Like many tech workers past and present, Ashutosh Ukey, a recent University of Illinois graduate, was deeply disappointed when his job was cut earlier this month. Unlike technicians of the past, Ukey has seen thousands of people assess how his job loss was handled.
Ukey lost his job before it even started when Coinbase, a cryptocurrency company with executive offices in San Francisco, canceled job offers earlier this month. The company won’t say how many jobs it has cut, but 319 have signed up to a website set up by the company to help them find new jobs.. Ukey and many others have posted about their plight on social media and opened up a wide industry-wide discussion about how the technology handles the cuts.
“I’m only entitled to a limited number of days of unemployment on this visa,” says Ukey, who is from India. “I worry about whether or not I will be able to find a role in time” to continue living and working in the United States.
The job cuts undo some of the most aggressive hiring in tech. Coinbase had tripled its workforce last year and was looking to hire 6,000 people this year. Coinbase has been posting job cancellations on its blog, but some say they learned just days before their start date that they had no jobs. Others say the company reassured them that they still had a job, which was not true. Many, like Ukey, say they ignored other opportunities months ago, and finding a tech job is now much harder.
The company declined to comment for this story, instead directing the public to its blog and to a LinkedIn post by its director of human resources, LJ Brock, where he explained how the company helps those who let go with a website. of jobs it has built. Brock also tweeted that the company “provides legal services to anyone who has visa-related issues.” The company also offered to pay two months of severance pay to employees whose offers were rescinded.
The explosion of social media has brought new perspectives to Ukey. When he posted on LinkedIn about the cancellation of his work, 12,000 people liked the post, 850 left comments and 125 shared his post. Many other employees posted their stories and received similar support.
“I got an overwhelming amount of support and people reaching out to me on LinkedIn. I think that will definitely help me get back on my feet a lot faster,” Ukey said.
Coinbase operates a cryptocurrency exchange where people can buy, sell, and trade digital currency. The company is worth around $15.5 billion, based on its NASDAQ market cap. The company entered the Fortune 500 in May, becoming the first cryptocurrency company to do so. Its CEO, Bay Area-based Brian Armstrong, paid $60 million in total compensation in 2020, according to company filings with the Security Exchange Commission.
Coinbase does not list a corporate office and claims to be a decentralized company, but told the SEC that “some of our offices are located in the San Francisco Bay Area,” and government documents cite an address near Market and Street streets. First in town.
That all changed with the descent of the “crypto winter,” as coin prices plummeted after the collapse of two “stablecoins,” which are designed to hold their value unlike more mercurial coins like bitcoin. Crypto’s decline triggered a slowdown in tech stocks, and companies such as Robinhood, Netflix, Lacework and more responded by laying off workers.
“A lot of tech companies really overhired during the boom,” says Josh Bersin, a longtime expert in human resources and talent acquisition technology. “When you hire so quickly, you take a huge risk.”
Bersin says investors and shareholders pushed hard for hiring and growing the company, then got spooked by inflation and the crypto crash and suddenly called for job cuts. “Within a few weeks or a few days, these people were asking for a setback. You can’t go back that fast.
This type of public debate can damage a company’s image, Bersin says. “It is difficult to recover from such a reputation, especially when the crypto market in general is faced with many questions about legitimacy.
Many people announced the cancellation of their job offers on Blind, a social network popular with tech workers. A blind user identified as Thom reported that he had accepted a job as a project manager in London. Thom told The Examiner he gave notice and told his landlord he was leaving. He says he and other new British recruits never received the email from the company telling them their offers were withdrawn. He later learned about it from a recruiter.
Gaurav Rawal, a new recruit in India, says his recruiter told him his offer would not be rescinded two days before. Another Blind employee posted an email he says his recruiter sent to tell him his job wasn’t canceled. But his work was deleted, says the blind user.
That confusion has been the tipping point in the public’s response to tech layoffs, says Tobi Oluwole, CEO of The3Skills, a skills training startup that helps workers find new roles.
“The number of people who have turned to LinkedIn is what has made the situation so dire for Coinbase,” says Oluwole. “You have hundreds of students and other people saying, hey, this just happened to me.”
Some who have lost their jobs point out that they have missed out on other opportunities that are no longer available to them. Oluwole says the company, which suspended hiring in May, should have told new hires weeks ago that their offers were questionable. Instead, it seems that in some cases recruiters were telling them otherwise.
Blind executives say their platform allows workers to discuss the job market without fear of reprisal. “We want to make the labor market, long plagued by information asymmetry, more efficient. Blind makes employers and employees more transparent,” says Rick Chen, director of public relations for the social network.
In this case, that transparency includes a view from inside Coinbase during the public outcry.
An anonymous Coinbase employee, whose employment was verified via his company email address, said the layoffs were chaotic due to “a high-level management decision, and recruiters were equally confused than the candidates”.
Another Coinbase employee said that “morale is in the toilet. About half of employees would probably accept a voluntary layoff offer at this point.”