The boss and the layoffs

Back in mid-2019, I had decided I was going to move to Boston and live with Sarah. Facebook didn’t like this idea. There was an office in Boston, but that wasn’t good enough. They said I couldn’t stay on the civic team, and had to shop around to the teams that were physically located in Boston. Also, all those teams were looking for criteria that I didn’t meet.

Long story short, I found a team that I liked and would take me. (Presto!) But I still was pretty upset. I loved my team at Civic. I didn’t want to leave. And I was being forced to, in essence, break up with a ton of work friends. Dozens of people that I liked, was already dreading moving physically away from — now I was being told that I wasn’t allowed to work on projects with them any more. Our friendships would be abruptly severed, or else badly wounded.

They threw me a going away party. That was sweet. I gave a little impromptu speech. I forgot everything I said there, but I do remember three points I made:

  • It is fundamentally unfair that the boss can decide that you’re not allowed to hang out with your friends any more.
  • The work we do is important, and could easily be bent towards evil ends. Be aware.
  • Take care of each other.

While I don’t really remember what I said, I do remember feeling fiery, and I do remember the look on people’s faces as I was giving that speech. I think it made an impression.

That brings me to the news of the last few weeks and months. Layoffs at Meta. Layoffs at Twitter. Layoffs everywhere. And now, layoffs at Google, the last bastion of old school big tech.

I wrote a little thing to our members about it. Here’s the link. I felt the old anger in me as I wrote it. Most layoffs are in fact unfair. (And it brought me to the lovely story of Saturo Iwata)

I’ve also pasted it below. Here it is:

Today was another bad day for the industry. There have a been more than a few bad days recently, huh? Layoffs and fear and uncertainty. All within companies that (with a few exceptions) remain profitable, well-resourced, and with a highly compensated executive suite.

To everyone who lost their job recently, fears for their continued employment, or is just plain sad or angry — this sucks, and I’m with you. It’s not fair that a boss can quickly sever your ties with your work friends, or put your livelihood in doubt, or just plain cause so much anxiety over a thing that wasn’t your fault. It’s not fair to move from arguing “let integrity workers like me do our jobs” to “let integrity workers like me be still employed”

If you’re an ex-Googler, ex-something-else or just generally want to talk; let me know. I imagine all of us on staff would be open to talking things out; I’ll just speak for myself and let them chime in in the comments.

If you’re still at a company, feeling perhaps shellshocked, overcommitted, survivor’s guilt, or anything else; we see you and we’re here for you too. This is a bad situation for everyone. Let us know how we can help.

Lastly, you might need time to process and aren’t ready to talk right now and that’s ok too. We’re here when you are ready — whether that’s next week, next month or anytime.

Knowing precisely what to say in moments like this is hard. We’re all scattered in different places, with different reactions to all this. But I hope this helps:

  • We are a community for the long haul. A community is a thing that you stay part of, even when your job changes. (If you leave a thing when you change jobs, it’s not a community, it’s an industry). Once a member, always a member.
  • We’re still encouraging people to swap job leads in #classifieds and are actively soliciting opportunities from partners, trying to set up paid fellowships for y’all in partnership with other organizations, and generally seeing what we can do. Thanks to the members who already have been proactively sharing leads.
  • A small thing that came across my desk today: Travis, the guy who runs Tech Congress, specifically wants to recruit you. They have fellowships for tech professionals (like us!) to embed as congressional staffers for a year. Different levels of fellowship for different amounts of experience. If you want to affect policy and understand how legislation works, this is a good option. (It’s paid, not amazingly) [link to more info in Slack’]
    • If you want a personal introduction to him, or are in any way interested, let me know.

Thanks for all that you do. And remember — we’re in this together.

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