With tech layoffs in the headlines, what does the future hold for students eyeing STEM jobs?
There’s never a shortage of encouragement from state leaders, as well as those in Utah's tech sector, for students to explore the possibilities of a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
But with news of industry layoffs, after layoff, after layoff, just how certain is a job in the technology space?
According to a tracker assembled by a San Francisco entrepreneur, layoff.fyi, 428 companies have laid off more than 120,000 employees since the start of 2023. The sting is also being felt in Utah as companies such as Podium, Qualtrics, Route and Pluralsight have reduced staff over the past six months.
While the news can be discouraging, executives believe that there will be a bounce back.
"[The] economy always goes through cycles, recognizing that this is not around to stay forever,” said Archana Thiagarajan, a senior director for User Experience at Adobe. “We will come out of this, technology is relevant despite what the economy is right now. It's not something that is just a seasonal fashion right now."
Thiagarajan was one of the professionals who spoke to a group of nearly 3,000 high school girls during the day-long Women's Tech Council SheTech Summit on Feb. 28.
"While it does sound like it's bad right now, I think technology is the way that we will respond back and [women] will have a huge role to play in rebounding back and scaling and making the right choices for the community and making ethical choices for the community," she said.
But even with layoffs, all may not be lost for those looking for work.
"No matter what kind of future you are interested in, I assure you that technology will be a part of it," Gov. Spencer Cox said during an appearance at the summit.
Cox believes tech will play some type of role in every industry across Utah. But having the right resources to connect job seekers to their next potential employer is critical. That's where organizations like the Women's Tech Council come in.
The organization connects high school girls with companies for mentorship opportunities to gain hands-on experience in STEM. They hosted the annual SheTech Explorer event.
“The more you know about tech, the more you understand how things work,” said President Cydni Tetro. “The more you know how to innovate and create and problem solve, the more demand there is for your job. And while we have this tech ecosystem going on, those skills are now necessary everywhere.”
The council believes the number of opportunities is infinite. Fashion design, cooking, journalism — technology is becoming a more central part of every career field.
"I really believe tech is the future today. It's about 21% of our overall economy and it's just going to continue to increase because it's so vital to everything that we are powering and building here," Tetro said.
Having a strong network of connections is also important, added Juliette Bautista, director of Club Ability. They're an organization that works to create diversity in computer science.
She credits resources like Silicon Slopes which connects those who have lost jobs with networking opportunities.
"And the thing is, when you are in a layoff or you come [to the states] as an immigrant to get a job in tech, the reality is you need to create your network support … why? Because they don't know you. They don't know you're in school. Maybe they don't know your university. You need to show your ability. You need to show your talent. You need to ask for help."