Where Did All The Laid Off Tech Workers End Up?

Tech workers experienced a whipsaw job market in the past few years. Engineers went from the euphoria of soaring stock-based comp and unlimited WFH in 2021 to the fear induced by an unprecedented scale of tech layoffs and orders to return to the office starting in mid-2022. The period between June 2022 and September 2023 encapsulates the period of greatest upheaval with Tech layoffs topping 350K. 

Quarterly tech layoffs

In this post, we look at hiring and departure trends across the tech industry using TrueRank’s proprietary dataset. Here, we are analyzing 234,000 US-based, full-time engineers who reported switching companies between June 2022 and Sept 2023. We particularly focus engineers who worked at the Big Tech companies (defined here as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet, and Meta).

Despite Company-Wide Layoffs, Big Tech Still Added Engineers

While headlines focused on the tens of thousands of workers being laid off from the Big Tech companies, Apple, Amazon, and Alphabet all grew their engineering staffs between June 2022 and Sept 2023.

While engineers make up a significant portion of the layoffs at the Big Tech companies, their losses were largely offset by hiring during the same period. Only Meta shed a significant number of engineering roles with 200% more engineers leaving than joining. 

Net engineer hiring at Big Tech companies

As technical headcount was up, leaders likely took the opportunity to swap out low performing engineers for new talent. We also see rebalancing of the competencies within the engineering organization. For example, Alphabet had net loss of engineers in roles like Developer Relations and Solutions Engineering, but net gains of talent in Silicon and Network Engineering.

Apple and Alphabet hired the most engineers, with both acquiring the most talent from other Big Tech companies (Amazon, Meta, Microsoft, and each other). Apple’s target companies skew more toward semiconductors/chips (Qualcomm, Intel, Applied Materials, AMD) and automotive (Tesla, Lucid). Beyond the Big Tech companies, Alphabet hired significantly from financials (Bloomberg, Capital One) and social (Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn).

9Applied Materials19
10Western Digital16
Apple Top Hiring Source Companies
7Capital One22
Alphabet Top Hiring Source Companies

Big Tech Musical Chairs

The biggest acquirers of departing Big Tech engineers were … the other Big Tech companies. Of engineers who left Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, Meta, or Microsoft, 19% ended up back at one of those companies. 

The greatest transfer of talent happened between Amazon and Alphabet. With a net change of 284 engineers moving from Amazon to Alphabet.  

Meta was a net exporter of talent to all Big Tech companies except for Microsoft–from whom Meta took a net of 7 engineers. 

Flow of engineer headcount between Big Tech companies

Soft Landings for Twitter Tweeps

Big Tech cut big numbers of workers, but Twitter had the largest per-capita cut following Elon’s purchase of the company in October 2022.  The company workforce went from 7800 to 1500 as entire departments were let go.

So where did all that Twitter Tech Talent go? Block (fka Square) was the single biggest destination. Five percent (5%) of ex-Twitter engineers joined their old boss, Jack Dorsey, at Block and its CashApp subsidiary. 

Consistent with broader hiring trends, Apple and Alphabet were next in line, hiring 5% and 4%, respectively, of the Twitter Engineers. The other common destinations were large tech companies, with a slight overweighting of social platforms (Meta, Reddit, Roblox, Snap).

1Block (incl. CashApp)30
14Snap Inc.6
Top destination companies for ex-Twitter Engineers

Ex-Twitter engineers were not eager to work for any of Elon’s ventures. Only one ex-Twitter engineer joined SpaceX, NeuraLink, or Tesla. That’s surprisingly low given the typical magnetism of Elon-companies for engineers. When engineers leave Apple, a whopping 2.6% end up at Tesla, SpaceX, or NeuraLink.

Engineers leaving Big Tech that end up at Elon companies

Once in the Elon orbit, engineers find their way between his companies. We see 38 engineers moving between the two Elon companies during June 2022 through Sept 2023. Most of those engineers moved from Tesla to SpaceX.

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