs just intended to lessen the blow for shareholders? What does it really mean to take responsibility for mass layoffs?
I won’t go too deep into this, becauseperfectly covered it this week, so go read that. (Also subscribe to his newsletter, it’s great.)
Workers are out here taking the brunt of a leader’s bad decisions like feudal serfs being sent off to a ridiculous war. Like, sure, I picked to live on this little plot of land because you said you’d pay for me to get a new pair of glasses and an eye exam every year, but no thanks!
Anyway, this leads me into the:
Shameless Self-Promotion Corner
I channeled some of my layoff-related rage into a satire piece this week, titled Layoff Announcement From Your High School Boyfriend.
Here’s an excerpt, with some language that may look familiar:
I’ve got some difficult news to share.
Last summer when you went to Wichita with your family, my amount of free time saw dramatic growth. I overestimated the demand for my services, and ended up bringing on an additional girlfriend. Now, due to unforeseen economic pressures (you catching me making out with Kayla by the orchestra hall), I need to reduce my girlfriend headcount by 50%. Unfortunately, your position has been eliminated.
If you’re wondering if I feel better after writing this, the answer is: Yes, actually!
I’m Not Alone
The M&Ms spokescandies got laid off this week, too.
Wonder if they were locked out of their email at 2AM? 🤔 To be fair though, I would gladly replace myself with Maya Rudolph.
Randomly Selected Animal Cutie
You didn’t think I was going to end this newsletter without an animal cutie, did you? I’m not a monster!
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Dogs are perfect.
Thanks for reading this tome. I’ll be back with more internet-related content next week, but for now — I appreciate ya sticking with me through all this.
I’ll leave you this week with a photo of me and my ex-teammates on a campus tour shortly after I started. Have a good one. ❤️
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