“The Work Shift” series is written for Daily Hive by Gerald Narciso, a Vancouver-based freelance journalist, as he speaks with millennial and Gen Z workers who are navigating the post-pandemic job market in real time.
At around 7 am on a Tuesday back in November, a technical recruiter sat on her laptop, her LinkedIn page up on the screen. Tears ran down her face as she typed her raw emotions onto the status update draft.
An hour earlier, Priyam Soni received a devastating email from Meta aka Facebook, where she had been working for the previous six months.
“Never thought I’d post this, but maybe all experiences are needed in life. I was one of those 11,000 unfortunate ones that got laid off today at Meta,” the New Westminster resident wrote on LinkedIn.
“I don’t know what makes me more sad, the fact that I wasn’t given an opportunity to prove myself, or the fact that I left an amazing job for being at Meta, or the fact that I will miss everything about being called ‘employed.’”
Workers from Vancouver’s technology sector are getting let go at an alarming rate. Since early 2022, local companies and startups such as Hootsuite, Article, Thinkific, Unbounce, Appnovation, and Dapper Labs have made significant cuts to their workforce – some as high as 39%.
Beyond the Lower Mainland, tech titans like Google, Amazon, Salesforce, and Meta have experienced similar struggles. Over 100,000 tech workers in the US have been laid off in 2023 alone according to Crunchbase News. Overhiring and soaring interest rates have contributed to the rapid demise in valuation for many of these global companies.
“The entire financial market was taken by surprise by the inflation spike,” Kairong Xiao, an associate professor of finance at Columbia Business School in New York City, told Daily Hive.
Vulnerable and heartbreaking LinkedIn posts from those affected have become a recurring theme. But so has a collective support system online. Priyam’s post prompted both empathetic messages and job leads – gestures that she appreciated considering the holiday season, a typically dead period in hiring, quickly preceded her dismissal.
“I was overwhelmed by the response,” said Priyam, 33. “I got messages from people that I haven’t spoken to since college. They started sending me the jobs that they saw on the market.”
Also helping was that her husband, Vishal Soni, 35, was still earning a good income as a senior technical product manager at Amazon. In 2021, the couple purchased a house in New Westminster and also welcomed their firstborn child, daughter Aarika.
But less than two months after Priyam lost her job, déjà vu struck the family again with an early morning email in late January 2023.
It was Vishal’s turn to be laid off.
Thriving tech scene
In the summer of 2020, the Sonis moved to Vancouver from Singapore, embarking on an exciting new chapter in their lives. They became closer in proximity to extended family in California and were enamoured with Vancouver for its natural beauty, diversity, and thriving tech scene.
“I heard that a lot of the tech companies are hiring in Vancouver because of its proximity to Seattle,” said Vishal. “We thought this was a perfect fit.”
Vishal’s first job in Vancouver was as a product manager in the government sector. He eventually landed his “dream job” at Amazon in August 2022, requiring him to commute regularly to the tech giant’s nearby global headquarters in Seattle.
Priyam, who had been working as an HR business partner at Amazon in Singapore, accepted a new position within the company as a technical recruiter in Vancouver. She decided to accept a much-coveted job at Meta when her mat leave ended in May 2022.
With their dream roles secured, they had two six-figure salaries that would cover the mortgage and provide for their baby daughter.
“We want to ensure that we are able to give her a comfortable future,” Vishal said. “As first-generation immigrants to Canada, we want to save money for a future for ourselves here. I also support my family back in India from a monetary perspective.”
This was when good intentions collided with misfortune. The stress created by Priyam’s unexpected layoff was compounded when Vishal was blindsided by his own dismissal.
“My first feeling was embarrassment,” admits Vishal, who penned his own LinkedIn layoff announcement.
“That’s the market”
The mass layoffs have created an influx of available tech talent – from software developers to marketers to HR professionals. Now, it’s a numbers game. In December 2022, Indeed revealed that tech job postings have decreased by over 32 percent. The rare ones that get posted attract between 500 and 1,000 applicants.
Even with a resume that boasts 10 years of experience with companies like Amazon and Meta, Priyam is struggling to even get responses. And when she did, the roles were often too junior and the salaries were half.
“But yes, that’s the market,” she sighed and said.
Living in one of North America’s most expensive cities and a severance package quickly running out, the Soni family is faced with a dilemma that many of the tech sector’s discarded are currently asking themselves:
Stay or go?
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Vishal’s daily job search lasts just 30 minutes.
New product management openings in Vancouver are few and far between. That applies to both major tech companies and startups. He is open to remote jobs. He refreshes his search hourly.
Priyam has joined professional groups and has also tried to upgrade her HR skill set through online courses. The lack of response from the market has impacted her confidence at times.
“Vishal is always reminding me not to undervalue my talent,” she said. “He’s always encouraging me, saying, ‘Trust me, you’re more than capable!’”
The current priority is to stay in Vancouver. But the Sonis concede that they have expanded their search to Toronto, where there are more opportunities in his field. A return to Singapore has also not been ruled out.
The couple has set a hard deadline.
“Soon, we will need to make a decision and ask, ‘is it Vancouver, or should we go somewhere else?’” Vishal said. “Because, beyond that, we won’t survive.”
BC Jobs Minister Brenda Bailey empathizes with those impacted and hopes to keep top tech talent like Priyam and Vishal in the Lower Mainland. Minister Bailey maintains that despite the mass layoffs, there are more tech jobs available now than there are workers. She points out that the recent $4.2 billion BC housing plan and the $480 million Future Ready skills program will provide long-term incentives for tech workers.
“British Columbia remains a very attractive place for people to come,” Bailey told Daily Hive, adding 100,000 people moved to the province in 2021. “And as it stands, now, we’re still experiencing growth.”
Stimulus plans and surging census data mean very little to the Sonis right now. They need a job.
“It might not happen immediately, it might happen in the next month, but it will happen…it has to happen because we have the right skill set,” said Vishal in a calm but defiant tone.
“It’s just a matter of time.”
Less than three weeks after Daily Hive sat down with the couple, Priyam was back in front of her computer. A smile cracked and a burden lifted as she typed a fresh LinkedIn status update. This time, she had better news.
“I am thrilled to announce that I have started a new position as the Recruiter II at fabric,” she wrote. “I am very grateful for this new opportunity.”
Read part 1 of the series: The Work Shift: How out-of-work millennials are navigating the new normal, and part 2: The Work Shift: The struggle is real. Even with a side hustle