I was working on a new nine-and-a-half-year partnership with the Olympics. This was literally my dream job and dream project. We were in an industry that is like the number one impacted — no one’s traveling. Marketing is always the first to go.
Work: Marketing manager for Airbnb, Berkeley, CA
Lost wages: $150,000-plus a year, currently receives unemployment
Our founder Brian Chesky really tried to be as transparent as possible. At one of our all-staff meetings, they announced that there were going to be layoffs, and they were going to cover 14 weeks’ severance and health insurance for a year, which is very generous. I’ve not heard of another company doing that. I was laid off in 2008 and I had nothing. Luckily, I wasn’t married then, I didn’t have my two kids, and unemployment covered my rent in my three-or-four-roommate New York City apartment. Now, I’m the primary breadwinner in the family and living in a pricey city.
I still didn’t think I was going to be impacted because I had been there for five years. But they wound up laying off 25% of the company and I think it was even double that in marketing. My old manager gave me the news. I just froze. I was numb for the next three days.
Airbnb has a really strong community. We all love each other. And I knew I was losing that. Working from home for two months, you feel like you’re on an island by yourself and trying to grasp for the buoy. I asked my new manager for a recommendation that day, and she said, uh, the fact that you could think of that right now is so crazy.
Team members started a Slack channel and we would invite people as we found out they were laid off. Oddly, I felt comforted that I’m in such good company because you’re one in a thousand among those laid off at Airbnb. Then you hear that it’s millions of people within the United States laid off — it puts things into perspective. I feel very, very lucky for my severance package. At the same time, you were hearing about all the big Bay Area companies laying off, and all these senior marketers are looking for jobs.
It’s a real change. I was the parent who was giving my kids frozen meals from Trader Joe’s because I didn’t have the time to cook. And look at me now, baking bread, growing my own vegetables. I started sewing face masks and sending them to friends in New York at the height of it. I was the person who defined myself by my work; sometimes I would see my kids for two or three hours a day. I really hope whatever my next adventure is that I’ll continue to prioritize family time. There are some huge lessons and gifts throughout this challenging process, you know?
There was definitely a grief process. It wasn’t just about losing a job. There were thousands of people dying. And a huge social justice movement — the horrendous death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor. It’s a lot. This grief process, it’s so different from any other unemployment — 2008, 9/11. It was just heartache after heartache.
You started to see these headlines of people waiting for hours and hours to get their payment. People are getting kicked out of their houses. Millions losing their health insurance. And the cases of Covid that swept through families. It made me realize, not that I’ve got it easy, but I can navigate mobile banking. I have my health. I have time to continue to pay off my bills and find something new, and not many people have that.