Layoff and Grief: From Unemployed to Unicorn

I was laid off in the middle of July, and ever since then, my life has been turned upside down. I have spent weeks feeling like I wasn’t good enough to be a developer. Weeks feeling like I’m not good enough to be in tech. And weeeeeeeeks worried about money.

I started several new side jobs right before I was laid off and couldn’t celebrate. 

I announced I was a new LinkedIn Instructor with a course coming out in a few months. Not even 24 hours later, my full time job laid me off. I still don’t think I’ve celebrated this and I’ve been working for a while now. 

I was accepted as the keynote speaker for WordCamp Rochester but felt like I wasn’t even worthy of it. 

I was given an amazing opportunity to work for Underrepresented in Tech and work with Allie and Michelle, two amazing women that I love and adore. But I hadn’t even had a chance to tell people yet. 

It loomed over me like a shadow. I had never been laid off or fired before, and experiencing it when I was so happy and enjoying my work felt like a significant loss. Several people told me that they wouldn’t say, “This is ok.” or, “You will be fine.” I was experiencing loss, and I needed time to grieve. The five stages of grief would be a part of that. 

This past week, grief, a new start.

I accepted a new role as a Full Stack Engineer a few weeks ago, and I started this past week.

But. I wasn’t happy.

I had felt so inferior as a developer last year, when I got the email, I had a panic attack. Yes… when I received the good news, I freaked out and panicked.

What if I mess this up? What if I’m not good enough for them? What if I am a burden? That’s how I had been feeling for ages. 

Well, I started the job on Tuesday and throughout the week those thoughts were still there. By Friday afternoon, I had submitted a fix to a bug that had stumped not only my boss but the Senior Dev as well. 

 My last thoughts before I clocked out were…”I am a good developer! Holy moly! I think I can do this!!”

Being Laid off, How do you feel?

Let me tell you 0/10 do not recommend. (Like we can control it). My mom received unemployment right before I went off to college back in 08. She was laid off during the financial crisis under Bush. Do you know unemployment is the same amount in South Carolina as it was 15 years ago?

And even still mine never processed. 

If it wasn’t for the opportunities given to me by Allie and Michelle of Underrepresented in Tech, getting hired on by Linkedin/Microsoft and the generous severance I received from my old job, I don’t even think I would be writing this now. I would’ve sold this iPad. While I can see the sun on the horizon…a good bit of my other colleagues cannot and that makes me both sad and scared for the many people facing financial problems and layoffs around the country. 

What does the future look like for Ny?

Honestly, the day I received the layoff was the day I knew I was leaving the WordPress community for good. I was tired of feeling like I wasn’t good enough. I have NEVER stayed anywhere where I felt like I wasn’t good enough. And I took it as a lesson learned. 

But. I was taught a few more things.

I am too hard on myself. (surprise surprise). There were people with less skills and more confidence than I on their 4th or 5th WordPress stint. Mostly white guys too. Why would I give up just once? Do I not deserve second chances? And the worst thing I’ve done is not believe in myself. Them….hmmmm…..

So guess what? I’m staying. If mediocre racists, homophobes, sexists, and just awfully terrible people can stay. So can I, and I can make them eat their words as well. 

People around the community like to call me a unicorn. (I prefer sexy baby giraffe.) I like to think it’s because I’m cute but no. Typically because I can do a wide variety of things, not just code. So I named it after that. To remind myself, I have talent, skills and I can do this.

What about work?

I want my own business. I’ve learned that. There is just no way to be secure, mentally and financially in today’s world when you don’t have a backup plan. Pulling in multiple streams of income was what I was starting to do when I took on these other jobs, but I wasn’t quick enough. As I sit here, I think about what would’ve happened if I didn’t have those side gigs? If those people had not believed in me? I would be at the mercy of an unlivable unemployment that never came. 

I never want my livelihood solely out of my hands ever again. 

Any advice for those in similar situations?

First off, if you just got laid off or fired. Please relax. I don’t think I did the entire time. I put in two applications the day I got laid off. And you know what happened?

I had massive panic attacks. I never grieved what I lost. I couldn’t even tell my family until they asked, “Why I couldn’t afford to make it to my aunt’s funeral” a few weeks ago. 

Take the time to stabilize yourself. Yes, I know you need the money, you need the benefits, you need a job. But you won’t be able to get that if you are not sane. 

Be kinder to yourself. 

Yes, I am very hard on myself but as a black woman, especially in the WordPress space, there are people who see you as inferior. They say more of you aren’t here and if you are you are here by affirmative action or that you were kidnapped into it. (You all must go look at why I say this, 10/10 craziest racist thing I’ve ever read in my life, and people reached out to support those who said it too.) I have never in my life not worked hard. I have never in my life not excelled. This was not only a blow to my wallet but my self esteem. 

And it shouldn’t have been. Again. You can’t tie your self worth to things beyond your control. You are you, and you are excellent because of that. You’ll find that wherever you go as long as you don’t give up. 

I am going to sit back and rest for the first time in a really long time. This week was go go go and the next few months will be go go go as I release a new course for Linkedin Learning, keynote at WordCamp Rochester, and moderate an amazing series of panels for Underrepresented in tech. All while adjusting to my new role as a Full Stack Engineer and trying to find a sugar daddy start my own business. 

If you pray, pray for me, that I find peace and also the freedom to live my life as greatly as I want. If you don’t, send good vibes that I can. If you are just mindful, keep me in mind as you have a good meal. 

Most importantly. Don’t give up on yourself.