About the FAANG layoffs

January 23, 2023

Ah yes, FAANG. Not long ago, the end goal of a programmer’s career was to work at FAANG. They had the best salaries possible, all the perks, all the ball pools, cool loopy sliders instead of boring stairs, and free food at the cafeteria. They have basically set the bar to what a tech company should look like: a childcare for adults buliding products which impact the lives of billions, and some of them also offered considerable profits for investors and shareholders. So it’s not wonder why so many people are attracted to those companies each year; I’ve heard the figure of 3 million yearly applicants to Google being tossed around.

And now they’re laying off. To be fair with those (ex-)workers, FAANG is not just laying off: they’re essentially cutting heads out there. Some people only find out they have been fired when they’re barred from entering their company, or their email doesn’t log in anymore, or another dire sign of unemployment.

Interestingly, in Brazil it’s essentially illegal to lay off so much people at once without a lot of negotiation between business owners, workers and unions. You actually can’t even fire a single worker without a specific reason. This has a double effect: big companies can’t fire people en masse, but getting a job is also extremely hard, exactly because of the hassle and risk that entails hiring someone just to fire them after a few months or years.

My Personal Choice

I have a pretty simple policy: if I can’t ping the CEO/president/founder directly, I will probably not work at that company. This is not possible when you work for Google, for example; you can’t just ping Sundar Pichai or Eric Schmidt. They’re inaccessible to you, and whether you’re hired or fired, they probably won’t even get to know at the position they are in.

And there’s no problem in that. I would not expect those busy tech tycoons to memorize the names and faces of hundreds of thousands of people that could be massively laid off at any moment, as we found out. And that’s the problem – in those companies, you’re just a number. To me, honestly, that’s even worse than “not having an impact” in the world. It’s more of a personal thing; I don’t treat any of my peers – work or not – like they’re disposable, just numbers, or just tools for me to reach a goal. Maybe that’s the reason I’m not a billionaire industry tycoon.

But I digress. Fact is, in the last 2 agencies I’ve worked for, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to the CEO at any moment I wanted. Hell, in one of them I spoke to one of the founders on a daily basis, because he was also a Product Owner. That’s the kind of professional and personal interaction I aim for these days: if I can’t have a beer with the CEO, it’s probably not worth my time*. Small efficient teams, meaningful human interaction – even though I realize I’m kind of a ‘closed’, hard-to-know person, that’s the vibe I usually like working with.

Oh, by the way, I’m also a hypocrite.

Hypocrite, I

To be honest, I have sent out CVs to Big Tech in the recent past. Not with much hopes of getting hired, but just so they can have my CV in their hands – I know HR people talk and send eachother CVs, so spreading your CV around for roles related to your skills is usually a good strategy for landing a good job. It’s also a way for me to have a way to flee from Brazil if the political tensions here get too extreme (just look what happened here in January 8th).

That said, if you ever looked at my CV, you’ll see I have even worked for FAANG in the past… Kinda. What I did was a contractor job for about 7 months through a crowdsourcing company (Lionbridge) to a certain FAANG. Essentially my job consisted of reviewing certain search engine results and rate them as relevant or irrelevant. Maybe you can even guess which FAANG I am talking about by now – think, Mark, think!

To sum it up: the pay wasn’t bad, it was a remote position back when this was rare (pre-2020), and the job was lonely and extremely boring. I did it because I needed the money. I know it’s almost a sin to admit that you went after a job because of cash, but that was exactly the case; I wanted to get away from programming for a bit (long story for another post), but still wanted to do something tech-related. I probably wouldn’t want a role like that again.

The Future

Big Tech isn’t going anywhere. They’re not on the verge of bankruptcy, and some argue that’s just a correction in trajectory from the tech role boom from the pandemic. We can probably expect those companies, or most of them (*ahem* Metaverse? Really?), to be around in 5 years time. That’s probably a pretty safe guess with all the data we have at the moment.

But for those who’re obsessive about tech history like I am, you might be looking at some interesting signs right now: for example, Intel was founded by experienced engineers who decided to (voluntarily) quit Fairchild Semiconductors. We now have hundreds of thousands of very talented tech people looking for opportunities; maybe we’ll see interesting new companies and services popping up soon, so maybe a little good can come out of all this mess. We can’t do anything but hope for the best and expect the worse, as with everything in life.

As for me – I’m still happily employed in Small Tech and probably wouldn’t want it differently.

*A metaphorical beer. Those who know me know that I actually almost don’t drink. The idea stands, though.