Nov 5, 2022
Number of words in this post: 788
Thoughts from perspective of individual contributors:
- This is an old story. Wall St. banks always have such layoff practice. Every year, same day, same time, employees stay at home and wait a call of their future fate. Sometimes it’s based off your own problems, bad performance. Sometimes, it’s merely based on a shift of company strategy.
- When layoff happens, the least essential business functions get cut first. Commonly speaking, this might be the order: Human Resources, Marketing, Operations, Product Management & Design, Data Science and Analytics, Software Engineering, Sales. Then, it’s the least essential people of each org. The usual culprits are people managers, project managers, data and market analysts, junior research scientists, then engineers. The safest position will be the one that has the longest tenure with the most knowledge and contribution in the most profitable business function team.
- Twitter reportedly laid off 90% of their ML people. For ML folks, two things are critical. First, know your models and data very well. That is to be a subject expert in the org. For example, there was a guy in my previous team that knows the most about Experimentation. Almost everyone consulted him when anything about Experimentation came in. Second, know your model and service end-to-end. That is to know how to deploy the monitor the production model and justify its impact to the company’s topline business metrics.
- One should always be ready to interview, and make it a habit. Having an offer on hand is always better than being compelled by time or income. During the economic downturn, there are limited number of openings. With all these layoffs, competition is heated. When Elon Musk announced his wanting to buy twitter back in April 2022, people have already started pondering about company downsizing. Be alert to the surroundings and move fast. It will be a lot easier to find job early 2022 than now; Nov 2022, when most big tech companies have hiring freeze.
- A larger proportion of Twitter managers were laid off this time. People often desire a managerial title; however, it’s also more challenging to find a good manager position. So, unless your managerial level is outstandingly high; or you don’t mind being a dispensable people manager, it’s always safer to have some technical expertise under the belt.
- Tech industry; due to its nature of operations, always hire for the future. First, there is an idea, then there is a projection of revenue from this idea, then there are new hires based on how many man-hours are required to materialize such idea into a product. Therefore, whenever the idea changes, there will be another new planning of everything.
Thoughts from perspective of company stakeholders:
- Twitter has been a laid-back company for many years. I personally have heard about this since 2018, if you want great work-life-balance, join Twitter. Many people joined Twitter and Microsoft only to get more time for non-work related reasons. Regardless of Twitter being profit or not; and as aggressive as Elon and his stakeholders, will undoubtedly eliminate this relaxed work setting.
- Layoff needs to be direct and on-point. Some companies let go people quietly and intermittently, this will only worsen the morale of the entire company. Leaders will loss their credibility as well. Employees will constantly feel fretful and lost their focus and confidence at work. Decisive acts from stakeholders save more time for the company to tear off from the old days, reset then recalibrate (置之死地而后生). And yet I know some companies don’t do this, they let people go obscurely, just like the way they let people in. There are some other companies; for example Google, that occasionally hints a possible reorg or workforce resizing, hoping to send such signal to employees so that they have more time to prepare or voluntarily give up their positions. This may result in a win-win that the company doesn’t need large scale layoff, and employees have less stress.
- 新官上任三把火 It’s a common sense, but with various reasons.
- When it’s absolutely necessary, keep the only important person in the team. Someone who has the longest tenure can easily restore the team. Given that so many companies hiring freeze and so many new graduates begging for work, Twitter could replace 1 senior with 2 to 3 new graduates.
- Admit the financial constraints candidly while giving a promotion or a raise to the survivors is a must-do remedy for the morale. From a financial planning perspective, it’s also more cost-effective. Paying someone 20% more salary could improve their confidence and productivity. However, I have not heard much about this from my Twitter friends. If this is not happening, I can only imagine an even higher turnover rate, which may well be part of Musk’s original intentions.