Meta-layoffs show coding jobs at tech companies are no longer secure

If you were unlucky enough to lose your job in the last 15 years, someone might have suggested (often unhelpfully) that you should learn to code. This was an abbreviation for “do something actually useful that would have saved you from being fired in the first place.”

That advice is becoming increasingly unwelcome.

The latest round of layoffs at Facebook’s parent company Meta is impacting employees in core technical roles that were once considered blameless positions, such as data scientists and software engineers. This represents a complete turnaround for companies that, until recently, offered exorbitant salaries and essentially attracted talent to these highly sought-after technical roles. And now, the company is laying off some employees as part of its “Year of Efficiency.” As Meta founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg says, “We’re in a different world.”

Social media companies aren’t the only ones suffering.

Software engineers were the most likely occupation to be furloughed relative to employment in 2023, according to data requested by Vox from workforce data firm Revelio Labs. When large-scale technology layoffs first began last year, recruiters and customer success specialists experienced the biggest impact. So far this year, software engineers accounted for nearly 20% of the 170,000 tech company layoffs, even though they make up about 14% of tech companies’ employees.

“Most of the initial job cuts were in hiring managers, who are holding off on future hires,” Reyhan Ayas, senior economist at Rebellio, told Vox. “Meanwhile, 2023 will see a shift towards more core engineering and software engineering, indicating a change in focus of current business priorities.”

In other words, tech companies aren’t just cutting fat by laying off people who make up their broader ecosystems, from marketers to massage therapists. They also benefited the people for whom they developed the products they were famous for, many of them for the first time, and enjoyed some kind of respected status because they were programmers as well as the founders of the companies.Software engineers are still important, but not as powerful as they used to be

Daniel Keum, an associate professor of business administration at Columbia Business School, said of high-tech companies, “It used to be, “Whatever it took to hire top talent, the more the better.” talk. “Now they are cost-focused and want to optimize and economize.”

He added: “It’s a completely different way of thinking. I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

Tech companies grew rapidly during the pandemic as people stayed home and their services were needed more than ever, but much of that demand disappeared. Meanwhile, technology companies that expanded their workforce significantly during this period were unable to come up with the next big thing. In other words, without being able to obtain a huge new revenue source, we have to shift from growth mode to maintenance. Meanwhile, the economy isn’t as strong as it used to be, and Wall Street is telling tech companies that less is more. The rise of AI in the workplace is also a contributing factor. This increases programmer productivity or potentially allows employers to do the same work as before with fewer employees.

Additionally, Kem notes that Elon Musk, who laid off 80 percent of his employees but still has a (sort of) working product, has become an inspiration of sorts to other tech CEOs, and they said he sees his drastic layoffs as a way to make his company more modest. They appear to be “morally and culturally acceptable.”

What is their stance? “Thank you, Mr. Elon Musk, for showing us that it’s possible. And thank you, Elon Musk, for taking responsibility,” Kumu said.

Of course, this may be a short-term idea. While layoffs may save a company money, they can ultimately be detrimental to the company, reducing morale and productivity and making it difficult for the company to grow in the future if the economy improves. there is. This fact doesn’t seem to prevent tech companies from joining the layoff bandwagon, whether it’s really necessary or not.

But for software engineers and other technical professionals, this doesn’t mean the end of the world. Although they are still very much in demand, their bargaining power and ability to command exorbitant perks and salaries has slowed.

The latest monthly jobs report from the tech trade group CompTIA shows that while the number of jobs at tech companies (which includes all corporate jobs) fell slightly in March, the industry overall added 20 jobs in tech jobs. The number of positions has increased by nearly 10,000. So even as tech companies lay off tech workers, other industries are poaching them. Unfortunately for software engineers and others, that means they too may have to follow the pay structure of those industries. The average base salary for software engineers in the U.S. is $90,000, according to PayScale, but it can be significantly higher at tech companies like Facebook, where such employees also receive bonuses and stock options. .

“If you were in technology, you used to only look at Silicon Valley and the top five companies,” Keum says. “Now our graduates are thinking about, well, getting a job in an industrial company. They’re diversifying away from traditional ‘technical’ type jobs. ”

“We have to look a little more broadly now,” he said.

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