On layoffs

In June of 2023, I was laid off by Spotify. I had been spared in the initial wave of layoffs back in February, but now the product I had worked on (Soundtrap) was being spun off into its own company. If you didn’t want to join what would essentially be a less financially secure company, you would be laid off. I made the difficult decision to seek stability elsewhere.

In October, I joined Storytel, a leading audiobook platform in the Nordics. Storytel is a great company that has been around for a long time, and I personally looked up to them due to their simple and stable offering.

Not even five months later, Storytel announced a wave of layoffs. With 13% of the workforce was being let go, and with me still being in my probation period (6 months is standard in Sweden), I was lucky not to be let go.

It seems layoff waves are part of regular life in tech as it stands today. In publicly traded companies, it seems it’s common for layoffs to be motivated as shareholder appeasement. As an example, when Zoom cut 1300 jobs back in February 2023, their shares jumped 10% that same day. At the time of writing, Storytel AB has gone up 15%.

So what is the reality going forward? Do we as employees just accept being laid off every now and then, or can we do something to change this?

I personally think there’s quite a lot that needs to change in engineering. We need to push back on “forever growth”. We need to stop glorifying big tech. We should instead idealize the concept of Mittelstand companies. There’s beauty in favoring resiliency and the ability to withstand turbulent times rather than the tech hustle and early exits.

Additionally, increased unionization could provide a sense of security for engineers. While it may not prevent layoffs, a more robust collective bargaining agreement, including principles like “Last in, first out,” could establish clearer rules and foster trust among employees. This would enable engineers to anticipate the potential impact of a layoff wave on their lives.

Joakim Wimmerstedt