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Shakeout Shakes Up Jobs Scene

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
3/23/2001

ANAHEIM, Calif. –- OFC2001 -- A shakeout is definitely underway in the optical networking market. Some startups, such as terabit router player IronBridge Networks Inc., have closed shop entirely. Some have been forced to lay off workers, as in the case of Zaffire Inc. and Mayan Networks Inc. (see Ironbridge's Last Ditch Efforts Fail, Zaffire Fires 20% of Sales Team, and Mayan Ruins?).

Even larger companies like Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and JDS Uniphase Inc. (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU) have announced big cuts in the last few weeks (see Cisco Slashes Jobs, Costs and JDS Uniphase Announces Layoffs).

How has this affected optical networking companies still standing and hoping to grow?

That’s the question Light Reading asked of company recruiters at this year’s Optical Fiber Conference job fair in Anaheim, Calif.

Companies looking to fill positions appear to be benefitting from the shakeout. But even with the pool of applicants growing, finding top talent is not easy.

What are the toughest positions to fill? Optical engineers specializing in packaging and design, and software experts. Engineers who focus on more general applications and handle process manufacturing tend to be easier positions to fill. One reason is that these jobs can often be filled by people from the semiconductor industry, which has itself experienced a bit of a shakeout. (Of course, some recruiters note, many, if not most, of those losing their jobs are not technical people at all.)

The falling Nasdaq has done plenty to help smaller companies recruit talent from bigger players like Cisco, Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), and Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU). Mark Downing, a technical recruiter with OptiMight Communications Inc. located in Silicon Valley, says that Cisco used to be one of the tougher places to tear people away from, but now things have gotten much easier.

"People who haven’t been there too long see their options sitting underwater," he says. "And they’re a lot more likely to leave now than they were before. It’s not such a hard sell anymore to get them to leave.”

On the other hand, the argument could be made that employees are focusing more on job and financial security, a trend that hurts very early-stage startups. So says Lynne Simler, a technical recruiter at Tellium Inc., an optical switch company that filed for its IPO back in September.

“I think things have changed over the past year,” she says. “It’s a real recruiting asset to tell people that we are a later-stage startup. People still want to take some risks with a pre-IPO company, but they aren’t willing to take as much of a risk as they were a year ago.”

Another effect of the shakeout is that job seekers are more modest about what level of compensation they expect, say the recruiters.

"Eight months ago, junior-level engineers were asking for a 50 percent increase in salary,” says OptiMight's Downing. “That’s just crazy. But now people are being a lot more realistic about what they can ask for."

Although some startups, like Onix Microsytems Inc., say that they have seen an increase in salary offers by as much as $10,000 over the past six months, most recruiters say that salaries are leveling off. On average, companies say that engineering salaries range from $70,000 a year for those just out of school to about $130,000 for individuals with 10 years or more of experience.

As one human resources director of a public optical networking company put it: “We’re finally back in control of the situation, and we’re able to call the shots more now than we did before.”

As for the future, most companies at the job fair openly stated that they were optimistic about their recruitment expansion plans, but at least one cautioned that 2001 would be a slow year all around.

"Things are definitely slowing down, and it doesn’t make sense to continue to hire new people at the same rate we were hiring last year," says the unnamed director of human resources, who didn’t want his name or his company’s name used. “I think it is a smart move, though. We just don’t know what is going to happen, and we have to manage our business the best way we can.”

-- Marguerite Reardon, senior editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com

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switchrus
switchrus
12/4/2012 | 8:40:58 PM
re: Shakeout Shakes Up Jobs Scene
Anyone who attended OFC last week should have come away from the show with a completely different view of whatG«÷s happening in the business.

While there is indeed a slow down in purchasing and expansion of Optical products right now, there is also a counter trend of companies using this slow down as a breather and a chance to do better engineering. The pace in building new Optical networks and infrastructure over the past two years has been furious, but has it been using the G«£rightG«• technology which lends itself to future developments ? That is the question.

My view of the show was nothing short of amazement and wonder at stuff that is in the lab right now. WhatG«÷s going be ready for prime time in another 9 months to a year will depend on the quality of the engineering teams behind the designs, not the marketing teams.

So talk of companies cutting back staff and going under may be a sign of some of the excess being taken out of the business. Those that can and do use this downturn to go back and do more engineering and less marketing will be the ones that are ready with the G«£killer productG«•, locked and loaded for bear when the business of Optics takes off again.
Light Droppings
Light Droppings
12/4/2012 | 8:40:57 PM
re: Shakeout Shakes Up Jobs Scene
Switchrus:

It is indeed in times like this that the next big players begin to emerge.

...but you're talking to the deaf and dumb at LR. Fundamentals and intellectual rigor have never been their game. Steve Saunders is the first to admit this - he is very, very proud that his "award-winning" staff's focus is not on in-depth technology and emerging trends, but more on sensationalism, inaccuracy and scandal. The latter stuff is selling for him much better, and his writers are not capable of sophisticated copy. They have neither the interest nor ability to match your observations.

Thing is - by focusing their skills on gunning down start-ups and incumbents alike, they have already begun to miss the New New Thing in telecom/datacom.

You should look to the analyst firms and other on-lines if you are looking for an earnest eye on the future of this industry and its promise.

I am not, as Steve loves to say "whining." Infact, I know Steve personally, and enjoy reading LR as much as I do furtively pulling down Penthouse magazine in the bookstore at SFO.

> Anyone who attended OFC last week should have come away from the show with a completely different view of whatG«÷s happening in the business.

While there is indeed a slow down in purchasing and expansion of Optical products right now, there is also a counter trend of companies using this slow down as a breather and a chance to do better engineering. The pace in building new Optical networks and infrastructure over the past two years has been furious, but has it been using the G«£rightG«• technology which lends itself to future developments ? That is the question.

My view of the show was nothing short of amazement and wonder at stuff that is in the lab right now. WhatG«÷s going be ready for prime time in another 9 months to a year will depend on the quality of the engineering teams behind the designs, not the marketing teams.

So talk of companies cutting back staff and going under may be a sign of some of the excess being taken out of the business. Those that can and do use this downturn to go back and do more engineering and less marketing will be the ones that are ready with the G«£killer productG«•, locked and loaded for bear when the business of Optics takes off again.
switchrus
switchrus
12/4/2012 | 8:40:55 PM
re: Shakeout Shakes Up Jobs Scene
The state of Journalism

You decry the state of Journalism at LR and the tendency to focus on G«£.... not on in-depth technology and emerging trends, but more on sensationalism, inaccuracy and scandalG«•. Journalism, or what passes for it on the Web, is about making a profit for the company that is creating the content through page views. TV and Web news is the same, scandal, titillation (Booth Babes...lol) and sensationalism sells. You want cold, hard, dry content, try IEEEG«÷s or other web sites. You want fiction, go visit a few of the companies web sites mentioned as having "exciting new breakthroughs".

Besides, you get most of the G«£realG«• news reading the message boards ;)
Peter Heywood
Peter Heywood
12/4/2012 | 8:40:54 PM
re: Shakeout Shakes Up Jobs Scene

I do find it rather amusing that folk that profess to dislike Light Reading spend SO much time on our site.

Why?

IG«÷ll tell you why. Because weG«÷re NOT doing what they say they want us to do.

WeG«÷re NOT acting like an extension of vendorsG«÷ marketing machines. WeG«÷re NOT caving in to bullying by folk with vested interests. WeG«÷re NOT trying to blind people with science. WeG«÷re actually trying to help folk understand.

At the same time, we ARE delivering analysis of breaking news as it happens, we ARE doing investigative journalism, and we ARE covering not just technology but also the other drivers of optical networking developments G«Ű money and people.

WeG«÷re also aiming to make you laugh on occasions. Our industry is full of wonderful stories, interesting characters, amusing anecdotes, drama. ItG«÷s exciting, entertaining, funny! We want to reflect this.

Finally, weG«÷re providing this forum, which allows folk to elaborate on our stories, point out omissions, and criticise us publicly when we get things wrong, as we do on occasions.

This is the way that journalism should work on the Internet. ItG«÷s new. ItG«÷s healthy. It takes a bit of getting used to, but itG«÷s MUCH better than boring old trade journalism.
ubwdm
ubwdm
12/4/2012 | 8:40:50 PM
re: Shakeout Shakes Up Jobs Scene
"While there is indeed a slow down in purchasing and expansion of Optical products right now, there is also a counter trend of companies using this slow down as a breather and a chance to do better engineering."

While this is what many startup people are thinking, it really reads like: Oops,
gold rush is over, shit, now we have to learn some real telcom stuff and figure out what
does "carrier class" mean.


cfaller
cfaller
12/4/2012 | 8:40:38 PM
re: Shakeout Shakes Up Jobs Scene
Light Droppings:

You've got to be kidding. LR does an article on how the downturn in the economy is affecting recruiting in the optical sector, and they back it up with facts (announced layoffs) and anecdotes (recruiter interviews).

Nothing inaccurate was stated in the article, and yet somehow you claim this is an example of LR's lack of fundamentals and intellectual rigor. You then proceed to go off on a rant about sensationalist journalism, blah blah blah...you lost me.

What is wrong with an article about job recruiting? Why is this an example of how bad LR is?

Oh, and by the way, never (repeat NEVER) listen to analysts when it comes to identifying trends. You would have lost your shirt by now- Wall Street is known for sinning in haste (throwing buckets of money at the new new thing) and repenting at leisure (stock market slowdown).
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