When Pierce Kelaita became a software engineer in Silicon Valley, he was following in his father’s footsteps. His dad, Paul Kelaita, is a 36-year industry veteran who coded his way through NASA, Yahoo! and a slew of Bay Area startups.
At 24, Pierce snagged an enviable engineering position at Meta immediately out of college. But as the tech industry started to shed employees and rumblings of a recession grew louder, Pierce knew it would only be a matter of time before he was let go.
“We knew that layoffs were coming,” Pierce said. “But being on a higher performing team and actually being a high performer myself, I was very surprised that it happened when it did.”
By the end of 2022, the father-and-son coding duo were laid off by their companies: Paul was a vice president at Mad Mobile, a restaurant software company. Pierce was one of the 11,000 Meta employees who were laid off in November, just four months after Paul lost his management position.
“[Mad Mobile] ended up laying him off around the same time that I got laid off, so we really bonded over that,” Pierce said. “He’s also coming out with some of his own apps and getting back into the nitty-gritty of the code, so it's really, really cool that I'm able to share that vibe with him.”
“[My startup team] all came to the conclusion that this was basically the best thing that could have happened,” said Pierce, who has since co-founded a startup company with fellow laid-off tech worker Stephen Campbell, who was let go from Airtable in December.
Some 110,000 tech workers have lost their jobs in 2023 alone. Upheaval in the banking sector and general economic volatility caused numerous tech companies to off-load employees left and right.
The Kelaitas represent how far-reaching the tech industry’s layoffs are. Not just affecting recent graduates or entry-level employees, many companies’ restructuring efforts ended up slashing middle management, including senior employees in high-paying positions.
“I don’t think you want a management structure that’s just managers managing managers, managing managers, managing managers, managing the people who are doing the work,” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during an internal employee Q&A, according to the Verge.
When he was laid off, Paul Kelaita was an executive at an e-commerce company that had bought up a Silicon Valley venture, CAKE Corporation. But as someone who had been with the company for more than a decade, his layoff left a sour taste in his mouth.
“I could see the writing on the wall, in that [Mad Mobile] was building a team that they wanted locally, [...] that they wanted to grow within the company what they already had,” Paul said. “It really didn't shock me, but it felt a little negative on my side because I had been there since basically 2011 and had gone through these different permutations of the company.”
In the nearly nine months since being laid off, Paul coded and published two apps on the Apple app store, and he’s currently enrolled in wine classes from his home in Napa Valley. With a penchant for data analytics, coding and a good sauvignon blanc, Paul says he hopes to combine his love for wine with his passion for working with small businesses.
“I think in my industry and in my circle and I've seen this before: The people I work with at very high-tech companies doing cutting-edge tech things later leave, and they're working for a local mom-and-pop shop, doing something technical for them,” Paul Kelaita said. “That's kind of what I was looking for, by talking to different wineries and, and companies related to the wine industry.”
Liz Lindqwister can be reached at [email protected]