Northwestern computer science students express worry, bleak optimism following mass technology layoffs


Illustration by Gemma DeCetra

Many major tech companies, including Microsoft, Google and Amazon, have recently laid off thousands of employees, having some McCormick and Weinberg seniors worried about future career opportunities in computer science.

Michelle Hwang, Reporter

Recent layoffs seen in the technology industry have some Northwestern students — particularly Weinberg and McCormick seniors — worried as they prepare to enter the workforce. 

“There’s a bit of worry among software engineers now,” Richard Jo, a McCormick senior studying computer science, said. “This is especially true for seniors who are just graduating college, because it seems like the entry-level (computer science) market for new graduates is a bit saturated.” 

Some technology companies, including Amazon, Google and Microsoft, have laid off more than 70,000 employees in the past year.

Si Woo Park, also a McCormick senior studying computer science, interned for the tech company Meta last summer. 

He said he recognized hints of a downturn in the tech industry after he and other interns did not receive a return offer at the end of their internships.

“(Meta announced) that return offers (are) going to be more rare and harder to get because of the state of the economy and how the company was doing overall,” Park said. 

Meta reported that its business and research unit, Reality Labs, lost $13.7 billion in 2022.

Park said he considers himself lucky since he began looking for alternative job opportunities in the tech field earlier than many. Some students who were promised positions at technology companies found themselves scrambling to find work when their offers were rescinded, he said. 

Seniors are not the only students worried about the layoffs.

According to Weinberg junior Lisa Calegari, computer science majors start to feel pressured to obtain job experience as early as their sophomore year. The recent number of layoffs has only intensified job demand, she said. 

“I think the hardest part is breaking into the field,” Calegari said. “I think before this recession it was already pretty competitive. That’s why you really want to be able to get internships and build up project experience. And I think it’s going to be a lot harder now and potentially in the future.”

Calegari, who secured a summer internship with mid-sized tech company Okta, said she plans to begin preparing for next year’s recruiting cycle as early as possible. 

For McCormick freshman David Fu, his attitude — shared by some other freshman studying computer science — can be summed up in six words: “I don’t want to think about it.”   

Even so, as a result of the recent layoffs, Fu said the talent pool for computer science positions may be more competitive than it was a few years ago.

“I think it’s very clear to most people that you got to work harder, you have to put more energy and more focus than you did before,” said Fu. 

Helen Oloroso, assistant dean and director of the McCormick Office of Career Development, encourages students to be optimistic despite the recent layoffs. 

She said students should have a Plan B in place and not be discouraged when applying for positions.   

“If a student were reading this piece, I would want the student to be optimistic and encouraged and not take those big, gloomy tech headlines to heart too much,” Oloroso said.

Despite prevailing worries, Oloroso said there is a constant need for computer science skill sets and that the field is not dying. 

Fu also recognizes the advantages of attending a university like NU, which has robust alumni connections and a well-recognized name.

“Northwestern students have so much of a leap compared to a lot of other students in the nation,” Fu said.

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