October 8, 2022
Let’s face it, 2022 hasn’t been kind to the tech industry so far. With hiring freezes, budget cuts and layoffs happening becoming a regular occurrence, how do you weather through the downturn?
Whether you currently work at a tech company or are trying to enter the industry, we’ll go over a few tips on what to do in these turbulent times.
As companies begin layoffs, they become very strategic about who to let go. Usually the first teams on the chopping block are exploratory or vanity projects because these provide no immediate value to the business and are a moonshot at best.
A good example of this is Google’s Area 120, a company-internal incubator that recently had its size cut in half overnight. Employees were told to find new teams by year end or face layoffs.
You want to secure yourself in a core team within your company. Something that’s revenue and business-critical. This minimizes the chances of your entire team getting laid off due to budget cuts.
Ideally, the team should also be fairly lean. Teams with too many redundant members may face trimming, and you don’t want to be stack ranked against your immediate colleagues - it isn’t fun for anyone.
Becoming an expert on a particular framework, system or domain inside your company or org is also a great idea to keep your employment, but it is no easy task. You must become the most knowledgeable person, and you need to make sure other people know it.
You can get started by answering questions for your coworkers. The more questions you answer about a system X, the more authority you’ll begin to have on X, and by word of mouth your reputation will spread. Eventually, senior members or even the leadership team will hear of your expertise, and if layoffs do come around they actually have the power to save you from getting cut.
Of course, no company wants to risk having a single employee be the only one with knowledge of any crucial system. There will likely be other experts or experts in a related domain, but that’s okay. You only need to make yourself valuable enough that losing you would significantly impact your company or org negatively - if you can pull that off your job becomes a lot safer.
This may seem obvious, but the first priority should be to double check your savings and make sure you have enough cash (or other liquid assets) to weather a downturn.
Whether you already have a job or are looking, be prepared with at least 6 months of living expenses set aside. 12 months is even better. If your savings is cutting close to the 6-month borderline, try to reduce unnecessary expenses and save up a little more.
Also don’t forget to forecast your expenses. If you have a big wedding coming up, for example, it might be prudent to put a little extra in the piggy bank.
Even though there are hiring freezes in many places, gearing up to interview is not a bad idea.
First of all, there are still jobs out there. Yes, the number of open positions has gone down since 2020 and the pre-Covid days, but hiring didn’t magically stop. There are still great employers out there offering good compensation, so it never hurts to be interview-ready.
A more strategic reason to interview prep now is so that you can pounce on the first wave of job openings when the economy comes back up. By taking interviews the moment positions open back up, you may be able to secure a juicy offer letter months ahead of others.
So, why is getting an early offer letter so important? With many tech companies offering stock-based compensation, these offer letters typically give you X dollars worth of stock, and the actual number of shares you get is dependent on the stock price the month you join.
So, in a recovering economy where tech companies have historically been able to rebound double digit percentages in a couple months, locking in a lower share price with an earlier offer and start date can significantly increase your pay for years to come.