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The Tech Layoff Winter: To Reset Mindsets

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A self-reminder on what to do and focus on amidst the chaotic socio-economic and political upheavals resulting in massive global layoffs in the tech industry.

As a writer and a fellow worker, I can emphatize with many tech industry employees’ ambivalent feelings lately. The global mass layoffs news has been a daily psychological shadow for many of us. Some people have clouds in their heads every day pondering on the uncertainty. I’ve met some friends, and young families, who shared their concerns about the worrying discourse on how he might support his wife and kids if the worst thing happened.

Indeed, it’s a real scary issue for many people. They have newborn babies, excited children with their first schools, sick parents who need regular medications, and even inherited family debts from the family’s past stroke of bad luck to pay. For employers fighting a good fight, mass layoffs can’t be their favorite option. But, seeing a combination of damages resulting from the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the Fed’s interest rate rise, it’s inevitable, especially for tech companies whose products and services are mostly tertiary, to make difficult decisions in the name of the business continuity.

The winter is coming. The Russian Roullete is beginning. Collateral damages are falling. Tough decisions are looming. It’s the reality we’re living in.

The certain uncertainty

A recession isn’t a new thing. The world has experienced recessions in 1975, 1982, 1991, and 2009 over the past seven decades. But, most emerging markets impacted by the worst global recession in 2009 delivered a stronger recovery than after previous global recessions. Nothing’s new under the sun and we’re not as unique as we think we are. Today’s global crisis also shouldn’t be special. It happened before and it may happen again in the future. It’s business as usual. 

“Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.” —John Allen Paulos, Mathematician professor at Temple University, 1945.

As an Indonesian, I see stability, security, and certainty as myths, especially if you’re not the inherently well-connected descendants of some army or police generals, business tycoons, corruptors, executive thugs, and the list goes on. We may have been living in the illusion of easily purchasing stuff we want without realizing money, comfort, and safety can suddenly be taken away from us by internal or external factors.

Be a little more frugal. Consult a reasonable financial planner or use helpful apps to better manage your cash flow. Do whatever works for you to have sufficient cash all the time. Unless you’re a child of a five-star army general, don’t bother to read on.

The Right Mindset

Let’s talk about what can we do about it and how we can thrive, not just survive. In 2019, I’d been unemployed for three months. There’s only US$10 left in my bank account, and I still have retired parents and a cat to support. For most of us, a recession is just as close as our wallet, not stock or crypto prices, not GMV, not revenue, or whatever metrics matter to C-Suites. During the downs of my unemployment period, I learned the most important values to win the fight with my personal crisis are: have the right mindset, be consistent in showing expertise, and be clear (plan, execute, and distribute) on how I want to achieve my life goals. The most fundamental element stitching all those above values is to have faith. 

Don’t let layoffs news from pseudonyms or mainstream media on the internet wash away the flames inside your heart. Remember: bad news sells papers, or engagements if you will. Go for empowerment. Stay away from self-sabotage. Get your shit together. Be fearless. Today, I still find those values relevant; to clarify my visions and better prepare for any potential (mental) damages when shit happens. Prevent yourself from constantly grieving about the present, focus on being productive, and be excited to open your doors of opportunities each day instead.

To survive is to self-upgrade

From a writer’s perspective, to survive is to never stop self-upgrading. Quality writers have the advantage of communicating messages in a clear and compelling manner. This way, you can always showcase your expertise in communication even when the worst thing happens (God forbid) to better attract recruiters, potential employers, or prospective clients. Not everyone in the business can write well. As not everyone can do research strategically, simplify complex things, structure their thoughts, materialize meta concepts, and make it easy to read and interesting at the same time for average people. 

Great leaders know how pivotal writing is for business. In 2019, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) characterized writing as a foundational skill required for communication, future learning, and full participation in economic, political, and social life as well as in many aspects of daily life. Self-upgrading should be something a writer always does regardless of the world’s socio-economic and political upheavals. To upgrade also means challenging yourself to do things you haven’t done before in your line of expertise. And being consistent in self-upgrading is the key.

In 2022, I started my first monthly newsletter called Meizarology. Readers will get some of my candid thoughts exclusively. It challenges me to be insightful and entertaining at the same time every day. Also, I write for my Marketing in Asia column every month, demanding ideas to develop, research to digest, and time to invest to create a quality piece. By the day, I help consumers, driver-partners, and merchant-partners get the most helpful assistance from Help Center articles through content and process solutions at Grab. By the night, I help companies better communicate to their stakeholders at ANOA, working with clients like Bank Central Indonesia (BCA), Shell Indonesia, and Pertamina. 

And, I thought, “What am I getting myself into?” 

When you feel 24 hours are not enough, sleep is lacking but with the spirits illuminating and being excited about what you do every day and night, nothing can beat you. Not even a recession.

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