AI is coming for big tech jobs — but not in the way you think


A dreaded, ubiquitous business-update calendar invite arrived in Aaron Damigos’ inbox on June 3. The meeting included human resources, his manager, and someone from higher management — and ultimately led to the abrupt end of his job as a web support associate with Microsoft.

Microsoft reportedly laid off about 1,000 people from its Mixed Reality and Azure cloud departments and Demigos’ consumer sales division in early June. An email sent to employees by Jason Zander, executive vice president of strategic mission and technology at Microsoft, was leaked to Business Insider, describing a move towards investing in artificial intelligence: “Our clear focus as a company is to define the AI ​​wave and empower all of our customers to succeed in adopting this transformational technology. During this time, we make decisions that are consistent with our long-term vision and strategy while ensuring Microsoft’s sustainability and growth.”

Damigos, who lives in Tacoma, Washington, says he wasn’t told that promoting AI directly led to the loss of his job, which involved helping customers understand how to use Microsoft products. But it’s clear that Microsoft, OpenAI’s biggest supporter, is fully in favor of the technology. “I think the shift toward AI work has unfortunately deprioritized some of the essential customer-facing roles,” says Damigos, who has been describing his layoff journey and showcasing his skills on TikTok. “I helped people understand how to use and understand products effectively.” He said he felt his team had “a lot of potential” to build better customer experiences for Microsoft

Microsoft did not confirm the authenticity of Zander’s email. “Organizational and workforce adjustments are a necessary and routine part of managing our business,” says Microsoft spokesman Craig Cincotta. “We will continue to prioritize and invest in strategic growth areas for our future and in support of our customers and partners.”

No one yet knows how AI will affect work in the long term, but many experts agree that AI won’t replace most workers anytime soon. “AI will reshape the labor market,” says Nick Bunker, director of economic research at job board Indeed. “It’s just not clear how it will reshape it.” Some predict it will create more jobs — but some workers are currently training their AI replacements. But the layoffs happening now show that AI hype, not future AI coworkers, could cost thousands of people their jobs.

Microsoft isn’t alone. Dropbox announced 500 layoffs in April 2023, and CEO Drew Houston acknowledged that AI played a role. “In an ideal world, we would simply shift people from one team to another. And we’ve done so wherever possible,” Houston’s statement said. “However, our next phase of growth requires a different mix of skill sets, particularly in AI and early-stage product development.” Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg made similar statements about cutting jobs to invest in AI earlier this year, saying in a post in February: “A key goal will be to build the most popular and most advanced AI products and services,” as Meta kicked off its “Year of Efficiency,” resulting in a downsizing of the company. Google has also poured money into its anthropogenic AI development, and its CEO, Sander Pichai, warned of continued cuts in 2024, starting in January. This has happened despite Google reporting strong growth. Google spokesperson Bailey Tomson says, “We are responsibly investing in our company’s biggest priorities and the important opportunities ahead.” Tomson adds that in 2023 and 2024, many Google teams will make changes “to become more efficient and work smarter.” “Through this, we are simplifying our structure so that employees have more opportunity to work on our most innovative and important advancements and our biggest company priorities, while reducing bureaucracy and layers.”


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