The Tech Ivory Tower Isn’t All It’s Made Out To Be

CREATOR NEWSLETTER


Tech layoffs have been constantly crossing our headlines this week. Just yesterday, Google suddenly laid off over 1,000 employees. On Jan. 10, Amazon laid off a whopping 500 people at Twitch, nearly 35% of its staff. On Jan. 11, it was also discovered that Amazon laid off over 5% of staffers from its audiobook and podcasting service, Audible. To make matters worse, Discord laid off over 17% of its staff on Jan. 11 — the final nail in the coffin for a particularly brutal week in the tech world.

The Twitch and Discord news sent an obvious and immediate chill down creators’ spines. Twitch and Discord are a particular favorite among gamers, often used as a tag team to funnel highly engaged fans to smaller community groups. The thought that these platforms will be slashing additional services or manpower is frightening. Especially considering they already have so many woes — various user experience and payment issues, content moderation controversies, child safety concerns, internal strife, and so on.


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Both Twitch and Discord don’t appear to be in dire economic circumstances, though both remain unprofitable. But there have been a few key issues lately that are making tech companies feel some additional economic pressure. In July 2023, the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate to the highest it’s been in 22 years. This led many tech companies and investors to say they want to “do more with less.”

As a result, many tech companies are downsizing, cutting salaries, slashing benefits, and laying off thousands of people. Of course, meanwhile, most of the millionaire executives sitting at the helm of these ships are doing just fine. Like Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, who got a $200 million payout in 2022 while 12,000 Google employees were laid off. Or Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who received compensation worth nearly $55 million in 2022 (a 10% increase from the previous year), right before he told employees no raises would be given out in 2023, and 10,000 Microsoft workers lost their jobs. 

Market ups and downs are often blamed for cost-cutting, referred to as “rightsizing” by business people. However, critics point out that this way of phrasing these decisions diverts attention away from poor management, bad planning, overhiring, and an unfair allocation of resources. The “rightsizing” argument is also often used to gut critical programs that creators rely on — like Twitch slashing its revenue-sharing deal with top creators and blaming it on rising costs.

Tech jobs are often viewed as “cushy,” with stereotypes of unlimited PTO, free lunches, and six-figure salaries. But the vast majority of tech workers are fed up and burning out. According to a 2023 report by recruiting company Dice, 60% of tech employees would like to leave their jobs in 2024 (8% more than the year before). Mass layoffs, company cultures that glorify all-nighters and 50+ hour work weeks, feelings of being a “cog in the machine,” and fears of AI taking over jobs are contributing to people wanting to leave the field. Sound familiar? 

The same ivory tower myths that plague techies also plague creators. I still remember when beauty influencer Mikayla Nogueira was dragged by the online masses for simply saying her job was tough and that she worked long hours. Of course, there’s no denying famous influencers like Mikayla, who has over 15 million followers, operate from a wildly privileged position. But then again, we witness time and time again that even the top class of creators are burning out from the field. Notably, this month, YouTubers MatPat and Tom Scott were some of the latest creators to leave their channels behind, wanting to spend more time with their families and less time trying to appease the almighty algorithm overlords. 

In the social media landscape, there are so many booms and busts, so many flip-flopping policies and unclear priorities. Most creators don’t make millions of dollars a year, and the same goes for tech workers. Creators and tech workers also face similar difficulties when it comes to how to mobilize one another and advocate for better working lives. Many of us work remotely, spread out across the country, and are unable to talk with one another about the challenges we face.

But poor management and business decisions at tech companies affect us all. Our tech brethren may seem to live in far-off ivory towers, but they are our greatest allies. And for those of you in the audience who work for creator economy start-ups and tech companies, we see you. You are more than just a cog in Jeff Bezos’s machine. And if you ever want to chat about the issues impacting you beyond just on Blind, our line is always open.


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