The cushy Big Tech job is dead

 The tech industry is currently experiencing a significant shift marked by the end of the zero interest rate phenomenon (ZIRP), leading to changes in company spending habits and an emphasis on efficiency over lavish perks. This departure from the ZIRP era has resulted in mass layoffs at major companies like Meta, Amazon, and Google, creating unexpected job insecurity for highly paid and educated tech professionals.

As a result, there is a widespread sense of unease and concern about job security among tech workers, with many feeling that layoffs could be imminent at any point. This change in the industry has also seen the disappearance of once-revered benefits such as free catered food, daycare, and laundry services, along with a quick reversal of the initial widespread acceptance of remote work.

The industry's focus on long-term or "moonshot" projects has dwindled, and companies have shifted towards a more austere approach, leading to a decline in the special treatment previously afforded to tech workers. This shift has left many industry professionals feeling uncertain about their futures in an industry that was once characterized by stability and abundance.  

The deserted cafeteria of the Twitter building in San Francisco in May 2020.
Twitter scaled back on its cafeteria services after Elon Musk's takeover of the company. 
Winni Wintermeyer for The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tech workers don’t feel very special anymore.

“Now, you can come to work one day, and your badge to the office doesn’t work, you’re done,” the senior tech worker said. “Across the board, even people working in AI, they're worried about waking up without a job. Even if you’re the new hotness, you're not safe.”

To be sure, many employees working in big or well-funded tech operations are still treated well, even by the standards of other white-collar and well-paying industries. 

The senior tech worker said a family member working in finance was awed by the various benefits Big Tech handed workers, in addition to high salaries and bonuses. For years, tech companies used these benefits to keep employees from going to work in industries like finance. The senior tech worker said he consistently rejected recruiter overtures and was fine being paid at least 25% less than the market rate for a time because of the various perks and benefits he received at his Big Tech job.

The tech job market got tougher

To add insult to injury, keeping a job in tech isn’t the only thing that’s more difficult. Getting one at all is harder than ever.

Aline Lerner, a former tech engineer and founder of, a site for tech recruiting and mock interviewing for tech job seekers, said it's now much more difficult to land a tech job, particularly at a high-profile or Big Tech company.

“At the start of 2022, you had to be in the 65th percentile of engineers to pass interviews of top tech companies, and now you actually have to be in the 83rd percentile,” Lerner said, citing internal data and research.

A typical engineer now needs to be much better at their job than they had to be two years ago to find a new role, regardless of how much experience they have.

Also, the tech job market is now effectively flooded with qualified workers after a decade-plus of people flocking to an industry that went from nerd-haven to mainstream. Graduates with computer and information science degrees, not including other STEM fields, grew rapidly in the last 10 years, going from about 39,000 graduates in 2010 to about 97,000 graduates in 2020. Including all STEM fields, graduates have grown from about 487,000 to just under 800,000 in the same decade, according to data from the Department of Education.

“Anecdotally, I’d say it’s the hardest it’s been to get a tech job since probably the dot-com bust," Lerner said.

The process of interviewing for a new job in tech has changed since the 2000s. Then, interviews at the initial stages typically had candidates reason through unique proposed problems in real-time to see how they think and solve problems. Now, interviews have become routines of often common problems from LeetCode, a popular site for tech coding interview problems.

This “dehumanizing” recruiting and interviewing process has led to a wave of tech workers cheating in interviews through the use of OpenAI's generative AI tool ChatGPT, Lerner said. Most interviewers had no idea when a tech worker used ChatGPT to succeed in LeetCode interview rounds, according to a recent study conducted.

Broken promises

Between layoffs becoming the new norm, more people fighting for fewer jobs and hiring processes designed to eliminate as many candidates as quickly as possible instead of finding the best person for the job, it’s little surprise that a sense of ennui has come over tech’s working class. Hundreds of thousands of workers have lost their jobs in less than two years in an industry that they were promised was stable and could even make them rich, or at the very least, comfortably upper class. That may be also part of the problem. 

“It used to be doctor or lawyer, that’s what parents wanted their kids to do,” Lerner said. “Then, becoming a software engineer became absolutely one of the safe things to do, and it doesn’t take as much schooling as a doctor or lawyer.”

Another senior Big Tech employee who started working with computers in the 1980s lamented newer generations of tech workers who “basically came for the money, to be a billionaire” and not for the love of, or even genuine interest in, tech.

Lerner and the senior tech worker agreed that as Big Tech became a cooler, more mainstream industry for work, it inevitably led to people working at such companies for reasons that now, as work has become more difficult to come by, may have them wondering why they do it at all.

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