Doug Orleans (dougo) wrote,
Doug Orleans

Laid off again

On Tuesday, most of my team (and most of my department) at PayPal was laid off. Even moreso than the last time I was laid off, though, this is good news—in fact, it might be the best thing that could have happened to me!

PayPal has been owned by eBay since 2002, but last September, eBay announced they would spin off PayPal as a standalone company. Last month, eBay announced that they would cut 2,400 jobs across eBay and PayPal as a cost-cutting measure ahead of the split. At the time, I was pretty confident that my team wouldn't be affected; the tool we worked on was integral to the Demand Generation department, used by and orchestrating many other systems in the department. I viewed the layoffs as a good move, a way to let go of some underperforming employees across the company while also shutting down some redundant or unfocused projects.

Well, apparently it turns out that most of my department was regarded as an unfocused project... Even on Tuesday morning I was still fairly sure that this was not true, and that the one-on-one meetings scheduled with our boss's boss were just a way to check in with everyone about the future direction of the teams (there had been various plans floating around for reorganization). But after Ian came back from his 10:30 meeting with the news that he'd been laid off, it became clear that we were probably all going.

In truth, I had been contemplating leaving later this year anyway. I have some stock grants that will vest in April, so I was planning to stay at least until then, but probably also until the spinoff happened in the second half of the year, just to see how it would change things (though my guess is that it wouldn't change much, since PayPal has always been run as a separate entity from eBay). I wasn't unhappy working there: I liked my team, I liked being a full-stack Rails developer, and I liked the company's mission of making commerce easier (I've been a loyal PayPal customer since 2000). But there were a lot of frustrations, mostly the typical ones of working for a large company, and particularly as a satellite office—PayPal Boston started as an acquired startup, Where Inc, and always stood apart from the corporate culture of the San Jose headquarters. I was also never happy with the fact that our tool was fairly removed from the end-user experience: I can't point to a web page and say "I did that". (I can point to the Shop tab on the website, or various other things here and there, that involve offers and ads that were managed by our tool, but that's not as satisfying as saying "I made that button work".)

So, between the severance package and the savings I've built up over the past few years, I have no need to go back to work for at least a year or two. I have a bunch of half-done projects that I'd like to finish, and a bunch of half-started projects that I'd like to explore further. I've been struggling a lot over the past few years to get the time and energy to work on these projects in my evenings and weekends, but it never really materialized: most of the progress ended up happening during staycations (like the two weeks I took off before & after the MIT Mystery Hunt last month). So this feels like a golden opportunity for me. The last time I was laid off, I was feeling a bit burned out and needing to just relax and do nothing for a while; this time I'm feeling energized and eager to be productive. I also have a lot clearer idea of what sorts of things I want to be doing (namely, web apps). So I'm really happy to be given this excuse to get started now rather than waiting another 3 or 9 or 18 months.

Even though I don't need to go back to work for a couple years, I don't expect to wait that long. The last time I was laid off, I planned to take about 6 months off, and ended up taking 18 months; this time I expect I'll be less content with not working (and better at recognizing when the time is right). On the other hand, I am secretly hoping that I can turn some of my projects into money-making opportunities... Stay tuned.

Not everyone who was laid off is as happy about it as I am, though. Paradoxically, I feel especially bad for those who weren't laid off: their jobs will change drastically, but if they want to leave, they won't get severance. Fortunately, I have plenty of contacts: you who are reading this! If you know of a tech job opportunity and you haven't already told me about it, feel free to ping me (here or email) and I'll forward it along.
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