“Making me question the dream”: Tech layoffs worry young Canadians “Making me question the dream”: Tech layoffs worry young Canadians
The real impact behind mass layoffs in Canada's tech industry “Making me question the dream”: Tech layoffs worry young Canadians

By Claudia Ovejero Pham

The tech industry has been glorified in recent years, especially by Generation Z, for its work-life balance, competitive pay and attractive benefits. Hashtags like #techoffice have gained users over two million views on the short-form video sharing app TikTok as workers show off their workplace perks. But in recent months, layoffs in the tech industry have been a topic of conversation with an entirely different tone: concern.

Today, the hashtag #techlayoffs has over 76.5 million views on TikTok.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the current state of the economy have forced many companies to re-evaluate and cut costs, resulting in widespread layoffs in the tech sector globally. The Canadian tech sector is not immune to this. It is also grappling with a wave of layoffs leaving thousands without a job, and many young people are concerned about finding work in the midst of a rapidly-changing job market.

Since the new year started, 103,700 tech employees have already been laid off as of Feb. 13 — the majority of them in the United States and Canada — according to an automated layoff data tracker developed by entrepreneur Roger Lee.

Over 84 companies have laid off employees in Canada since 2020 when Layoffs FYI initially started collecting data. Some of these companies underwent multiple rounds of layoffs, causing the total layoff cases to reach 99. These layoffs have impacted over 6,000 Canadians across the country, primarily affecting those in the tech hubs of Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal.

A 22-year-old tech sales development representative at a Toronto tech start-up, who is speaking anonymously due to concern for her own employment status, says she isn’t surprised by these numbers. Her own company laid off 150 people at the start of this month. The start-up she works for is among the 11 per cent of the layoffs to date that cut more than 100 people from their company workforce. After three separate layoff announcements since 2020, the size of the company’s workforce has decreased by over 50 per cent.

She shares that recent news about mass layoffs has been anxiety-inducing. “You’re just kind of always hoping that you’re safe. Sometimes I find myself just trying to log in, make sure my Slack is active, and that I still have access to log into my email.”

The story of how this tech employee’s coworkers got laid off is not a unique one. The employees got an “ominous” meeting invite put on their calendars and just like that, after the call, they were gone.

The sales development representative says she’s experienced survivor’s guilt and imposter syndrome amidst layoffs at work after losing colleagues so abruptly.

“Why? Why was I chosen to be here? I feel guilty because maybe I didn’t hit my numbers that quarter, and I’m still here. Whereas someone who hit their numbers is not here anymore, and you feel like oh my god, it should have been me, not them,” she says.

Despite the current situation and the number of growing layoffs, the 22-year-old thinks that tech will bounce back quickly and this is just a temporary solution to cut costs. She believes that too many tech companies were growing and hiring very quickly because they are overvalued.

Others are not so optimistic about where the industry is going. Because of the promises of better salary and benefits from the tech world, many Gen-Z students were drawn to enrolment in tech programs. Computer science student Paul Anomitro, whose dream career choice is software development in Big Tech, says mass layoffs news and numbers are making him question his dream.

Anomitro is currently a software development intern at Amazon. He says his entire team was recently laid off. He only got to keep his position because of his intern status.

“Seeing that firsthand is making me question the dream that I had coming into freshman year in college,” Anomitro says.

While Anomitro is worried about the state of the industry, he says he is trying to hold onto hope that by the time he graduates the market might be better and software development will be in higher demand.

In the short term, the layoff trend is expected to continue as announcements of company-wide staff cuts happen almost every day. Layoff FYI is updating its database live and tweeting (under the handle @layoffsfyi) as information is released in the hopes of helping laid-off workers get exposure to those who are hiring.

Claudia Ovejero Pham