Cover Image for Putting Tech Layoffs into Perspective this Memorial Day
Stephiney Foley
Stephiney Foley

Putting Tech Layoffs into Perspective this Memorial Day

This year has been particularly difficult for the tech industry (especially at big tech companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Meta). More than 193,000 employees (including families) in tech have been laid off this year (and probably more to come). This Memorial Day, I want to share a perspective that many of my fellow colleagues in tech may or may not have considered.

A bad day in tech means a layoff and some uncertainty about the future. A bad day in combat means no future.

Memorial Day is a day for reflection, gratitude, and remembrance of those individuals who selflessly gave their lives to protect the freedoms and values we cherish as a nation. Many of these heroes raised their right hand to serve without any reservation to defend this nation and our American values at the age of 17 or 18. Sadly, these same heroes will never live to see how their lives would unfold in their 30s, 40s, or 50s. This puts our mundane but undoubtedly difficult challenges with layoffs, lower than expected pay raises, or bad managers into perspective. It is an opportunity for us to take a pause and reflect on our own lives.

Since the Global War on Terror, we have lost 7,507 U.S. service members, 8,000 U.S. contractors, and over 30,177 veterans of the post-9/11 wars have tragically taken their own lives. At least 929,000 people have died due to direct war violence, including armed forces on all sides of the conflict, contractors, civilians, journalists, and humanitarian workers. Additionally, millions of service members have been wounded, lost limbs, or the ability to move.

Promoting a Non-Commissioned Officer in Monterey, California (my last duty station)

Recognizing the Loss

Experiencing a job loss can be a devastating blow, causing distress and uncertainty for many professionals. You may find yourself navigating a range of emotions, including Kübler-Ross' five stages of mourning: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But as you go through these five stages, I would add an additional stage after acceptance, which is gratitude. Gratitude that you have the opportunity to start over, unlike many of my friends who paid the ultimate sacrifice in combat. The layoffs may force us to restart and write a new chapter in our professional journey. While this can be challenging and uncertain, we should remember that we still have the opportunity to begin again. We can learn from our experiences, adapt, and forge a new path forward. In the military, men and women put their lives on the line, facing grave dangers and making unimaginable sacrifices to protect our freedoms. These fallen warriors don't have the luxury of starting over or pursuing new opportunities. Their stories were tragically cut short and their sacrifice was final and irreversible.

Comparing Compensation and Support

In the tech industry, layoffs often come with generous severance packages and the opportunity to start anew. Severance packages can vary depending on the tenure and compensation of the individual being laid off. On average, severance packages in the tech industry reach up to $300,000, providing financial stability during the transition period. In contrast, the families of fallen soldiers receive minimal compensation, often struggling to cope with the emotional and financial burdens of their loss. The Department of Defense provides a death gratuity of $100,000 to eligible survivors of the deceased. Surviving family members often have to rely on non-profits or other organizations for additional supportHere are some notable ones if you are interested in donating:

  1. Gold Star Families: Gold Star Families is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing support, resources, and advocacy for the families of fallen military service members. They offer a variety of programs and services, including counseling, education assistance, financial support, and community outreach.
  2. TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors): TAPS is a national non-profit organization that provides comfort, care, and support to all those grieving the death of a military loved one. They offer comprehensive services, including peer-based support, grief counseling, casework assistance, and survivor seminars.
  3. Folds of Honor Foundation: Folds of Honor is a non-profit organization that provides educational scholarships to the spouses and children of fallen and disabled service members. They aim to honor the sacrifice of these families by ensuring their loved ones' legacies are remembered and their children have access to educational opportunities.

Understanding the Scale of Impact

While experiencing a layoff can indeed have a significant impact on one's confidence and ability to reenter the job market, it is important to recognize that, as professionals, we possess valuable tools, networks, and work experience that can help us bounce back. However, for our service members, the impact goes far beyond the challenges of finding a new job. The emotional and psychological effects they face, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), survivor's guilt, and physical disabilities, create a profound and lasting impact on their lives. Heartbreakingly, the statistics reveal a grim reality. Over 30,177 service members and veterans of the post-9/11 wars have tragically taken their own lives (4x more than by direct combat!). These staggering numbers serve as a powerful reminder of the ongoing struggles endured by our brave men and women in uniform. The deep emotional and psychological toll of their service cannot be understated.

May this Memorial Day serve as a reminder that life is a precious gift, and while we may face setbacks and challenges, we have the chance to create meaningful stories with each passing day. As we embark on our own journeys, let us carry the memory of those brave individuals who laid down their lives and make the most of every opportunity we have been given. Let us honor their legacy by striving for excellence, making a positive impact, and cherishing each chapter we write, knowing that it is a privilege denied to so many. You really only have one life to live, make the most of it.

👉 Subscribe to my Newsletter for more up to date content

And when our work is done,
Our course on Earth is run,
May it be said, "Well done;
Be Thou At Peace."

-West Point Alma Mater

First Lieutenant Daren M. Hidalgo U.S. Army USMA2009 KIA February 20, 2011

First Lieutenant John M Runkle Jr. U.S. Army USMA 2009 KIA May 26, 2011

First Lieutenant Dimitri A. Del Castillo U.S. Army USMA2009 KIA June 25, 2011

First Lieutenant Timothy J. Steele U.S. Army USMA2009 KIA August 23, 2011

Second Lieutenant Michael R. Girdano U.S. Army USMA 2007 KIA August 1, 2008

First Lieutenant Daniel B. Hyde U.S. Army USMA 2007 KIA March 7, 2009

First Lieutenant Tyler E Parten U.S. Army USMA 2007 KIA Sept. 10, 2009

Captain Sara M (Knutson) Cullen U.S. Army USMA 2007 KIA March, 11, 2013

Captain Jason Benjamin Jones U.S. Army USMA 2007 KIA June, 02, 2014

First Lieutenant Salvatore Simplicio Corma U.S. Army USMA 2008 KIA April 29, 2010 

First Lieutenant Christopher S. Goeke U.S. Army USMA 2008 KIA July 13, 2010