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Layoffs Q&A and Videos

About Layoffs

Layoffs are the temporary suspension or permanent termination of a group of employees for business reasons, such as personnel management or downsizing an organization.

Transitioning into the compiler engineering field (or any other domain) if you are unemployed and don't have prior experience in the field

Senior Software Engineer at Taro Community profile pic
Senior Software Engineer at Taro Community

I am currently seeking to transition into a career as a compiler engineer, a field I find deeply fascinating. The interdisciplinary nature of compiler engineering, bridging areas such as computer architecture and graph theory, intrigues me greatly. Additionally, the sector offers promising financial rewards, especially with companies like Meta, Nvidia, and AMD that are at the forefront of hardware accelerators experiencing significant growth. I am convinced this growth trajectory will continue, making this career path an ideal blend of intellectual fulfillment, professional growth, and competitive compensation.

Due to recent layoffs, I find myself unemployed, and I am seizing this moment to pivot towards compiler engineering. However, I acknowledge that there is a steep learning curve to becoming an ideal candidate for such positions. The required skill set typically includes:

  • Proficiency in C++
  • Experience with GPUs
  • Knowledge of an Intermediate Representation Language (e.g., LLVM)
  • Understanding of computer architecture

Previously, I worked as a senior backend engineer, specializing in tool development using functional programming languages such as Scala and Ocaml. My experience spans across FAANG companies and two startups.

To bridge the gap in my skill set, I have been actively contributing to open-source projects similar to LLVM and honing my C++ skills through consistent practice on Leetcode. Despite securing a few interviews for compiler engineering positions, I have not been successful, primarily due to difficulties with compiler-specific questions.

I seek advice on the following:

  1. How can I enhance my chances of entering the compiler engineering field, especially without being part of a compiler project community or holding a position of authority within such a project?
  2. What strategies can I employ to prepare for and succeed in domain-specific interviews, considering my lack of prior experience in this area?

Any guidance or insights from those who have navigated a similar path would be immensely appreciated.

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Worked with manager for promotion, but he suddenly got laid off. How to navigate?

Mid-Level Software Engineer at PowerSchool profile pic
Mid-Level Software Engineer at PowerSchool

I read and implemented a lot of the advice from Taro on building my relationship with my manager. I also worked closely with him for a year to position myself for the promotion to Senior. Every two weeks, I would meticulously document senior behavior in my "brag document" that I shared with him through Microsoft OneNote. Every month during our 1:1, I would ask him for feedback on what I needed to continue doing or change to reach Senior. During performance review each quarter, I used all of this to officially document my growth, and secured 3 Exceeds with 1 Meets. By the end of Q4, he was primed to go to bat for me.

Then he suddenly got laid off a month or two before names are submitted up the chain of command for promotion. I imagine others might have or will encounter a similar situation. In addition to layoffs, company reorganization or your manager jumping into another opportunity might have similar effects.

It feels like so much of my effort over the past year was futile. What makes this sting even more is that I'm fully aware of my company's promotion cycle, which is once a year in March/April. Promotions rarely happen outside this cycle.

What are some tactics to navigate this current situation and a strategy to avoid this single point of failure in the future?

Here's what I've done so far

  • Reached out to manager on LinkedIn to console him on layoffs. Fortunately he brought up the topic of my promotion and advised me to pass along a message to my next manager that we were working together on my promotion.
  • My company is still undergoing reorg, and I don't have an official manager yet, so reached out to his manager, which is the Director. The "brag document" in OneNote came in handy since I shared it with him and passed along the message from my manager
  • Started looking at other companies for senior roles. It's difficult to bear the thought of starting over from square one with a new manager within my current company and waiting a whole other year.

Here's my thoughts around strategy moving forward

  • Maybe work with manager's manager, in addition to the direct manager, for promotions. Would work more closely with direct manager, but at least touch base with manager's manager once a quarter regarding the promo.
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How to make yourself layoff proof as a non SWE focused engineer

Machine Learning Engineer at Taro Community profile pic
Machine Learning Engineer at Taro Community

Hey everyone, I've been working at a seed stage startup in London for 5 months now. I am the sole contributor to an ML product the company is launching and I'm taking care of the entire ML life cycle (training/testing/deploying/monitoring/integrating)

But the startup is trying to scale vertically (creating a suite of products/ecosystem of tools for its niche). This is the company's second product and is the bigger product compared to the first product they launched and has more revenue opportunities

I haven't had much exposure to the software side of the product as there is currently so much scope for ML opportunities

I am also a junior. I have about .75 YoE before I started working here and I am terrified that the company is going to lay me off once they get enough of this AI product done and its time to move on to the next. I worry they're gonna want some SWE with 10 YoE and I'm not that. I don't want to have to job search in this market as well

About me: my expertise is 70% ML and 30% SWE. I also have a bs in cs so I'm not a noob at SWE. MLE is also 80% SWE and 20% ML realistically

Questions

  1. How to ensure that if the company decides to start another product that they won't just ditch me
  2. How to figure out the long term plans? I've tried asking to figure out but with such early stage startups it's hard to know what their plans are

I am totally okay and happy to contribute to the software efforts as well should they decide to move on. just don't want to get laid off!

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Apply for jobs without a job or take a guaranteed job?

Senior Software Engineer at Unemployed profile pic
Senior Software Engineer at Unemployed

I was unfortunately let go from my previous company in mid November of last year. Took Nov/Dec of last year off to rest and fully cope. Now that the new year is here, I'm starting the job hunt.

Recently, I found out that a previous employer - not the most recent one - has an opening right now. I left that company on very good terms so I can easily get the job, but I'm not interested at all in that role for the long term as I'd like to work at a US company (preferably big tech, but even startups / midsize would be fine to start). All my experience has been at small companies.

I am extremely confident of my interviewing ability especially with the ability to prep full time. But will I have any difficulty in getting interviews if I don't have a job currently? Should I take the job at the old employer, wait it out 6 months, then start applying to better companies then? Or should I ignore the old employer, take a month to prep, and then start applying to the roles I want now?

Some other potentially relevant info:

  • Currently based in Canada. Visa won't be an issue
  • 6 YOE, have been Senior for the last 2 years
  • Will be applying to L5 roles at the bigtechs, with the expectation of getting downleveled
  • Money isn't a huge issue, I have savings to last me through the summer and can borrow more from family if needed (although I would like to have things wrapped up by May 1st)
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How is the market right now for junior engineers?

Entry-Level Software Engineer at Taro Community profile pic
Entry-Level Software Engineer at Taro Community

Hey, I just posted a question related to me considering to quit my job here:

TLDR: I am seriously considering quitting my job due to the commute, I live in SF, have 1+ years of experience and am looking to work in the city/remote. I have 6+ months of savings and am a U.S. citizen. Effectively, I'd say there's a 95% chance I'll quit my job in Jan 2024.

Considering this, I'm evaluating the current tech job market.

Generally, my impressions are that while the overall economy is doing quite well, the tech market is in a bit of a lull w/ potential layoffs in 2024-2025. We had the major overhiring of 2021-2022, then the layoffs in early 2023 and now are in a period of stasis relative to the bull market of the past 10 years+. I believe this is also due to the end of zero interest loans making capital expensive. This then leads to profits being more emphasized, then cost-cutting in large corporations (employees being a major cost, so layoffs occuring) and then difficulty for startups to raise money.

Additionally, I recently read The Pragmatic Engineer's take on .

"Unfortunately, I suspect Spotify is early in having a realization which other tech companies will also have, next year. With the zero interest rate period (ZIRP) over, it’s expensive to borrow cash. Spotify making a loss meant it was effectively borrowing money in order to operate. Turning a profit is more urgent than when capital was cheap. But how do you turn a profit if you cannot significantly increase revenue? You cut costs, and the biggest costs for most tech companies are employees, sadly.

As a result, Spotify could well become profitable, assuming it generates similar revenue in future. And this is exactly the plan; to keep doing the same as before, but with fewer people.

In this way, Spotify’s cuts make business sense in the context of business growth slowing, persistent loss-making, and a hiring spree in 2021-2022 which didn’t boost revenue. These cuts may be surprising for many at Spotify, but probably not for the leadership team. The only question is how many other companies are in the same position as Spotify, but with leaderships yet to draw the same conclusion from the economic conditions.

This is probably a good reminder that the tech jobs market remains volatile. If you have a stable job, it could be a good time to put aside some earnings for a nest egg, stay engaged with your network, and to position yourself to work in areas seen as profit centers, not cost centers."

What are your impressions of the tech market right now?
Any recommendations of how to navigate the market or resources to utilize?
Anything advice years-of-experience specific (Junior engineers vs. senior engineers vs tech leads vs. etc)?

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4 Comments

Should I take a SWE job in government or keep trying to get back into tech after layoff?

Entry-Level Software Engineer [SDE 1] at Amazon profile pic
Entry-Level Software Engineer [SDE 1] at Amazon

Hi Taro. I got laid off in April from AWS. I interned at NASA JPL and I am considering going back fulltime and continuing to apply to tech companies. I don't have an offer but I am hopeful I would be able to connect with a team since I interned there one year and have 1.5 YOE at AWS. I have some concerns about joining JPL, because they are prototype and research focused.

  • They don't have many production systems or serve customer traffic.
  • They also operate mostly in small and independent groups so the engineering standards can differ a lot. The research group I interned at had poor engineering and code quality compared to AWS.
  • The engineering environment is different than corporate. Some technologies and experiences missing at JPL that are common in tech are pipelines (CI/CD), TPS, tickets, oncall, debugging large and distributed systems, customer traffic, metrics, operational reviews.
  • JPL pays poorly and has slow growth. You can be there 10 years and make less than an SDE-1 in FAANG.

I don't have any visa issues. Finances are not a problem. Currently I have very low expenses and good savings because I didn't RTO and I am living with my parents. I have 1.5 YOE at AWS and 3 years of internships before that. I see the market picking up so I am tempted to keep trying for a tech company.

Another thing to consider is that there is a lot of inertia when you join a job. I will have little time to look for other jobs in the first few months because I will be busy onboarding. I will also have less time to look for jobs and study for interviews.

Please give advice :)

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3 Comments

Feel like I lost a lot of my time at my current company

Anonymous User at Taro Community profile pic
Anonymous User at Taro Community

Sorry if this seems like a rant. Trying to collect my own thoughts.
I have been at my current company as a mid level backend engineer (a startup - around 10-12 years old, went public recently) for around 4-5 years and have a total of 6 years of work experience.

I feel like there has not been much career growth. Got my first promotion after an year of joining the company and not much thereafter. Thus, feeling very lost about where to go next from here.

In the current climate, we had our recent round of layoffs in the organisation. Also, I don't feel very good about some of the things in the organisation such as the stuff I am working on. I don't feel I am learning enough. It is just business requirement - one after another, that too often getting cancelled. Last project I worked on for 3 months, got cancelled after that due to changing priorities. Stock price is plummeting as well. I feel like the best way forward is to restart my own learning journey - what are your thoughts? I used to be one of the top performers in my current and past company and even got awards around 3 times in last 6 years. I tried to work hard for promotions as well, but even after multiple rounds of my manager asking me to do things such as leading the team, multiple XFN projects, infra level revamps etc. - I did not get a promotion. I asked my manager if there is a list of things I should do consistently for a good enough time and if then, we'll be able to make a case for me. He said, that I am trying to gamify the system, but I was only trying to set goals for me. Now, I feel somewhere midway, I have lost my motivation. Feeling a little depressed and often evade work, just coasting to get by.

I want to take charge of my life again and be positive. Quite often I think about other career choices, but have always been in love with CS (and math in my childhood, particularly due to them being intellectually challenging). Just want to make up for the time I lost, and want to do some things I am proud of. I often think of my life being pointless in last couple of years. And want to get a renewed sense of motivation and be excited for the things I work on.

I feel like joining a fast paced place or somewhere I can learn a lot (even outside of work) might help. Don't feel very happy about my current situation though.

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240 Views
2 Comments

Learn About Layoffs

Layoffs in the tech industry are a common occurrence and can be a source of anxiety. They are a result of unforeseen adverse macroeconomic conditions or overambitious hiring. Layoffs are distinct from being fired, as they are generally not the employee’s fault and are part of a cost-cutting measure to restore the company’s economics. Layoff packages in the tech industry tend to be extremely generous and competitive, as tech companies are known for offering competitive perks, benefits, and pay.
There are many different reasons why layoffs can happen. Layoffs can be a cost cutting measure to ensure that the organization has enough cash to survive. Companies can undergo restructuring when they shift their strategic focus. This could be caused by mergers and acquisitions or shifts in business priorities. The rapid evolution of technology can render certain skills obsolete. Companies may have to reevaluate their technological needs and realign their workforce based on emerging trends.
It’s important to maintain a positive mindset in the face of layoffs. it’s best not to dwell on self-doubt or feelings of inadequacy. Layoffs are often done with incomplete information and can be random. Remember that being laid off is not a reflecting of one’s abilities or worth. It’s advisable to view the layoff as an opportunity for introspection and finding the next career move. The severance package that comes with layoffs can provide financial freedom and should be treated as a valuable resource.
Taking care of physical, mental, and emotional well-being is crucial after a layoff. It’s normal to feel stressed and anxious, so taking time off to examine your well-being and relationships is recommended.
When reflecting on the next move after being laid off, it’s important to think about career goals and where one sees themselves in the future. This self-introspection can take a few days or even a few weeks. Seeking support and talking to people during this time can be beneficial.
In the current climate, being out of work for more than 6 months after a layoff may or may not hurt chances of getting work. It’s important to emphasize the value one can bring to a company and be transparent about the job search and the time spent focusing on your career during the interview process.
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