Who’s Firing? (Qualcomm, GoPro, and IBM—Again) Who’s Hiring? (Facebook, Apple, Amazon)

IBM rains down layoff notices while Amazon hires a host of Alexa engineers—in India

Illustration of people moving through red and green arrows to denote hiring and firing.
Illustration: iStockphoto
Advertisement

In what has practically turned into an annual sign of spring, IBM rained layoff notices down on its tech workforce in late March and again in April. According to waves of anecdotal reports posted online at TheLayoff.com and Watching IBM, workers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands were hit starting March 29 with 90 days’ notice.

This time, it wasn’t just workers over 50 years old who were targeted (though the bulk of reports did seem to come from people in that age group); many in their 40s reported getting notices as well. And a few relatively new hires indicated that they, also, were hit by the April cuts; one has to wonder if this broader swing of the ax was in reaction to the ProPublica/Mother Jones report that past IBM layoffs overwhelmingly targeted older workers.

The size of IBM’s 2018 layoffs are hard to determine. As usual, IBM made no official announcement, and, when contacted by The Register, did not address the layoffs directly, but said that it had just announced a plan with French president Emmanuel Macron to open a new artificial intelligence research center in France that will create 400 new jobs.

After past layoffs, IBM typically made a statement about workforce rebalancing to focus on Watson, cloud, and analytics. That’s not likely to happen this time; cuts hit those operations as well.

Most other companies announce layoffs before they happen. The following is not by any means a comprehensive list of those announcements made so far in 2018, but includes the major layoffs at tech companies and a snapshot of a few that are smaller, but still significant:

  • Qualcomm this month announced that in June it will lay off 1,231 employees in San Diego and 269 in Silicon Valley.

  • Sigma Designs , based in Fremont, announced in January that it would lay off 300 out of 416 employees in its smart television and set top box operations as it sells off its various businesses.

  • GoPro in January announced plans to cut 254 staff members, mostly engineers working on drones.

  • Intel this month announced that it is shutting down its New Devices Group. The team had about 200 employees; no word on how many will be moved to other jobs in the corporation, but Intel has said there will be some layoffs.

  • Snap in March confirmed rumors of layoffs, indicating it was cutting 120-plus engineers. Later that month, the company reported that 100 sales jobs were also being eliminated.

  • Pandora indicated in January that it will cut its workforce by five percent; that’s over 100 employees. It’s not clear how many tech jobs were affected.

  • Gigamon in February announced it was going to cut 74 staff members by the end of June, including hardware and software engineers as well as human resources professionals.

  • Lenovo cut 200 employees from its Motorola smartphone team in Chicago—that’s nearly half the group. HTC also cut its U.S. smartphone operations in Bellevue and Seattle by between a few dozen to 100 people, according to Digital Trends.

  • And finally, a relatively small cut with perhaps an outsize significance: cloud-software company Lanetix, based in San Francisco, in January cut 14 software engineers—10 days after employees filed for union representation. The union, the Communications Workers of America, has submitted a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board.

It’s not all news about job cuts. By sheer numbers, announcements of hiring pushes dwarfed announcements of cuts.

  • Facebook in March announced that it would be hiring 5,000 cybersecurity professionals by year end—at least, it intends to try. Software engineers who specialize in cybersecurity are generally in high demand and short supply.

  • Apple is throwing a lot of resources at making Siri more intelligent. According to Thinknum Media, the company in March was recruiting for 161 Siri-related jobs, 154 of them in software engineering. The rest were listed as infrastructure engineers, machine learning engineers, and natural language processing engineers. It’s also beefing up hardware engineering jobs in general, according to Thinknum, and as of February was actively recruiting for 1,198 positions.

  • Amazon aims to make Alexa smarter as well, recruiting 1,100 engineers in India to work on speech and language data processing and 125 in Pittsburgh. The company is also listing nearly 300 job openings at its Silicon Valley R&D operation, many of them in robotics, leading Bloomberg to speculate that the company is ramping up efforts to build a domestic robot.

  • Meanwhile, Spotify has been recruiting hardware and manufacturing engineers, according to The Guardian. The company is only advertising a couple of positions, but the move, said The Guardian, indicates that it will likely soon have its own streaming music and home control product to compete with Amazon’s Echo and Apple’s HomePod.

  • Outside of the U.S., BT announced that it will add 3,000 engineering jobs in an effort to upgrade the United Kingdom to gigabit speed internet. 

  • Irish semiconductor company DecaWave indicated that it will add 100 jobs around the world; that triples its workforce.

The View From the Valley Newsletter

The people, places and peculiarities of Silicon Valley.

About View From the Valley blog

IEEE Spectrum’s blog featuring the people, places, and passions of the world of technologists in Silicon Valley and its environs.