The DevRel Layoff Survival Guide

Speaker

Shy Ruparel

Job title

Developer Advocate

Company

Superblocks

Event

DevRelCon London 2023

Getting laid off can be traumatic, whatever role you’re in. But it’s top of mind for many of us in DevRel, as our teams are amongst the first to get cut when budgets tighten.

In this talk from DevRelCon London 2023, Shy Ruparel discusses the emotional experience of being laid off and provides tips for surviving layoffs. He emphasizes the importance of having a financial safety net, saving important documents, and maintaining a strong network, as well as taking care of ones mental health during a challenging time.

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Watch Shy’s talk on YouTube >

Key takeaways

  • Layoffs are a common occurrence in DevRel, so it’s important to be prepared.
  • Build an emergency fund of at least three months’ worth of expenses, or even six months in the current job market.
  • Save important documents and performance reviews from your current job.
  • Have alternative ways to contact your network outside of business channels.
  • If a layoff happens, consult with an employment lawyer and know your rights.
  • If you’re laid off, don’t rush into signing any severance agreements. Take time to make decisions.
  • It’s okay to feel bad and to seek support from friends, family, and therapy.
  • Take care of yourself and reclaim your identity after a layoff.
  • Set a timeline for finding your next opportunity and explore resources like job boards and networking channels.
  • Remember that you’re not alone and reach out to others who have experienced layoffs.

Transcript

Thanks everyone. I was debating if I should include a trigger warning in this talk, and I figure it’s probably just safest to do. So I’m going to be talking about the emotional experience of being laid off. If that is a raw experience, you might want to skip the talk, but I leave that to you. So let’s talk about surviving layoffs. I really hope this talk is useless to you. I hope you don’t need it. I hope you watch this and that’s the last you ever think of it, but I’m afraid that it might not be the case right now. I want to pull up some quick numbers via layoffs.fyi, the number of layoffs we saw in the tech industry in 2021 was about 15 k. Last year we had 164,000 This year, two date years isn’t even over yet. We’re at 233. I think Heidi said it best that corporations are not incentivized to care about their parts.

They’re not incentivized to care about us right now. And layoffs can happen to any of us. And I know it because Wednesday was my one year anniversary of getting laid off. It sucks. So we’ve got a couple of things we’re going to rush through in this quick lightning talk. So let’s get going. Let’s talk about the warning signs. So traditionally when you’re thinking about layoffs, we’re usually looking for things like management changes, products getting eliminated, hiring freezes, cost reduction. Let me say that none of those warning signs I think really apply right now. I think the main warning sign is that we’re waiting for investor morale to improve, right? And this is a TechCrunch article that has this headline, and I agree with it pretty much verbatim. And I think the biggest proof of this is just the delta in the stock market immediately announcing a layoff.

I think it is absurd that the Amazon CEO essentially got a 50% pay bump by laying off a bunch of workers. And while that is still the case, I think we are all at risk of this phenomenon. Randall said it best yesterday, the tech economy sucks right now, and this is the universe where we work. So there’s a lot of stuff we can do to start preparing for this to make sure that even while we’re within jobs, that if a layoff does come, and again, I hope it doesn’t, we’re ready for it. So there’s a bunch of vulnerabilities that you probably have on a personal level. We’re talking money, we’re talking documentation, and then we’re talking about your network here. Let’s talk money. And this is where I have to play a couple cards that I’m based in the us. And so my understanding of how money works and the things that are associated with money is very US driven.

And so it might not necessarily apply for you if you’re in an alternative region. The general rule of thumb in the US is that you want about three months of savings in your bank account that are liquid savings. So that means not in the stock market, but in a place where you can access them without really any difficulty. I think we might actually even want to consider bumping this number up just given how long hiring has been taken. Right now, I think having a six month emergency fund, or at least building and establishing that is not the worst thing to do in the current moment, but at least starting to have that three month emergency fund is I think a must. Heidi also says this great, I’m a big fan of Heidi if that’s not obvious, but you should resolve your expenses as soon as you can because the moment you leave a company that HR department has no incentive to pay you back. This is a talk she gave about leaving an organization, but I think it applies to being laid off. I think right now you should be doing your expenses in real time. And I know everyone hates expense reporting, but just upload that photo as soon as you swipe that card so you don’t even have to worry about it. If something happens,

Make sure you download all those documents you need. So as soon as you get let go, you are going to lose access to your HR portal. So that means things like your employee contract, your stock information, your compensation information, you should have that all saved locally on a local machine that is not your work computer. If it’s on your work computer. It’s essentially the same thing as being in the HR portal. Same thing with your public work samples. It might be publicly available on YouTube or GitHub or the company blog right now. There is no guarantee that it’ll be there in three six a year from now. So if it’s public, just go ahead and download a local version, copy, paste it into a personal Google doc, use a YouTube dl, get the copy of the file, make sure you have all of that stuff.

So if you need to show it in the future, you can to any potential employer. All those performance docs, save those performance reviews. Save any peer feedback you’ve got. I have a little folder on my machine of screenshots of things nice people have said to me. And then leave all that proprietary stuff on there. Don’t take it, it’s not yours. Don’t even get close to that being an issue. And then make sure you have ways to contact your network outside of business. So for coworkers, LinkedIn is great for people here. Twitter, deral, slack, make sure it’s not tied to that corporate account and find an employment lawyer. I don’t think it hurts to have one that you can call and already have a relationship with. I send them my employment docs before starting anywhere. So I have a relationship and they’re great. They’re who I sent my severance agreement to as well, and I already had the relationship there.

And make sure you study up on your local rights. So if you’re in a vicinity or an environment that doesn’t allow layoffs, I’m very jealous. But make sure you know what happens because I assume the HR provider that lays you off might not know it and you might need to fight for what you’re duly owed. So let’s talk about the moment. It is going to suck. You’re going to get summoned. The event is going to happen, and then you’re going to have a lot of feelings. You’ll have essentially no warning, right? You’ll get a one-on-one, which is either going to be, Hey, Shy, do you want to have a quick one-on-one in 15 minutes or an email or you’re going to get invited into a group meeting. That’s very last minute. HR is not your friend in this moment. HR is generally not your friend, but they are, especially not your friend in this moment. My HR rep was someone I was building coursework and training material for before she told me I was being let go.

Do not sign anything. They will ask you to sign severance agree and documentation, and they might threaten to withdraw severance. If you don’t sign it, do not sign that document if it’s legal. So I’m in New York, I am in a state where I am allowed to record a call with one person’s consent record that call. If that’s legal, you don’t work for them anymore, you’re not going to get fired for recording that call. It’s already too late. Record the damn call. Make sure you get information about when your last paycheck is coming and what’s the status of your healthcare. So short-term, aftermath, you’re going to have feelings. I want to validate that it is okay to feel bad in this moment. Wesley said this great. You don’t need the validation from the people that hired you, but you’re still going to feel bad regardless. You don’t have to take the severance.

Most severance agreements come with non-disparagement clauses. I didn’t want to sign the non-disparagement clause. I’m not going to get up on stage in disparage my previous employer, but I didn’t want to sign it, so I turned it down. It also wasn’t very good, so I turned it down. I forwarded it all to my employment lawyer who helped me come to that decision. MERCIN said this yesterday, avoid those rush decisions. Do not make your decision in that same day. Turn your damn computer off. Your IT department is going to lock you out of it anyway. So why even wait for that? You don’t have to read the layoff announcement. You don’t have to read the condescending blog posts where they lie about treating you humanely and then block your ex, block them on Twitter, block them on socials.

Go outside and find your family, friends, pets, and just have a day where you take care of yourself. The T-L-D-R-I guess is delete Facebook, hit the gym and lawyer up and even afterwards, it’s okay to keep having feelings. It’s okay to continue feeling bad. I still get feelings when I see my previous employer doing things. I got rid of all the swag because it triggered me. Layoffs are a traumatic event. They suck. They are going to stick with you for a long time, but you’re not alone. Reach out to all your coworkers that got laid off with you. Double check who owns your alumni channels. The alumni Slack from my previous organization is owned by that organization, so I’m never talking in that. And then let us know when you’re ready. I tweeted about it and I got so many nice comments back from people.

I’ve printed every single one of those out. And I would look at them when I felt bad about myself and reclaim your identity. Get rid of that swag. Get rid of those stickers. They’re not your problem anymore. Therapy is fantastic. If you need it, highly recommend it. And then you’ve got to figure out your next thing. Set a timeline for yourself and that’s going to be dependent on healthcare and budget. For me, I had a couple medical things I was dealing with, so I had a month to get it sorted before I had a big medical expense and apply for unemployment if it’s something you can take advantage of. There’s a bunch of great places to look. Tessa has an article that I used last year to get started. The DevRel Slack is my favorite place to go. The recruiting channel, which I blurred out so I’m not breaking the friend, NDA is a great place for it. And then again, talk to us when you’re ready. And it’s okay if you need to leave DevRel for a little bit. We’ll be here whenever you come back. Like I said, I hope you never need this talk. And that’s it for me. Thank you every much.

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