Job-hopping was once considered a viable means of gaining higher salaries, but that is no longer the case as Internet companies worldwide suffer mass layoffs. In the face of uncertainty, many programmers have reduced their expectations to seek stability.
Job-hopping is changing: Tech giants are no longer the best choices
As one of the most forward-looking areas of the Internet industry, software development naturally suffers from "youth-only" pressure. A survey of programmers found that 26.1% were willing to do technical work until retirement. In this context, the much-criticized involution appears insignificant compared to being laid off directly.
The cost of time and the relationship between supply and demand are critical factors. Programmers do not have a choice but to continue their education in a technology development industry that is constantly growing and iterative. For novices, learning new languages and structures is not a problem. However, for intermediate and experienced programmers, it is a different story. Taking care of a family, working, and learning all take time. When time is limited, learning will be abandoned.
In the supply-demand equation, job tiers and salaries are strongly correlated, but in tech giants, there are many competent individuals, and not everyone has the chance to ascend to the highest levels. Further, poor-profit businesses have been abandoned in large batches in recent years, reducing the need for technical personnel.
The wave of layoffs has not subsided, effectively breaking the "closed loop" of talent switching between the major technology companies. As indicated by Maimai's talent report for the first quarter of 2022: 35-year-old or older programmers do not prefer working for tech giants, and 40.4% choose small and medium-sized enterprises.
Many high-level employees leave and join small organizations because they hope to transition into management. After all, most of them possess excellent abilities but have been limited by a lack of managerial positions. In addition, small companies may also have the chance to grow into the next giant, at which point you may still have the opportunity to join the C-suite.
Downgrading expectations may not be the best solution
Although lowering expectations for joining small companies might be a good idea, it is not an effective method to maintain stability, especially for veterans of large corporations. The offer of a low salary with a high equity stake may be a trap, and it may be difficult to recruit suitable candidates; non-tech CEOs may make unreasonable demands, and many other challenges may arise.
Internet insiders might be familiar with the following story:
An A-round company is led by a traditional industry leader who spent $3 million to recruit a team from a technology giant. However, that team is backend-oriented and uses PHP for nearly everything, from the management platform, RPC, to the front-end and applications. Even after almost half a year, they still discussed the backend architecture and how to ensure accurate big data with user numbers reaching hundreds of millions. In the end, the front-end application and H5 page were of inferior quality, and the development speed of the business management platform was plodding. Eight months later, the entire team left because of business failure.
Statistically, Chinese private businesses have experienced rapid development in recent years, but the retention rate of recruits has not been high, especially for external executives who do not survive their probationary periods.
There is a risk that individuals from tech giants may not be suitable for small businesses due to the wave of layoffs. A technical person should carefully consider this issue.
A nobody at a tech giant or a leader at a small firm?
A technology engineer in a large organization may be promoted to a senior position in a small business. Technical individuals should be concerned with managing a quick and smooth transition.
The first step is to recognize the changes in the environment and tasks. Architecture is not as complex as it used to be, nor is performance as challenging to tune. A faster time-to-market product is essential. The use of open-source code, CMS, SaaS, or any other software available on the market, should be encouraged. (Generally, small companies, such as DBAs and DevOps specialists, lack the necessary infrastructure.)
While tech giants' operating models and development environments are well established, they are not common in smaller companies. Trivial tasks characterize startups. Optimizing the product cannot come first; delivering the product as soon as possible is of utmost importance.
The second step is to clarify your objectives.
It is common for some technical professionals to focus on increasing the speed and quality of R&D rather than thinking about the organization's survival. However, one should not ignore these issues and may conduct an evaluation based on factors such as sales channels, market demand, operations, and financing.
Essentially, starting a business is about setting your own goals or at least ensuring you have some gain, even if the venture fails.
The following are some questions you may want to consider:
- How forward-looking is the technical vision?
- What is the best strategy for leading the company's technical team?
- Is technological advancement capable of reducing costs and increasing efficiency?
- How would you describe your role in the organization?
- Are you interested in being a "technical manager + project manager", or would you prefer a more direct influence on the company's direction?
- Would it be possible to expand your social network by making good use of your specialized experience?
Aside from this, when you move into a management position in a small or medium-sized organization, you may have to discard some existing habits. Vadim Kravchenko, a startup CTO who succeeded in growing the company's digital agent business to millions of dollars in revenue, gave some advice on how to achieve personal improvement. As he mentioned on his personal website, programmers should focus on communication, stress management, and decision-making; keep learning and adapting to new things; and have the courage to admit mistakes.
An entrepreneur starting a business will need to hire assistants to be more efficient because communication volume will increase tenfold. As a manager, you should talk to many subordinates about their progress, problems, etc. In any management position, the ability to communicate effectively is essential.
In the event that tasks are expected to not be completed within the "sprint" of development, managers may become the scapegoat for developers, facing all the lousy news: stakeholders always place the most importance on their development requirements. Managing this pressure is a very challenging task.
Prioritizing tasks is essential, but you should also develop strategies for dealing with stress—doing exercises or meditating on weekends are good choices.
Making a decision is an art; every small decision can significantly impact the entire team and organization. Trade-offs are often involved in decision-making. For example, refactoring some parts of the code can adversely affect the maintainability of the code in the future. In most cases, rewriting a monolithic architecture into a series of micro-services balances scalability, development cost, complexity, performance, and maintainability. Often, managers are responsible for making difficult decisions, including whether or not to rewrite the service from scratch, retain or dismiss the staff.
The market is constantly changing, as are the programming styles. Staying open to new information and absorbing as much information as possible is essential for staying on top of trends. Managers may still have to attend courses on architectural design, emerging technologies, and other related topics from time to time. In your capacity as a decision-maker, you must have a comprehensive understanding of many new issues. Therefore, the only solution is never stop learning.
Mistakes are frustrating but inevitable. At work, incorrect decisions are always validated, which could benefit you and the company. Be mindful not to hold a grudge against the person you are arguing with, as this will diminish their desire to discuss issues with you in the future. An optimal solution can be found from uncertain chaos, and this is a valuable characteristic.
Tech giants remain a good choice for veterans but are not as good as they once were. During this period, small companies with promising prospects will become more attractive to investors. Despite what may appear to be an easy and perfect story, the situation is not as straightforward as it seems. Following the change of role, several issues need to be addressed.
Although behemoths may have excellent working conditions and perks, their work can be tedious; small businesses have more straightforward but more monotonous tasks, so there are no absolute positives or negatives. Nevertheless, small and medium-sized businesses require a greater variety of talents, not simply one type of talent.
In today's labor market, smaller and medium-sized firms are increasingly becoming the next stop for older technologists. Against the backdrop of massive layoffs, IT professionals may need to think more creatively to adapt to the new environment and strive to maintain a passion for technology in the long run.