How Black Workers Are Navigating Tech Layoffs


  • The tech sector announced 97,171 job cuts in 2022, up 649 percent compared to the previous year.
  • Black people are laid off at higher rates to their white counterparts when the economy is in a rough patch.
  • Black CEOs’ advice on navigating layoffs: send personal emails instead of applying on a site, cultivate your network internally and continue upskilling. 

Over the past several months, hiring freezes and layoffs have impacted almost every sector of the tech industry.

Tens of thousands of jobs were cut as large technology companies such as Amazon, Twitter, Microsoft and others have tightened their belts citing a potential recession.

The tech sector cut 97,171 jobs in 2022, up 649 percent over the previous year, according to consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

In the United States, Black people are laid off at higher rates to their white counterparts when the economy is in a rough patch, research has found. Despite this, Black and brown professionals remain resilient and are embracing the ups and downs of a multi-trillion dollar industry.

The Plug spoke with Black CEOs and career coaches to better understand this data and gain insight on the best practices diverse professionals can implement to land their next opportunity.

High risk, high reward

“I’ve been laid off three different times in my career,” Ruben Harris, the chief executive of Career Karma, told The Plug. “If I didn’t get laid off from my first job, I would have never met my co-founders and Career Karma would have never been born.”

Black professionals occupy 3.7 percent of technical roles at large tech companies, despite making up 13 percent of the overall labor force, according to a report from The Kapor Center and the NAACP.

Career Karma’s mission is to help job seekers with non-technical backgrounds break into tech. Launched in 2018, Harris and his team have raised $52 million from investors such as Google Ventures, SoftBank and Y Combinator.

The tech industry is “high-risk, high-reward,” according to Harris, who experienced firsthand what it takes to break into tech after moving to the Bay Area from Atlanta, where he worked as an investment banker for three years.

“Working in investment banking, I had to work 100-hour weeks, which helped me in the long term,” Harris said. “Throughout your career, you are either earning or learning — ideally you want both.”

Harris believes anyone can build new skills to increase their earning potential, adding that outside of the tech industry, organizations have their own IT departments and hire technical roles, regardless of the actual industry.

“Target, Domino’s, Estée Lauder, even the biggest banks from Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, and Bank of America, all hire tech roles,” he said. “It’s important to remember that tech isn’t exclusive to Silicon Valley or shiny startups.”

Harris’ advice is to treat job searching like a nine-to-five. Instead of applying on the website, he recommends sending personalized cold emails to people that work at the company. “You should be applying to at least five tech companies,” he said. “It’s a sales process, and takes time, but it works.”

Dealing with layoffs

“For those who have been unexpectedly laid off, it’s important to get all your legal documents in order,” Latesha Byrd, CEO at Perfeqta, a talent-development agency serving Black and Latinx professionals, told The Plug.

“Review your severance package, identify how long you have until benefits like health insurance come to an end, and file for unemployment if needed,” said Byrd, who also runs Career Chasers Club, a membership community for women of color.

For those who remain employed, Byrd advises cultivating your network internally. Whether that means connecting with industry leaders, scheduling informational interviews or building relationships with the people in your current network, if done successfully you will become more top-of-mind for future hiring opportunities.

For professionals that were recently laid off, it is imperative to prioritize your mental health. Byrd advises her clients to find joy in their daily activities. This also means leaning on their community during this challenging time.

“There is no shame in scheduling therapy sessions or seeking professional guidance to also help you process your job loss and find the motivation to continue job searching,” Byrd said.

Knowing your worth

“Don’t forget you are an asset,” said Minda Harts, who has built a successful career as an author, speaker and workplace and equity consultant. “Assess what you want out of your career and be intentional about your next steps.”

Harts authored two bestselling books, The Memo and Right Within, both focusing on supporting Black women in corporate America.

Harts brings over 15 years of experience working in corporate and nonprofit roles, and has spoken at top companies like LinkedIn, Microsoft and Nike, often discussing how CEOs can champion diversity and inclusion.

Harts stressed that no one finds their next opportunity alone. Instead of thinking of it as a solo sport, tap into your network to help get closer to your goals. This change in your career doesn’t define your worth or ability to continue climbing the ladder, she said.

“It’s easy to feel desperate,” Harts said. “Don’t ever feel as though you don’t deserve dignity, humanity and respect at work. I have seen employees get relocated to a new office, just to be let go within three months.”

Black professionals should continue to upskill to achieve their long-term and short-term goals, she said. “Stay vigilant, keep your resume and Linkedin updated. By staying ready, you don’t have to get ready.”

Fred Grier

Fred Grier is a technology journalist. He previously covered technology, startups, and venture capital at the San Diego Business Journal. He is an alumna of the University of California San Diego.