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Engineering / layoffs / Philly Tech Week / Tech jobs / Technical.ly Developers Conference

Yes, it’s possible to have a ‘good layoff.’ This engineering manager shares how

Six weeks after Nick McAvoy was laid off with more than a dozen other Crossbeam employees, here's what he's learned about navigating an uncertain tech landscape.

Nick McAvoy presents at the 2023 Technical.ly Developers Conference. (Photo by Paige Gross)

This editorial article is a part of State of Local Tech Month of Technical.ly’s editorial calendar.

In the past few months of American economic uncertainty, it’s become more and more common for technologists to go through the unfortunate experience of getting laid off.

A less stable industry climate has led to tens of thousands of tech pros losing their jobs just this year alone. Whether you’re one small fish at a huge company like Meta or Twitter, or on a smaller local team like Gopuff or The Meet Group, layoffs are happening.

But it doesn’t have to be a wholly terrible experience, Nick McAvoy, a former early employee at Crossbeam, said during the Technical.ly Developers Conference at Philly Tech Week 2023 presented by Comcast. You may have heard his talks during past Philly Tech Week events, like about Crossbeam’s “bet on functional programing language Clojure.”

McAvoy joined the partner ecosystem platform company in 2018 and worked his way up to engineering manager until he was a part of the layoffs that affected about 15% of the company in March. CEO Bob Moore told Technical.ly at the time that the change in market was a driver of the layoffs.

“As we’ve seen across the tech sector, the kind of investments that made sense in 2021 don’t all map perfectly to 2023’s market,” Moore said then.

McAvoy said those he was laid off with have since formed a “cohort” of folks who stay in touch, keep each other updated about new job progress, and cheer each other on. While no one wants to go through the experience of being laid off, he said it wasn’t “the end of the world.” Here’s why, and his advice for surviving such an event.

1. Work for a good company.

Easier said than done, perhaps, but it’s an ideal starting place to work for a company that treats its employees well. Crossbeam was healthy overall, there was mutual respect between coworkers of different departments, and the people really understood what they were there to build, McAvoy said.

He also took the company’s use of Clojure as a signal of good ethos. Because it’s a less commonly used language, those who do know it are especially valuable in the tech world.

“Part of the story I tell is, Clojure is a technology that reflects that you’re really investing in your people,” he said. “So a place that’s already taken the point the strategy of, well, we might not have [a large] headcount, but the people that we have, we really want to do right by those folks.”

2. Get connected to your coworkers outside of Slack.

When the layoff meetings started, those affected lost access to email and Slack pretty quickly, he said. McAvoy was thankful that he’d grabbed coworkers’ phone numbers over the years, which allowed them to self-organize into a new Slack created for alumni.

The “cohort” has spent time on Zoom calls processing and connecting each other with people who may be helpful in a job hunt. McAvoy took this piece of advice from a Crossbeam-provided management coach who met with some who had been managers: Don’t rush to figure out your next move. His severance package included a few months of pay because of his long tenure with the company, which he acknowledged gives him time and space to figure out next steps.

The time has allowed him to take a chance on networking and conferences — like the Clojure Conference last month. It’s not the easiest time to get a job right now, he said, so staying close with former colleagues and connecting with new people in the field can help when opportunities arise.

“I think it’s a truism that networking is a more efficient way to find a good job,” McAvoy said. “I just think it’s even more true now than it has been before.”

3. Remember the human side of layoffs.

Even though lots of people are going through the experience right now, doesn’t mean it’s not emotionally difficult or potentially isolating. McAvoy said he took a few weeks to sign his severance paperwork so he could look over it with a lawyer. When he did, he allowed himself to really feel the closing of a professional chapter.

It’s been about a month and a half since the Crossbeam layoffs, and McAvoy said he’s staying connected to current and former employees socially and professionally while he makes his next move. He’s attended a barbecue at a former coworker’s house and even grabbed breakfast with Moore at IHOP, thanks to an inside joke.

To those who haven’t yet experienced a layoff, he warned to stay prepared, but not ruminate:

“The feeling overall is that, you know, things are gonna be fine,” he said. “[I] wanted to share the story as an encouragement, because we never know when that might happen.”

Companies: Crossbeam
Series: State of Local Tech Month 2023

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