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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

September 18, 2014 at 12:24 PM

Microsoft Layoffs 2014 Edition version 2.0: Best and worst of times

It was the best of times and the worst of times in Redmond today.

Microsoft announced its latest round of layoffs at an otherwise high point for the company.

It appears to have successfully repositioned itself as a mobile-first, cloud-first company with more nimble management and an inspirational new chief.

The company no longer seems to be stumbling and falling behind the herd. Wall Street vultures have stopped circling and looking for tasty bits to rip from its carcass.

Microsoft stock came back to life on expectations of such a breakup. But the stock has continued to climb because investors apparently now believe in the direction the company is heading.

That doesn’t matter much to the thousands of people — including 747 more in the Seattle area — who are being left behind, supposedly to lighten the company and continue its ascent. They are losing comfortable jobs at one of the world’s best employers just as their kids are settling into the school year and holidays are approaching.

Another 3,000 or so employees are expected to get their pink slips by the end of the year. This may motivate remaining employees to work harder. But the looming uncertainty will dampen morale, offsetting the exuberance and optimism about Microsoft’s future that Chief Executive Satya Nadella radiates in his public speeches.

A picture I took yesterday of an Amazon headquarters building under construction in Seattle.

A picture I took yesterday of an Amazon headquarters building under construction in Seattle.

Stepping back, the layoff affects less than 2 percent of Microsoft employees. The company also is particularly generous with severance and insurance coverage for laid-off workers. Overall I still think the Seattle area has dodged a bullet.

Yet losing even 747 Microsoft jobs has an outsized effect. As the company likes to say in better times, each of its employees generates up to 7 additional jobs in the regional economy.

Whether you believe that or not, losing 747 jobs is the equivalent of a midsize software company — like Zillow — abruptly shutting down.

It’s rarely easy to find another job. But if you are looking for work at another software company, Seattle in mid-2014 is one of the best places in the world.

A quick check at LinkedIn found 3,030 job listings at software companies within a 50-mile radius of Seattle. That’s only a partial view of what’s available but it gives you a sense of the opportunity. (There are also lots of desks available at the University of Washington’s new Startup Hall.)

Amazon accounts for only about 600 of those listings, but the company is going to need to fill its new Seattle headquarters, including the 4,000 to 5,000 seats at the two additional buildings it proposed last week.

Oddly, 1,222 of those LinkedIn listings are at Microsoft. But some of them show how the company is evolving. For instance, it now has a hardware manufacturing team that’s looking for a “sealant/coating technology director” who will lead the selection of coatings and finishes for devices it builds.

Other things don’t change so much. Google has dozens of open jobs listed at its Seattle and Kirkland offices, including one for a Kirkland-based massage therapist supervisor — a chief massage officer? — to lead its team of masseuses and “create an experience that exceeds the expectations of our employees.”

Apparently the local tech industry remains pretty healthy, despite the terrible news for Microsoft employees affected by the layoffs.

Comments | Topics: Amazon.com, economy, Google

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