The Scoop #9: Big Changes at Twitter, Netflix, Apple and Robinhood. More to Come?
Introducing levels after 25 years, return to the office 3 days a week, hiring freezes and layoffs.
The Scoop is a bonus series, covering patterns and trends I’ve heard within big tech and high-growth startups.
Lots have happened across the tech industry, proving that the one constant thing in tech is change. We have plenty of change for this issue. We cover:
Elon Musk buying Twitter. What does the change mean for software engineers and engineering managers?
Netflix introducing levels. Why is such a large change coming 25 years later and what levels are likely to be put in place?
Return to the office at Apple. 3 days a week it is, on mandated days. A look into how it’s all playing out. Why is Apple hiring far more than usual?
Robinhood laid off 9% of this staff. It was not without warning signs, as covered before in The Scoop #3.
Expect a lot more hiring freezes and layoffs to come. Which companies could be next and why? A list of companies where freezes or layoffs are probable in the next 6 months.
Elon Musk Buying Twitter
I have been talking with software engineers and engineering managers at the company on how they feel about this change. Uncertainty has been a common theme, and I sensed different levels of anxiety.
What tech employees know so far is this:
Changes: no changes for 6-12 months. The deal is expected to close in 6 months. Some engineers shared they were told to expect no major changes for about a year.
Compensation and RSUs. This is a cornerstone question for most tech employees at Twitter, as 20-70% of their compensation can be in stock. The more senior the level, the more the compensation is in stock. Employees were told all RSUs will be converted and paid out on the normal cadence. There is no news currently on future refreshers. ESOP will most likely be going away.
Elon’s plans. The team was told Elon will be talking with them. This has yet to happen.
Management support. Managers are doing their best to navigate these uncertain times. Most people I’ve talked with have said their manager is supportive. However, they don’t know much about the future, either.
This is not a done deal. One thing that should be clear is how Elon Musk has not bought Twitter. The board has agreed to enter into negotiations to see this process through.
However, this deal could fall through for a variety of reasons in the next 6 months. Elon Musk might have trouble securing the funding, should some of his Tesla holdings drop. The regulator might step in and slow down the process, or reverse it. Other, unforeseen issues could arise.
As it stands today, Elon Musk wants to buy Twitter, and the board is open to seeing this effort through.
Should a takeover happen, many tech employees are worried about the culture. Specifically, many are worried that with Elon Musk at the helm, the culture of diversity that is considered the DNA of Twitter’s tech organization might erode. On Twitter’s “About” page, the company prominently lists the diversity of its staff as one of its core values:
“Twitter is an open service that’s home to a world of diverse people, perspectives, ideas, and information.”
I’ve talked to roughly a dozen current Twitter employees in the tech organization and noticed a major divide between how minorities and non-minorities view the takeover. Those I talked to within groups considered minitories in tech including women and black tech employees. All of them shared they have increased anxiety from this deal, and none of them have been optimistic about the longer-term future.
Much of the worries come from how Tesla has been hit by a series of discriminatory lawsuits. Elon Musk is also not known to care much about inclusivity at the workplace, and in the past stated on Twitter how “pronouns suck”.
It was not just minorities worried about possible changes. Engineering managers who are not in minority groups have mentioned they worry if the focus on diversity and inclusion will stay; whether Twitter will be able to attract diverse candidates; and shared anxiety in their teams, especially within minority groups.
Elon Musk publicly criticizing current Twitter leadership and employees is creating more anxiety within the company. While Musk has been known to criticize just about anyone in the open, it is perhaps a less expected tactic to single out people from the company he is in the process of buying. On Tuesday, 26 April, he publicly criticized three current Twitter employees, unleashing countless angry replies to those people from his 86 million followers. Those criticized included chief legal officer, Vijaya Gadde, chief marketing officer Leslie Berland, and lawyer Jim Baker.
Knowing Musk, the public criticism will not stop, and it will only add to the annoyance of those having respect for the people Musk criticizes without having much context. And most of us will never know if these are just hot takes from him or part of a deliberate strategy in sending strong messages to certain people and organizations at Twitter.
I see it as poor leadership to unleash a mob of followers on current employees working at a company you just bought. It’s a sure way to erode trust and speed up attrition. But again, perhaps this is what Musk actually wants?
Candidates are dropping out of the hiring funnel. In what should not be unexpected, new hires are rejecting interviews with Twitter, thanks to the uncertainty for the company. I’ve talked with a few software engineers who decided to cancel their interviews, as they are not sure what this change means for Twitter.
Twitter engineers and engineering managers are starting to get targeted by recruiters. In what should also not be unexpected following a major change at a company known for its engineering talent, Twitter tech employees are already seeing an increase in inbound messages. Many of these messages are mentioning the recent change as the reason they are reaching out. Here is a message a senior software engineer received, just one day after the news broke that Elon Musk will likely buy Twitter:
“I have been following the news regarding Elon's move and I'm not sure if I should congratulate you or not - tbh, I haven't read anything yet on how Twitter employees feel (it happened so quickly)!
In any case, I'm sure that a lot of things will change internally in the next few weeks/months and I just wanted to put our platform on your radar as I think that we could be a great match for you.”
A few Twitter employees have taken to publicly signal that they are open to new opportunities, in the wake of the news:
The past few weeks have greatly changed Twitter. Everyone I talked with at the company had different views on how leadership is handling these challenges, how optimistic or pessimistic they are about the future, should Elon Musk be owning the company. While most people were uncertain, I heard some cautiously optimistic voices who think Twitter being private would allow for a reset in focus.
This is how a current Twitter engineer summarized the change they are observing at the company:
“Culture is largely driven by the staff. From Jack stepping down, we have had 6 months of little leadership, little direction and slowly bleeding staff. None of this is doing us much good.
Twitter is a very different company today than it was only a few weeks ago, before all of this news with Elon Musk started.”