But there’s no way around it. And with perseverance and an ample budget, the ultimate result is usually a big improvement.
Similarly, remodeling a tired company requires making short term sacrifices for long term gains. The initial efforts can produce ugliness. And with the lives and livelihoods of employees on the line, the decisions can be emotional. Yet sometimes it must be done.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently told investors that 2023 will be the “year of efficiency.” If you recall, the company RIFed 11,000 workers in November 2022. The scuttlebutt is that more layoffs are coming.
Currently, the prospect of imminent layoffs is triggering uncertainty about what projects will go forward, what will be cancelled, and who will be working on them. This has created an interim situation where some Meta employees are getting paid to do zero work. Strangely, for Meta to become more efficient, it must first be less efficient.
Still, Zuckerberg is clear on his objective. In Meta’s fourth-quarter earnings call on February 1, the CEO noted:
“We’re working on flattening our org structure and removing some layers of middle management to make decisions faster, as well as deploying AI tools to help our engineers be more productive.”
And in a recent all-hands meeting, Zuckerberg – again – put middle managers on notice:
“I don’t think you want a management structure that’s just managers managing managers, managing managers, managing managers, managing the people who are doing the work.”
Perhaps this is harsh. But it’s true.
Moreover, when you get down to it, Zuckerberg is a real technology geek. And he’s recognized that many of his cohorts, in the company he founded, are something else.
Real Technology Geeks
Real technology geeks, if you’ve ever met one, don’t care about days off or benefits or what the latest social justice cause is. They care about programming and coding new applications and platforms that create something cool and elegant.
Real technology geeks, compelled by an idea, are on a mission. With singleness of purpose, they close the blinds, turn off the lights, pull up their hoodies, and get wired in. Then they crunch and code for 72 hours straight, pausing only to chug Red Bull energy drinks.
Real technology geeks are who created Apple, Google, YouTube, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Microsoft, Samsung, Tesla, Salesforce, Oracle, and others. They’ve left their fingerprints on all aspects of modern life. Good and bad.
But like any growth industry, be it the auto industry of the mid-20th century or the technology industry today, at some point the growth overshoots the future value. The point of overshoot, however, isn’t discernable when it first happens. The momentum and rush for market share obscures it. Sometimes it can be obscured for decades.
During the latent overshoot period, the industry becomes occupied by pretenders. Over the last decade, for example, technology companies were unwittingly filled with fake technology geeks who demanded free lunches and fat paychecks. Rather than driving technology into the next frontier, they occupied their time posting memes and feigning outrage on social media.
These fake technology geeks concentrated into middle management positions. There, they didn’t have to do work of any meaningful value. Instead, they made staffing plans and delivered performance reports up the management chain.
It was a lot of fun while it lasted. Nonetheless, the techno poser era is over. In fact, it has been over since mid-2022.
Zuckerberg marked the end of the techno poser era during a June 30, 2022, remote meeting. There he announced he wanted to remove Meta employees who are “coasting” or low performers. “Realistically, there are probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn’t be here,” he remarked.
Many of Zuckerberg’s employees – particularly, the techno posers – thought this was a real hoot. New memes soon appeared on Workplace, including: “Coast, Coasters, Me,” a play on Meta’s “Meta, Metamates, Me” mantra.
Other enterprising employees created posters for the walls at Meta’s headquarters asking, “Should you be here?” in bold, all-caps red letters. “Look at this dude coasting,” wrote one employee above a picture of Zuckerberg hydro-foiling on a lake while holding the American flag.
Apparently, Meta’s vast collection of techno posers had not the faintest inkling of what was going on. This was best characterized during the Q&A part of the meeting. Here, The Verge fills in the details:
“‘Hi there,’ the first prerecorded employee question started. ‘I’m Gary, and I’m located in Chicago.’ His question: would Meta Days — extra days off introduced during the pandemic — continue in 2023?
“Zuckerberg appeared visibly frustrated. ‘Um… all right,’ he stammered. He’d just explained that he thought the economy was headed for one of the ‘worst downturns that we’ve seen in recent history.’ He’d already frozen hiring in many areas. TikTok was eating their lunch, and it would take over a year and a half before they had ‘line of sight’ to overtaking it.
“And Gary from Chicago was asking about extra vacation days?
“‘Given my tone in the rest of the Q&A, you can probably imagine what my reaction to this is,’ Zuckerberg said. After this year , Meta Days were canceled.”
Do Techno Posers Have the Skills to Pay the Bills?
Gary from Chicago, no doubt, is a techno poser. Rather than digging deep and doing something rad, he’s counting his vacation days. We don’t know if Gary from Chicago is still employed at Meta. Regardless, we do know that many of his techno poser associates are now out of work.
They’ve gone from coasting at coddled, well-paying jobs, to coasting on their living room couch. Technology companies are hemorrhaging jobs. So, it is unlikely many of these techno posers will find a new job at a technology company.
There’s nothing wrong with going where the money is. And over the last decade the technology industry was a well-funded place to be. To their credit, many smart and ambitious minds were able to ride the wave and enjoy a very comfortable living.
However, now that the technology wave has crashed, what’s next?
Real technology geeks will do what they do best. They’ll bootstrap new start-ups that innovate and propel the next great big technology wave. Others will remain with the remodeled, more efficient versions of their employers and will push for the next big profit-generating breakthroughs.
There are also intelligent and productive programmers that will have to take their talents outside the technology industry. Maybe they’ll find gainful employment overseeing the billing platform for a local utility. Others could manage the patient record applications at Kaiser Permanente.
As for the terminated techno posers, do they have the skills to pay the bills?
One techno poser, Bailey, has started a side hustle flipping real estate. She says she only has to work one to two hours a week to make money. Impressive. Maybe it will work out for her.
But what about the other techno posers? The one’s that like to tell others what to do rather than do real work themselves. What will they do?
Naturally, there’s only one thing they can do. They’ll go into government work. There they can get paid for telling other people – including you – what to do. And they can feel good about doing it.
[Editor’s note: Techno posers aren’t all bad. And many good people now finding themselves collateral damage of broad RIFs. Maybe you’re one of them or you know someone who is. Regardless, there’s no time like the present to prepare your finances for the madness that’s coming. In fact, there are things you can do. If you’re interested in discovering several ideas, take a look at my Financial First Aid Kit.]
for Economic Prism