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With the big-tech companies shedding staff in thousands, the number of tech layoffs this year is inching towards the annual figures of the Great Recession of 2008-09. According to a report, approximately 65,000 tech jobs were lost in 2008 and 2009 each. At present, Twitter, the messiest of the lot, has laid off thousands and is preparing to send more packing. Amazon is reportedly planning to lay off 10,000 employees, while Google has set up a “performance improvement plan” to fire 6% (around 10,000 employees) of its workforce by early 2023. Others like Lyft, Intel, HP have all announced job cuts. The tech layoff for November alone has claimed 45,000 heads.
However, the harsh realities of the recession in the tech sector have roused a sense of community within the industry. A bunch of organisations are throwing out lifelines to save the careers of those laid-off. And this isn’t just the formalised initiatives or job services for money that are around for help – a sense of enterprise from the community has pushed individuals too to chime in.
A helping hand
Aishwarya Naresh Reganti, an applied scientist with a FAANG company has revamped an online portal, The LevelUp Org amidst the slew of job cuts in the US. The platform was initially meant to offer generic career guidance for tech professionals before Reganti revived it a month ago.
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In a past LinkedIn post, Reganti mentioned that even though her team at the company had evaded being laid off, the stress she had been through because of the collective impact had been “mentally excruciating”. Like everyone else, Reganti explained how her social media feed had been filled with posts from people who had just lost their jobs and livelihood. But unlike most people, Reganti decided to do something about it.
The solution was simple, yet effective. “A month ago we decided to re-start The LevelUp Org as a way to help anyone who needed it, by mentoring and helping them navigate through their careers in tech. There was a lot of information floating around online with scattered databases that we wanted to collate and organise to make things simpler for employees searching for jobs,” she stated.
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She asked two sets of people to write in — job seekers who were recently laid off, and supporters who could conduct interviews, give referrals or were hiring. She said, “We started connecting job seekers with supporters and our sister teams to simplify the process of looking for other opportunities. Our focus was around people who hadn’t received a great severance package or people with H1B visas.”
More organic and real
LevelUp started small, but grew quickly. “It was initially between 50 to 60 volunteers from big tech organisations like Google, Amazon and Meta who came together, and slowly we started galvanising forces. We were cold messaging a lot of people who worked in the top management of these companies. They were all willing to come forward and help out despite the fact that these are usually people who have ‘far more to give and much less to get’,” she said.
Reganti insists that these initiatives are way more effective than other formal platforms because these were organic relationships. “There’s no money involved — a lot of the people helping out are friends,” she noted. Reganti had done her Masters in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon, so there was a pre-existing network with her alumni.
She has also tracked initiatives started by others who were sharing crowd-sourced lists for job leads and encouraged everyone to spread the word. These included the Metamates Alumni Resource by Vidya Srinivasan, Hiring Companies with POCs by Joseph Spisak, a live job-board by Clement Mihailescu, the WomenTech Network‘s initiative (https://lnkd.in/gszBwznq) and many more.
Another Good Samaritan, Carrie Whittington, a global sourcing manager with Twitter, spoke about how the mass layoffs from the social media company had affected her emotionally. Whittington started a talent directory called OneTeam that she had put together with several former employees from Twitter. “You see, even after leaving the flock they’re still working together to help each other! Once a tweep – always a tweep,” she noted.
Did public initiatives like these spring up during the last recession? Reganti says it was the proliferation of online platforms in the current age that had become a blessing. “It’s about the social networking power that people have which has happened now,” she added.