Laid Off as an Immigrant in the US Tech Industry: My Personal Journey and Lessons Learned

It was January 18, 2023, a cloudy morning. I started my day as usual by grabbing a cup of coffee and logging into my computer at 9 am. After checking my calendar and sending out meeting invites to my colleagues, I took my dog out for a walk before the rain began. During our walk, my husband and I discussed his growth opportunities at the company where we both worked. I had been employed at the company for 6 years, dedicating my time and efforts to developing innovative solutions while he recently joined it. We enjoyed the chat and got back to our apartment. As I went back to login, my heart sank as I saw a notification from my direct report, “I have been notified just now that I have been laid off. It was really nice working with you.” Confused and with my heart racing, I checked my email only to find the dreaded message confirming that my role had been eliminated as well. 10:31 am EST, and my entire team, along with another sister team, was laid off. I shouted in shock, “Baby! Laid off” as my husband walked into the living room. He went over the email and tried to calm me down, but the reality was hard to accept. After 6 years of hard work and dedication, my career at this company was over, with just a generic email as notification. The saddest part was the complete lack of communication from my manager before or after the layoff. No thanks for my hard work and dedication, not even an explanation that it was out of her control. Nothing.

Later that day, I received a meeting invite from HR which included my skip level manager. The meeting was titled “Important update about your role.” I understood this meeting was just a way to put salt on our wounds, but I joined the call anyway. My skip level manager asked, “Hey first off did you receive the email this morning.” I replied, “Yes I did.” The conversation was painful and I started crying during the call. After the call, I checked LinkedIn and saw that my feed was flooded with layoff posts from other employees who had also been impacted. I updated my job status to show that I was open for new opportunities and I am grateful for the outpouring of support from colleagues and friends who reached out to help me find new job opportunities within their network.

However, the lack of any communication or help from my former manager hurt a lot. I wasn’t expecting much, but a message of support or even an explanation that the layoff decision was out of her control would have meant a lot. To make matters worse, the next day I simply received a cancellation email from her for our weekly 1:1 meeting series. It felt like I was taking up too much space in her calendar. I had such an amazing six years at this company working with great leaders across different teams who helped me grow as a person. My previous managers were always supportive and had my back. This last experience with my former team, however, was bitter and has left me feeling angry every time I hear the company’s name.

What makes the situation even more frustrating is that I was at the height of my career in early 2022. I had just received a promotion and was eager to tackle new and more challenging problems within the company. In June 2022, I interviewed with multiple internal teams with open positions and had three offers to choose from, including the team I eventually joined in July 2022. This team sold me on their goals and vision for the role, and how I would have the opportunity to build a new team to solve its problems. However, after ramping up and joining the team, I quickly realized that I was not receiving any important projects to work on. The existing teams continued to take on the projects, and my team was only there to “support” them. I regret not switching teams earlier in October 2022 when the signs started to become apparent, but I was very stressed about my wedding at that time that was taking place in India in November 2022. Now, after being laid off in January 2023, I can only reflect on what I could have done differently. It is especially frustrating to think that the they hired me and my team just a few months prior with the assurance that we would be working on crucial projects for the company, but now we find ourselves jobless and unsure of what the future holds. I feel frustrated thinking that the time and effort I put into building my career at this company has been undone.

The past six months with my previous team were incredibly disheartening and left me feeling dejected. Although being laid off has given me a sense of liberation, it has also brought on feelings of stress and fear. The limitations of my H1-B visa make the job search process even more challenging and limiting. I am limited to finding employment within my field within 60 days, or I will be forced to leave behind the life I have built in this country over the past 11 years. This not only means I cannot take advantage of any unemployment benefits, but I am also unable to engage in any side businesses or other means of income while I search for my next opportunity. Despite paying taxes in this country for years, I am left with very few options.

Although my time at this company had been largely fulfilling for the past 6 years, the past 6 months were a stark contrast and left me feeling disillusioned. Despite this, I am grateful for the support and guidance of my past managers and colleagues, who are truly talented individuals. The end of my journey with this company is bitter, but I am determined to rise above the disappointment and use it as fuel to come back even stronger. I will rise from this setback stronger and better, and continue to push forward towards success. Onwards and upwards!

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