Annalice Ni has wanted to be a software developer for a well-known tech company, since she was a Seattle 10th grader. She went to great lengths in order to fulfill the internship and other criteria that makes students attractive to top tech companies.
Ni studied computer science in high school. She interned at Microsoft, and was a volunteer coding teacher for younger students. After majoring in computer science at the University of Washington she was awarded coveted internships in software engineering at Facebook. She graduated from college in this year and moved to Silicon Valley to pursue her dream job as a software engineering engineer at Meta, Facebook’s parent company.
Meta also laid off more than 11,000 employees last month — Ni included.
Ni, 22, admitted that she felt frustrated, disappointed, and scared about her career loss. “There isn’t much I could do, especially in college. I did what I did and it was better than I did.”
The prospect of starting at six-figure salaries and perks such as free food, and working on apps used by billions of people led many young people to gravitate towards computer science, which is the study of algorithms and computer programming on college campuses across the United States. According to the Computing Research Association which tracks computing degrees at around 200 universities, the number of undergraduates studying the subject has more than tripled between 2011 and 2021 to almost 136,000 students.
Microsoft, Google, and Facebook are tech giants that encouraged the computing education boom. They promoted software jobs to students as a way to secure lucrative careers and the ability to make a difference in the world.
Now, however, layoffs and hiring freezes at Meta and DoorDash are sending shock waves through a generation computer and data science students who have spent years preparing for their careers at the most prestigious tech companies. The slowdown in jobs is being blamed by tech executives.
Recent graduates are now scrambling for new jobs. College students looking to do high-paying internships in large consumer tech companies have also been left uncertain by the cutbacks.
Tech companies used internship programs in the past to hire promising candidates. They also extended offers to students to become full-time employees upon graduation. These opportunities are decreasing this year.
Amazon hired approximately 18,000 interns last year and paid some computer science students almost $30,000 to cover housing stipends. According to a source with knowledge of the program, the company is considering cutting the number of interns by more than half for 2023.
Amazon spokesperson Brad Glasser stated that the company is committed to its internship program as well as the real-world experience it provides. A Meta spokesperson referred to a letter from Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of the company, informing employees about the company’s layoffs.
Smaller tech companies are also seeing their hiring plans change. Roblox, a popular gaming platform, stated that it would hire 300 interns next summer, almost twice the number of this year, and that it was expecting over 50,000 applicants for those positions. Redfin, which had 38 interns last summer, announced that it would cancel the program next year.
Computer science students still have good jobs, and they are growing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, software testers and developers will see a 25% increase in employment between 2021-2031. This would translate into more than 411,000 additional jobs. Many of these jobs are in the finance and automotive industries.
Brent Winkelman is the chief of staff at the University of Texas at Austin’s computer science department. He said that students are still receiving multiple job offers. They may not be coming from Meta, Twitter, or Amazon. They will come from places like GM and Toyota, or Lockheed.
For students who are anxious about entering the tech industry, college career centers can be a sounding board. The search for a Plan B is a growing concern in the offices of career counselors.
Many students apply to less-known tech companies. Some students are looking for tech jobs in other industries, such as with Walmart and government agencies or nonprofits. You can also consider graduate school.
Hazel Raja (senior director, Pomona College’s career development office in Claremont, California) said that this particular class was more knowledgeable than the previous classes. “Even if they have job offers, they still make sure to network and stay engaged in campus recruitment opportunities.”
Helen Dong, 21 years old, is a senior majoring computer science at Carnegie Mellon University. She interned at Meta twice in 2021, and 2022. She was shocked to find out that she had not been offered a job at Meta by the end of her summer. Meta was recently laid off and she decided to apply for jobs at financial and automotive companies. She posted videos on TikTok last month advising her peers to adjust job expectations.
Dong joked that she chose computer science to get a lot of offers after college. She sang along to “Reduce Your Expectations To 0” in TikTok. In this job market she wrote, “Be grateful with 1 offer.”
Interviews with 10 recent college graduates and students revealed that they weren’t prepared for the slowdown in job opportunities at the biggest tech companies. These companies had been fiercely competing for computer science majors from top universities, with many students being offered multiple jobs with six-figure starting wages and five-digit signing bonus. There was an entire TikTok video series dedicated to young techies, highlighting their job perks, annual compensation, and stock options.
Numerous people have shared details about their circumstances on LinkedIn. Some people have included the hashtag #opentowork in their LinkedIn profile photos to alert recruiters.
Tony Shi, 23, a 23-year-old computer science and business major at Western University in London (Ontario), is one of them. He began his career at Lyft as a product manager in August after he graduated this year. The ride-hailing company fired about 650 workers, including Shi, in November.
He is now on a tight deadline for a job. Shi, a Canadian citizen, was granted a visa to travel to San Francisco to work for Lyft. He has 60 days to search for a job under the visa. He stated that he was more aware of the balance sheets and businesses of potential employers.
“I need to be more cautious about taking on risk. He said that he didn’t want to be laid off again. He said that he would not take a company’s word for it, but that the product must make sense.
Many recent graduates were not able to get started in their new tech jobs.
Rachel Castellino is a statistics major at California Polytechnic State University. She worked hard to get a job with a major tech company. She interned at PayPal as a project manager and was awarded a National Science Foundation fellowship to help her start a data science club at school.
Castellino (22 years old) knew that she would need to work hard to pass technical interviews. These interview usually involve solving programming problems. She spent a lot of her fall job search and preparation for coding assessments last year. She studied programming languages and probability concepts for four days per week, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Despite this, she admitted that the interview process was difficult.
Meta offered her a job in November 2021 as a data scientist. She would start in December 2022. Meta withdrew the offer last month, she stated.
“I worked so hard for those interview. She said that it felt great to have been awarded something of such high quality. “I had so many things to look forward too.”
It was disappointing. Castellino stated, “I was upset.” It was not good to hear.”
Ni sees losing her dream job now as an opportunity to expand her career horizons. She has been applying to startups and mid-sized tech companies that she finds interesting over the past month — potential employers she hadn’t considered before.
Ni stated, “I’m looking for opportunities that I didn’t know about before.” “I feel like I have already learned some things.”