Greedy execs exploit powerless software engineers again!


It's unfortunately layoff season in tech, and the usual suspects are out in full force to blame the greedy execs for their short-sightedness. But the truth is, greedy execs are just doing what they do best: exploiting the underclass of powerless software engineers. I'm kidding, of course: Every single employee voted for the status quo by joining or staying at tech companies where execs needed to answer hard questions about strategy, but nobody asked them. Tech employees at all levels bear collective responsibility for the "we overhired" mass mania that is now fading, where "we overhired" actually means:

Don't get me wrong. Executives bear ultimate responsibility for these missteps. And lots of people have recently lost jobs through no fault of their own. But missteps of this type and magnitude require a lot of the rank and file to be complicit. Instead the narrative that predictably gets all the amplification and engagement is: "This is all the fault of execs, and its the blameless folks at the bottom who are bearing the consequences, isn't that shameful!" Excuse me while I go find my tiniest violin for the most privileged workforce in the history of human development.

What could've happened instead

Talent could've chosen to go where real value was created in exchange for honest pay, and company strategies made sense. Due to an industrywide shortage, software engineers in particular had enormous leverage in the past few years to ask tough questions of their leaders:

Almost no one questioned the questionable while the good times were rolling. Many mid/senior level individuals + line managers who benefited from this free-spending attitude with no regard for whether the money was well spent...were happy to quietly feed at the trough until their number came up. And now there's a collective victimhood narrative that shitty execs alone are to blame for the layoffs. If its so obvious then maybe don't work for shitty execs? When the market is literally at an all time high?

It doesn't take much behavior change at the margin to make a difference. If only a few more people had turned down offers from fake 500-employee startups with no revenue, they would've gotten a little less fake work done, and that class of startup would've made a little less fake progress (where "progress" is often just hiring goals!), collectively raised a little less money in the next round, resulting in fewer job offers and fewer fake copycat founders...which would've pushed the market slightly less out of whack...the fundraising/hiring arms race would've overheated less...and maybe this cycle would've peaked a little lower.

These little feedback loop traps were EVERYWHERE and tech employees fell into them like lemmings, repeatedly: a huge, embarassing, shared fail.

But sure, Sundar's an idiot.

Straightforward and comforting.