Twitter Layoffs Loom Over Silicon Valley
November 5, 2022 at 2:07 p.m.
Shortly after Elon Musk took command of Twitter, he announced reductions in force over email affecting roughly half of the company. Responding to the billionaire’s private takeover of the popular social media platform, numerous users and advertisers abandoned Twitter altogether.
State filings reveal the extent of Twitter’s layoffs so far. Musk terminated most employees at its San Francisco headquarters, with 784 workers eliminated. Santa Monica and San Jose lost 93 and 106 employees, respectively.
It’s unclear how many contractors were fired from Twitter. Unlike full-time employees, companies need not disclose contractor terminations. Typically, contractors are the first to go in these situations, and Musk has shown his disdain for temporary labor at Tesla. As with most tech companies, contractors make up a significant amount of the workforce, particularly those on H1-B visas.
Layoffs affected a wide swath of skill sets at Twitter. The bulk of dismissals affected professionals such as software engineers, systems administrators, and data scientists. Musk terminated several mid-level managers along with twenty-five administrative assistants.
Despite the layoffs, Twitter is still operating without technical issues. Like many social media companies, Twitter was a case of “money for nothing.” Such companies tend to create sinecures where a few clever words are the employee’s sole deliverables at a meeting. Like many Silicon Valley companies, Twitter hired based on cronyism, handing out easy, high-paying jobs to friends and associates independent of merit. Don’t expect the layoffs to change your Twitter experience radically.
Newly unemployed Twitter workers face a harsh reality. Twitter is the tee-ball of the Silicon Valley, whereas a company like Apple is more akin to the Golden State Warriors. Despite Twitter’s popularity, the actual product is remarkably simplistic. Twitter employees will have to seek employment at similarly superficial technology companies offering comparable low-hanging fruit.
Appledystopia reached out to a former Twitter employee. He told us that his main concern is seeking employment at a time when Silicon Valley companies are enacting hiring freezes and reductions in force.
“…my most obvious prospect is Meta because they’re the other big social media company. But, let’s face it, they’re not in a condition to hire anyone from Twitter.”
So far, Meta has yet to enact layoffs that are big enough to report; however, its employees expect terminations soon. Amazon, Lyft, Microsoft, Alphabet, and others have joined the ranks of companies with hiring freezes and impending layoffs.
This is one of the worst times to be unemployed in the past 20 years. One would have to go far back to the 2000 dot-com bust to find a more difficult job market for techies.
Our source at Twitter also revealed that the product is less advanced than claimed. While Twitter leadership swaggers over artificial intelligence and machine learning, most of their technology needs to be updated.
Many of Twitter’s algorithms are procedural, conditional logic, not artificial intelligence. Like many Silicon Valley companies, AI is more talk than action. This insight fits with Twitter whistleblower Peiter Zatko’s assessment of the company as having poor, obsolete security.
Although Twitter can function, its lack of advanced technology is problematic for former employees. It’s doubtful that cutting-edge Silicon Valley companies will take them on, as they require state-of-the-art skills for today’s software development tasks. Companies with simpler technology have more prospective engineers and won’t offer Twitter’s excessive compensation. For most of Twitter’s newly unemployed, the next job will be a big step down.
Twitter is just a microblogging app that went viral. Twitter’s success doesn’t mean its engineers are remarkably talented. As our Twitter insider commented:
“Look, I know Twitter isn’t the most amazing thing ever invented. The Valley knows this. It’s the average Joes who think Twitter is a miracle. But the average Joe doesn’t have a job for me.”
Our source mentioned that he moved to San Francisco from the East Coast to work at Twitter after a college friend recruited him. Unlike most tech employees who wish there were more hours in the day, he admits that he barely worked 40 hours a week, filling up the workday with non-work activities, like surfing the web, social media, and online shopping.
“Twitter was the best job in the world. I was paid very well, didn’t have to work hard, and I’m treated like royalty in San Francisco. The average Bay Area resident thinks I’m a genius, even though I’m far from that. Being a Twitter employee got me a lot in SF. Now that it’s gone, I may end up moving back.”
As for a severance package, Musk gave his employees the bare minimum. He had to provide his employees with at least 60 days’ notice as part of the WARN act. Many companies will offer an employee one month of salary for every year of service if they sign an agreement that they won’t sue the company. Musk only gave his employees a three-month severance package; however, this is more than legally required.
Former Twitter employees may not obtain a severance package if they pursue legal action against Musk. Given that he asked them to stop reporting to work and revoked access to information systems, they feel he didn’t give them adequate warning, as per the law. Musk claims that they’re getting much more than the law requires.
A pending lawsuit underscores former Twitter employees’ desperation. Unlike many in the Valley, their skills deteriorated over time, working on a simple product with out-of-date technology. Re-entry into the Silicon Valley workforce, where companies leverage AI and machine learning against vast stores of complex data, won’t be easy.
While most of us will enjoy the holidays with friends and family, many former Twitter employees must buckle down and study technology to gain employment. Job interviews in the Silicon Valley are full of stressful technological interrogations. Employers may even ask prospective hires to complete coding assignments before considering an interview.
Given the economic outlook and weak severance package, Twitter employees may finally face a more harsh reality of the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s almost a sort of karmic retribution, given the displacement of long-time San Francisco residents by overpaid and privileged tech workers. The honeymoon is over for Twitter employees.