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Vietnamese students, engineers in US gutted by mass tech layoffs

By Le Thu   November 29, 2022 | 07:46 pm PT
Vietnamese students, engineers in US gutted by mass tech layoffs
Figurines with computers and smartphones are seen in front of Facebook logo in this illustration, July 24, 2022. Photo by Reuters/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
It was a week since he got an unexpected termination email from Meta in early November, but Minh Pham was still reeling from its effect.

In a LinkedIn post, he said he wondered every morning on waking up if it was a nightmare or had actually happened.

He had been all set to apply for a green card and permanent residency in a few weeks. After three years he had been eager to return to Vietnam and celebrate with his loved ones the completion of his doctorate in computer science in North Carolina and landing a job at Instagram as a machine learning research engineer.

But his plans have been dashed, and he did not even get a chance to say goodbye to his coworkers.

More than 35,000 tech workers at 72 companies have been laid off this month, adding to 120,000 who lost jobs earlier this year, according to layoffs.fyi, a site that tracks publicly reported job cuts in the tech industry.

International students like Minh have 90 days to find a new job if they have Optional Practical Training. Those with H-1B, a work visa with a cumulative maximum duration of six years, only have 60 days to do so.

Meta said earlier this month it would cut 11,000 employees or 13% of its workforce. Amazon and Twitter plan to let go of 10,000 and 4,400 workers. Google will soon join the layoff season in Silicon Valley as it plans to lay off up to 10,000 employees to cut costs.

Hoang Nam got a bachelor's degree in computer science from the University of Washington and applied to Google for a software engineer’s job in April this year.

By early August he had got a letter calling him for the last round of interviews.

He practiced algorithm interview questions and did well, and was hired. But before he could be assigned to a team, he got a call from the HR department saying his profile had been pushed to the 2023 batch and his "interview scores will be saved in the system for a year."

"I'm sad and disappointed," Nam said.

He does not have to pay rent since he lives with his parents, who have green cards and sponsored Nam in the U.S. But he does not have any money to spend and "the prices of everything have skyrocketed."

Chan Le, chief engineer at AI startup Truera in the U.S. and founder of online community group Viet Tech, said the massive layoffs in the tech industry affect international IT students the most.

"The IT job market for new college graduates is near a complete standstill with many companies no longer hiring or canceling and putting off job offers."

But it is not just new entrants who have been affected: even senior people are being laid off.

Le said: "A friend of mine was fired on his first day back at work after a break because his wife had given birth. This is terrible."

Le The Hien, founder of another community group called Vietnam Tech Society and who used to work at Amazon and Google, said the wave of layoffs in the U.S. has affected around 1,000 Vietnamese.

"International students who graduate at the end of this year and in 2023 and 2024 will have a hard time competing with thousands of qualified candidates for a small number of jobs."

He expected the IT job market to only pick up steam again in 2025.

Le said in this situation international students who have just graduated or are about to graduate should apply to a lot of companies in case one backs out of an offer.

Minh is doing just that, and hopes to go for a first round interview before the winter break and the final rounds in January next year.

He hopes to land a decent job that can sponsor him for H-1B visa so that he can remain in the country and wait for better opportunities when the battered economy recovers.

As for Nam, he keeps practicing coding and waiting for Google and other companies to start hiring again.

Hieu Le, a software engineer at Twitter with two years of experience, said he was ready when new boss Elon Musk said a lot of people would be let go.

Even though he "kind of wished" his green card had not been taken away and he had found a new job, he decided to pack his bags and move back to Vietnam to start a technology company.

"I have experience working in the U.S. and so maybe I'll be able to find work here in future," he said.

 
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