Since Thursday afternoon, when Elon Musk completed his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter and dramatically fired four of its top executives, company employees have been waiting for a message from their new executives explaining what happened. could happen next. What changes and what stays the same? Who will be fired and when?
At press time, however, no such message has reached the company’s approximately 7,500 employees. And with Musk reportedly aiming to make cuts before Tuesday, when many employees are expected to receive new stock awards, it looks like such decisions will come down to the wire.
The process has been frightening and disorienting, according to conversations with eight employees today and over the weekend. In the absence of official communications, workers searched Slack for clues and gathered in private Discords to share the latest rumours.
“Planning is underway and moving as quickly as possible, but it is not complete.”
In Slack, an employee shared a note he received from Leslie Berland, Twitter’s chief marketing officer. “It’s very destabilizing, I know, and the whirlwind of the press makes it worse,” Berland wrote. “Planning is underway and moving as quickly as possible, but it is not complete. Two things I wanted to make sure you all see is that Elon debunked that he was planning a 75% layoff and said it was wrong that he was trying or trying to rush a layoff before a vest on November 1. None of these things are true.
The Washington Post reported that the layoffs would affect around a quarter of staff, heavily impacting teams including sales, product, engineering, legal, trust and safety.
The turmoil has divided the company into roughly two camps: those nervously waiting to see if they still have a job after these cuts, and those frantically working to ship new features under threat of being made redundant if they don’t. don’t.
One thing that made people nervous was the Friday afternoon instruction that engineers print out the last 30 to 60 days of code they had written, like Platform was the first to report. It was part of a set of metrics Musk and his team undertook in an effort to identify Twitter’s top and bottom performers as a precursor to layoffs.
Musk took over 50 Tesla employees to Twitter to help with the transition, CNBC reported. One employee we spoke to said he received a late-night call from a Tesla engineer asking about his team and the company’s most-valued engineers.
Frustration over the lack of information has spilled over into the company’s Slack channels. An employee wrote this:
since no type of leadership seems willing or interested in filling the void: if you’re feeling gloomy and dismayed right now, I just want you to know that you’re not alone. it sucks.
I want to give special thanks to our fellow visa holders and others with precarious employment needs and relationships.
wishing everyone a quick and smooth journey to job stability and security, wherever we all land.
In other Slack channels, employees share contact information in case they suddenly lose access to their communications, another employee told us.
“It’s absolutely Hunger Games, but everyone in the game is trying to help each other out,” the employee said.
Musk urged engineers to work on at least two major projects and complete them within days or weeks. One concerns changes to Twitter Blue that would require users to pay to keep their verification badges, possibly up to $20 per month. The second, which Axios First reported today and which we can confirm, is a plan to relaunch the short-form video app Vine, either as a standalone product or as part of the main Twitter app. Our colleague from The edge Alex Heath reported that if Blue changes, features must be delivered by November 7 or the team will be terminated.
The Vine project has had moderate enthusiasm so far, we’re told. More than a dozen engineers volunteered to take part in the project after Musk gave it the go-ahead on Sunday night.
“You are all software engineers. You know what needs to be written and improved. Do it. You are responsible.”
Other employees are encouraged to build something – anything – and show it to Musk. In a Slack message we saw, an engineering director urged his team to come up with new products and features and share them directly with their new CEO. “At best: you will have feedback. You may be asked to ship it ASAP,” the director wrote. “At worst, you will be asked to stop and work on something else. Even then, at least you’ve been working on something you love.
“Please don’t wait for an opportunity to be presented to you,” the manager added.
Similarly, on Monday, Behnam Rezaei, senior director of software engineering at Twitter, sent a note to his team acknowledging that “big changes” were coming. “I think the biggest change will be the cultural change,” he said, according to a copy of the email obtained by Platform. “Some good, some bad.”
Rezaei attempted to rally the troops, telling the engineers to focus on the dispatch code as quickly as possible:
So if you’re asking what I should do now: do a good job of engineering. Write code. Fix bugs, keep the site up. I know the criteria for being on Twitter are as follows. This isn’t about working on some fancy project for Elon. The right culture change is shipping and delivery. I encourage you to focus more on coding and shipping, and less on documentation, planning, strategy, etc. If you want to be part of a “special” group this week, code and ship 5x like [much as] before. Building what Elon asks for or finds sexy is not the criteria. Being impactful and changing products and helping our users are the criteria. So you don’t need orders from me. You are all software engineers. You know what needs to be written and improved. Do it. You are responsible.
Not everyone is upset by the heightened urgency of the business, we are told. Twitter has long suffered from a slow pace of product development; some employees we spoke to found Musk’s unrestrained approach to product development at least somewhat refreshing.
But Musk’s attention can also be disconcerting. One employee we spoke to said he had mixed feelings about working on a project that Musk is known to focus on, like Vine.
“Normally, I’d be happy to work on that,” they said. “But that’s like asking the Eye of Sauron to look at you.”