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AI is coming to big tech jobs, but not in the way you think

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AI is coming to big tech jobs, but not in the way you think

Aaron Damigos’ inbox received the dreaded and ubiquitous business update calendar invitation on June 3rd. The meeting included someone from HR, his manager, and his senior management, and ultimately resulted in the sudden end of his job as a web support associate at Microsoft.

Microsoft reportedly laid off about 1,000 people in early June, withdrawing from its mixed reality and blue cloud and also the consumer sales division of Damigos. An email to employees from Jason Zander, Microsoft’s executive vice president of strategic missions and technologies, was leaked. Business Insider, attributed a shift to investment in artificial intelligence: “Our clear goal as a company is to define the wave of AI and empower all of our clients to be successful in adopting this transformative technology. Along the way, we make decisions that align with our long-term vision and strategy while ensuring the sustainability and growth of Microsoft.”

Damigos, who lives in Tacoma, Washington, says he wasn’t told that a push into AI led directly to the end of his job, which involved helping customers understand how to use Microsoft products. But it’s clear that Microsoft, OpenAI’s biggest backer, is all for the technology. “I think, unfortunately, the shift toward working with AI has led to the deprioritization of some essential customer-facing functions,” says Damigos, who has been chronicling his layoff journey and showcasing his skills in Tik Tok. “I helped people understand how to use and understand the products effectively.” He adds that he felt his team had “a lot of potential” to deliver a better customer experience for Microsoft, but ultimately the company decided to make investments elsewhere.

Microsoft did not confirm the authenticity of Zander’s emails. “Organizational and workforce adjustments are a necessary and regular 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 exactly how AI will affect work in the long term, but many experts largely agree that AI will not 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 he will reshape it.” Some predict that this will be the case create more jobs—But some workers are currently training their own AI replacements. But the layoffs happening now show that AI hype, not futuristic AI colleagues, can cause thousands of people to lose their jobs.

Microsoft is not alone. Dropbox announced 500 layoffs in April 2023 and CEO Drew Houston acknowledged that AI had played a role. “In an ideal world, we would just move people from one team to another. And we have done that whenever possible,” Houston said. statement saying. “However, our next stage of growth requires a different mix of skills, particularly in artificial intelligence 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 mail in February: “A major goal will be to create the most popular and advanced AI products and services,” when Meta abandoned its “year of efficiency,” resulting in a downsizing of the company. Google has also funneled money into its anthropic AI developments, and its CEO, Sindar Pichai, warned of continuous cuts throughout 2024, which started in january. This comes despite Google reporting strong growth. “We are investing responsibly in our company’s highest priorities and in the important opportunities ahead,” said Google spokesperson Bailey Tomson. In 2023 and 2024, several Google teams “made changes to be more efficient and work better,” Tomson says. “Through this, we are simplifying our structures to give employees more opportunities to work on our most innovative and important advances and our company’s biggest priorities, while reducing bureaucracy and layers.”

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