Who’s Firing? (Oracle, Space X), Who’s Hiring? (Sony, Glassdoor), and Who’s Paying in Bitcoin?

Illustration of people studying up and down arrows.
Illustration: iStockphoto

By: Tekla S. Perry

Were more engineering jobs created or lost in the first months of 2019? The biggest news came in March, when Oracle started clearcutting engineersaround the world. The layoff news came via employee reports, not an official announcement, and overall numbers are still unclear. Worldwide numbers were initially pegged from 500 to several thousand, and estimates suggested around 100 positions would be eliminated in the San Francisco Bay Area. That number, at least, turned out to be low. Oracle in late March alerted the California Employment Development Department (EDD) that its cuts included 255 positions in its Redwood City offices and 97 in Santa Clara.

In other news, Square announced that it plans to hire three or four engineers and one designer to work on cryptocurrencies.

I wouldn’t typically pay attention to such a small number of job openings, except for two unique characteristics of the coming hires, as pointed out in tweets by Square CEO Jack Dorsey: The cryptocurrency engineers, Dorsey indicated, will not work on projects intended to further “Square’s commercial interests,” but instead will focus entirely on “what’s best for the crypto community.” (The company is launching Square Crypto, an open source project.)

And, Dorsey said, they can be paid in Bitcoin.

In between the mass Oracle layoffs and the tiny Square cryptocurrency hires, layoff notices splashed around Silicon Valley offices. But the numbers, generally in the hundreds, weren’t exactly a downpour. The numbers posted in hiring announcements were generally higher—and mostly described openings outside the San Francisco Bay Area.

A sampling:

Cloudy with scattered layoffs in California

Paypal filed plans with the California Employment Development Department to cut 183 jobs, mostly in software engineering. SAP likewise filed layoff plans, indicating that it will cut 446 California jobs, also mostly in software.

Thin Film electronics announced worldwide staff cuts, including 54 Bay Area professionals, reported to be mostly hardware engineers.

Western Digital announced a layoff of 211 staff members in Silicon Valley and another 100 in Irvine, Calif. The company indicated that most, though not all, of the layoffs involve engineering jobs, including dozens in its SanDisk division and some 50 from R&D operations.

Cybersecurity toolmaker McAfee cut 200 employees from its Silicon Valley offices in late January and early February, with layoffs affecting sales and finance as well as engineering.

Apple cut 190 workers from its Silicon Valley self-driving car division. The cuts included both software and hardware engineers, as well as at least one machine learning expert.

In southern California, SpaceX announced plans to lay off hundreds of its employees, with cuts amounting to about 10 percent of its workforce. The breakdown included 97 engineers, 174 technicians, and a handful of other tech jobs.

It’s not all gloom, though; GM subsidiary Cruise Automation plans to add tech professionals to its San Francisco offices. There’s been no word on how many, but the company has dramatically expanded its office space. And GM Cruise has held beer bashes for tech workers in Seattle, aiming to install as many as 200 engineers there by year end. Former Valve engineers might want to check that out—the company cut 13 employees, with layoffs reportedly focused in its virtual reality hardware division.

Sunny skies outside the Bay Area

Glassdoor, the online recruitment site, announced that it will build a product and software engineering team in Chicago, which will be Glassdoor’sfirst engineering team housed outside the San Francisco/Silicon Valley area. The company says it is actively looking for dozens of front-end, back-end, machine learning, and test engineers, along with data scientists, product managers, and designers.

Amazon announced that it will add some 800 jobs to its Austin, Texas, tech hub, mostly in software and hardware engineering, cloud computing, and research.

Apple announced that it will add 170 people to its new San Diego tech operation this year, bringing in an additional 1,000 through 2020.

Lockheed Martin announced plans to hire 200 engineers for its New York facilities, to focus on systems engineering, product electrical engineering, software engineering, integration, testing, and manufacturing.

Outside the United States, Sony announced that it will add 320semiconductor engineers to its payroll in Japan this year and another 320 in 2020, mostly aimed at developing image sensors. Google has added more than a dozen semiconductor design engineers to a new facility in Bengaluru, India, so far this year; Reuters reported that the company’s chip-design team could grow to 80 by the end of 2019. And Amazon has listed more than 1,000 tech jobs in India.

Finally, Salesforce is looking to add thousands of jobs in Dublin, Ireland, according to The Independent, which predicted the construction of yet another Salesforce Tower.

This article originally appeared in IEEE Spectrum on 26 April 2019.