Layoff to Liftoff: Surviving Downsizing in the Tech Industry

Kodeco’s guide to surviving tech layoffs offers actionable tips on stress management, job search strategies, and staying productive post-layoff to prepare for your comeback. By Joey deVilla.

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Do Things; Tell People

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I saved the most powerful advice for last: Do things; tell people. Back in 2011, Carl Lange, then an aspiring game developer, wrote a blog post with this saying, which he describes as “the only things you need to do to be successful.”

Lange summarized his maxim in a single, pithy paragraph:

You would not believe how much opportunity is out there for those who do things and tell people. It’s how you travel the entrepreneurial landscape. You do something interesting and you tell everyone about it. Then you get contacts, business cards, and email addresses. Then you get contracts, job offers, investors… whatever. You make friends who think what you do is cool. You make a name for yourself as “the person who did that cool thing.” Then, the next time someone wants to do something in any way related to that cool thing, they come to you first.

You’re reading this article because I did a thing and told people seven years ago.

While teaching myself Android programming, I wrote an app that used Google’s face detection API to draw “googly eyes” over faces in the phone’s camera view. I told the people at (Kodeco’s name at the time) about it, and they invited me to write an article to audition for their then-new Android team. Here’s the resulting article, which led to more articles, a video course, two sessions at a conference, and even a book.

Seven years later, that one thing I did and told people about is still paying off. When I got laid off earlier this year, I wrote about the experience in a series of articles on my blog. I told people about them on LinkedIn. Since people at Kodeco already knew me from my earlier “do things; tell people” exercise, they saw my articles and invited me to write one on this site, which will reach far more readers than my blog could.

Here are more times when I did things and told people:

  • Create Google results: We love to joke that one of the most important skills you can learn is Googling for the answer. But an even cooler skill is writing the answers that people end up Googling. You can do this by writing the result you wish Google would return and then telling people about it. I did, and as a result, a couple of my articles ended in the top results for the search term Swift dates times. I “told people” by asking my social media contacts to Google the same term and see if my articles were in their top results (remember, everyone’s Google results are at least a little different). It’s led to some interesting prospects.
  • Provide a service that you wish existed: A few years ago, I started posting a weekly list of tech events within a 100-mile radius of my city to demonstrate my abilities as a developer advocate. Our tech scene was smaller back then, and it was hard to find other like-minded techies. It turned out to be a job search tactic that impressed the people I interviewed with, and I thought I could easily stop publishing the list once I got a job. However, when the list stopped, I got a lot of email asking where it went. So I wrote some Python scripts in Jupyter Notebook to automate the more tedious parts of assembling the list and have been publishing it since 2017. It’s proven to be so useful that I no longer have to tell people about it — the local techies do it for me. It’s also cemented my reputation as the local Python expert.
  • Start a meetup: This is particularly effective, since organizing a meetup is both doing a thing and telling people at the same time! If there’s a topic or technology that you’re interested in, you can turn it into a meetup. You don’t even have to be an expert on your meetup’s subject matter — you just have to care enough about the topic to put in the time necessary to consistently hold meetups (ideally, you should hold them once every one or two months). A little while back, I became my metro area’s go-to person for iOS development after starting an iOS meetup. I’m now the local AI guru because I run the AI meetup, which has led to a couple of interesting opportunities. You may find that a lot of older meetups in your area are inactive; these are ones that went dormant during the pandemic shutdown and whose organizers stopped scheduling new events. This is an opportunity for you to breathe fresh life into the topic.
  • Build a project and present it: A couple of months after ChatGPT was released and the generative AI craze was gathering steam, I translated a 1970s BASIC version of ELIZA/DOCTOR, the original chatbot from 1964 that simulated a conversation with a psychotherapist, into Python. I presented it at a local meetup, complete with historical background and code walkthrough. A conference organizer caught wind of the presentation, which led to my being invited to speak at their event, in the coveted time slot immediately after the opening keynote.
  • Even if a thing you did went nowhere, tell people about it: As part of their interview process, a prospective employer gave me a coding assignment: Write an iOS app that used their API of trucker information to display a map of truck stops across North America — and not in Swift, but Objective-C, which I hadn’t used in a couple of years. I spent a couple of late nights writing the app, submitted it… and never heard from them again. But I recorded a video of the app in action, posted it online, told people about it, and landed a job a month later.

Final Words

  • Your new job is to find your new job. After you’ve taken some personal time to process your layoff, you are no longer on vacation. You are at work, and that work is landing your next job.
  • The story you tell yourself, your circle, and prospective employers is important. One of the first things you’ll need to do before you begin your job search in earnest is define your story. Knowing who you are, what you can do, and what you want to do and expressing this knowledge as a coherent story is both a useful guide for your job search and a way to advertise yourself to people who will pay you for your work.
  • Finding a new job is all about management — of your time, energy, health, money, network, and effort. Don’t let your lack of a job lead to a lack of structure in your life. Set yourself up to succeed by making sure you keep putting in the effort to search for open jobs, apply for them, network, upskill, and all the other things listed above.
  • Prospective employers prefer candidates who used their time off productively. Even with the work of job-seeking, you’ll still have a lot of free time. Use it well — sharpen your existing skills or learn new ones, and do things and then tell people about them!
  • Don’t go it alone. Being laid off triggers the ancient part of our brains that reacts to being kicked out of the tribe. Don’t hide in your shell — reach out to friends and family, connect with your community, and if you need counseling or therapy, seek it out.
  • It’s a tough job market right now. With over 300,000 people in the U.S. tech industry laid off (that’s as many people as there are in Pittsburgh), the current market for technology jobs is extremely competitive. Complicating matters is that there are fewer people to screen and interview job candidates because many IT recruiters and HR people were laid off in the first “reductions in force” in 2023. To land a job, you’ll need to be consistent and creative.