Tech Winter and Feeling Irrelevant
Many things were going on during and after the pandemic for tech companies. 2 or 3 years ago hiring for tech talent was quite massive and most of them offered WFH / WFA option which was nice because more opportunities opened widely. Even if you're a tech talent in some rural area that is covered enough with the internet, you'll have a good opportunity to work with a good tech company.
Until last year, the economic factor made tech companies pursue cost optimization and profitability. Looking for investment or funding becomes harder. Everyone tightens their belt to survive, so the company freezes the hiring or even the bad one is doing the layoff.
Hiring Freeze & Mass Layoff
This is a bad combination. Many tech talents from various levels and roles have been laid off but many companies also freeze their hiring activities. No more opening job offers or they still hiring with these conditions:
Very limited vacant positions
More strict hiring
Reduced hiring budget
Only for experienced
So imagine getting laid off and having to compete with many experienced talent while the hiring activities are now limited. We need to have very special or outstanding experiences to increase the possibility of getting hired. The other way is to reduce expectations or accept a lower salary rate.
While competing at big tech which offers a higher engineering standard is harder, we're now expecting to work at companies that have lower engineering standards or work with boring tech stacks. The lower your expertise or experience, will harder for you to compete. Now imagine the horror of being laid off at the junior level.
One of the biggest challenges of working in the tech industry as a software engineer is being relevant. Technology changes are very fast, engineering best practices are always evolving, tons of development tools and programming languages, and many more.
For me even with some years of experience, viewing recent tech job requirements is quite scaring me. I grew up with Java in college time and landed as a web developer using PHP until now completing various projects and running products at scale in recent years. The fact that I've never used another language in production except PHP looks like become my weakness.
Although it's good to have a certain language to master and even if another language is learnable, still, company still has a better preference to pick an engineer who is ready enough to contribute without spending more time learning and adapting to the new language. Make sense right? So at this point feeling irrelevant in tech is rising for me.
Looking back to my career retrospective, I felt like wasting my time by getting stuck so much back then. That's why I decided to gain more technical expertise as an IC and move to a product-based company. Even though I have my confidence back but still can't throw away the feeling of being irrelevant especially when you're age > 30.
Accepting The Vulnerability and Move On
So what should I do now?
I won't get any benefit from complaining that our industry is moving fast and I couldn't catch up with it. I should accept my vulnerability, understand my weaknesses, and then move on to improve those things. Every person has their own timeline and I realized comparing my career trajectory with others won't get any benefit of me except make me feel more burdened.
In the end, I'll keep in mind that learning is a journey. You can not expect instant results but with consistent learning, I believe it will get better results.