On layoffs and career resiliency

This week, my employer laid off nearly 700 workers across multiple business areas, including engineering in particular. While I have not been directly impacted, I had to say goodbye to a teammate I’ve enjoyed working with.

So, overall, it’s been a sad and uncomfortable time for us all.

That being said, I’m making a point to cultivate gratitude for being in this privileged position. Layoffs tend to keep us worker bees in a negative headspace (especially if you’re a connoisseur of the toxic cesspool otherwise known as Blind). But it’s important to take stock of your blessings and keep a healthy perspective. No matter what happens, I’m blessed to have had great career experiences, and all the financial rewards that have come with joining this industry.

But, in addition to gratitude, these layoffs have reminded me about my precarious position in this industry. Because, at the end of the day, jobs come and go - but only careers can last a lifetime. So while it’s important to do a great job at this company, I can’t forget to focus on my career as a software engineer.

Speaking honestly, I’ve been somewhat complacent. Since starting my position, I haven’t touched Leetcode or joined any networking events, and I’ve been slow to read engineering books and write blog posts. Part of this was earned - as a college student, I’ve had my foot on the gas for the past four years, so I deserve a break. But, outside of job-specific tasks and skills, I haven’t developed my engineering arsenal.

But, moving forward, I plan to resolve the issue with the following actions:

Read engineering books.

Education never stops, and this is especially true of the tech industry. As my colleague advised, “Never trade dollars for hours [i.e. trade dollars for expertise instead]. Because software engineering is a PvP industry, if you spend a little bit of time honing your craft, you can be in the top 10% of the industry (and be compensated accordingly).” With that in mind, I plan to devote a bit of time each day to read books about the craft of software engineering, starting with Designing Data-Intensive Applications.

If life is a classroom - my software engineering books will be my lectures, and my full-time job will be my lab.

Keep a log of career accomplishments.

Logging accomplishments is great for a few reasons:

  1. You can prove your value to your manager during performance reviews
  2. You can prove your value to yourself as a competent engineer
  3. If you make your career log public, it’s a great way to demonstrate your skills and build your brand

I know the idea of building one’s brand can feel icky for many engineers (soft skills, oh no!), but - speaking from experience - it’s the quickest way to stay employed. When I got laid off from a marketing position in 2018, my network and local brand as a skilled writer allowed me to accept a new role within days of getting terminated.

So, with that in mind, my plan is to use this blog as a way to document my learnings from my experience in software engineering.

Network in the local tech industry.

As Gergely Orosz mentioned in his blog post, Advice for Less Experienced Software Engineers in the Current Tech Market, local positions are less competitive than remote positions. Instead of competing against engineers across the nation (or even the entire globe!) you’re only competing against the engineers in your local area. And the best way to get leads on the local job market is to make friends in the local industry.

So, in sum...

While I’m grateful for my privileged position, it’s important to stay focused on my career so I can thrive in spite of the labor market. By developing my skills, building my brand, and maintaining connections in the industry, I hope to inject resiliency into my career.