How to lose two jobs in one year

Irina Truong
6 min readFeb 20, 2024

and learn to accept imperfection

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The year 2022 was stressful. My family was trying and failing to buy a house, because the housing market was insane. Of course, this was a first-world problem. On February 24, 2022, the Russian army invaded Ukraine, my home country, which I left in 2010, but still consider home. Friends and relatives lost homes, jobs, and any security in their future.

But to me personally, what happened on November 30 of that year was the biggest shock of all.

I was in the middle of my work day. I noticed an email dropped in my inbox, and I opened Gmail to read it. The email cut right to the chase:


Earlier today, Elastic announced that we are reducing our team by 13%, and unfortunately, you’ve been included in this action.

The rest of it was details. I love details. The details are great. They give you the sense of being grounded in reality, even though the brain is trying to reject it. However, I was not able to process the details just yet. I had too many feelings to get over. So I screamed and cried.

My husband ran over and started asking questions; he probably thought someone died. To me, it was almost like someone did: my identity as a software engineer. I had been a software engineer for twenty years, most of them in senior and lead positions, and I believed that good engineers don’t get laid off.

I was naive.

As layoffs go, Elastic was great. I was out of work immediately, but I was kept on payroll and benefits for the month of December. I also received 14 weeks of severance pay and 6 months of healthcare coverage.

I cried for a few days, but I had to pull myself together and start looking for a new job ASAP. Of course, we postponed our house search. We had savings, but I didn’t want to dip into them, and I also was the one to provide medical insurance coverage for my whole family, because my husband worked as a contractor with no benefits.

I had a lot of connections with my ex-coworkers. One of my coworkers from was just hired at Coiled, a data engineering startup. Coiled is the company behind Dask, a distributed data processing framework written in Python. I have been interested in Dask for a long time, so I applied for one of their open positions. I was able to pass their interviews, and I started a new job as a backend engineer in Coiled in January 2023.


I learned a lot while working at Coiled, but it was very different from Elastic. Elastic was a large company, where every process was structured and formalized. Coiled was a small startup where directions changed all the time, and nothing was ever clear-cut. In addition, I still felt shell-shocked after the Elastic layoff. I no longer had confidence that I was a good engineer. So I thought, perhaps I should keep a low profile, listen more, speak less, work hard, and concentrate on being as useful as possible.

To this day, I don’t know what went wrong with Coiled. Perhaps the decision to keep a low profile was wrong. Perhaps I wasn’t useful enough. I never felt that the more senior engineers on the team fully accepted me; I didn’t have a feeling of belonging. Still, some of the teammates I worked with were great, we collaborated very well together, and I believed that the rest of the team would accept me too, once I became more experienced with the project and could deliver more value.

In July 2023, my manager started a regularly scheduled 1:1 (on Zoom, because everyone was remote) with the following phrase:

I have bad news. We have to let you go.

I wish I had taken the news well (I didn’t). Still, the second time around the blow was less sharp. I guess humans can get used to anything.

A mass

This time, I didn’t have as much protection in terms of severance pay. Coiled gave me 6 weeks —not too bad for a startup. I started searching for a new job immediately, but I was not as lucky. It took me a lot longer to find a new job. It was August 2023, more and more companies embraced the frugal mindset, and the market was flooded with engineers laid off from Twitter, Google, Meta, etc.

While I was looking, something else happened.

I needed to have surgery (not life-threatening). With Coiled, I was covered by medical insurance until the end of August, and I asked the surgeon to please try and schedule it while still within coverage. As part of a pre-surgery checkup, the doctor sent me to have a lung X-ray. An hour after the X-ray appointment, when I had barely got back, I received a call from the doctor.

“The X-ray shows a 3 cm mass in your lung. You need to schedule a lung CT as soon as you can. You might have to postpone this surgery.”

I asked what kind of mass it was; she said it was not clear without further testing. I called the X-ray place. The earliest CT date they could give me was ten days away.

They were the longest ten days of my life. I kept thinking how, if the worst came to pass, my kids (daughter and son, then 9 and 3 years old) would have to grow up without their mom, and how hard it would be for them to see me dying. I was still studying, doing job interviews, and handling recruiter phone calls.

After the CT, I received a phone call from my doctor within hours:

“Ms Truong, can you talk? It’s good news.”

“Yes, of course”.

“The mass in your lung, it’s scar tissue. Have you ever had pneumonia?”

“Yes, I had it as a student, around twenty years old.”

“Well, that’s probably what did it. Everything is well. You are clear to have your surgery.”

It’s hard to describe what I felt. I was very happy, but it was more than just being happy for myself. I was (irrationally) happy for my kids. They won’t have to grow up orphans. Not this time, Universe. Not this time.

The surgery happened on schedule, within the insurance coverage, and was a success. The recovery was painful and took weeks, but that was expected.

Something else changed. Suddenly, the two layoffs stopped being of any consequence. They quite frankly didn’t matter anymore.

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Rhett Butler, Gone with the Wind (1939 movie)


The ups and downs of 2022 and 2023 shook my confidence badly. I didn’t feel like I could or should write articles anymore. I was still wondering if I could be of any value to any company again, or anyone else, for that matter. The happiness of not dying gave me some peace of mind, but it wasn’t enough to overcome all the other things that happened. So I stopped writing about software development, data analysis, or anything else; I didn’t sign up for any conferences or meetups; I didn’t regain the ability or desire to speak in public. I hid.

This is not a story of a hero. This is not a story about conquering all obstacles. This is a story about imperfection. About struggling, stumbling, and blundering through life.

I accepted a few axioms:

  • Anything can happen to anyone. War? It can happen to me. Cancer? It can happen to me. I can’t control everything.
  • I will never be able to protect my kids from everything either.
  • My work is only part of my identity.
  • I am not, and will never be perfect.
  • Change is inevitable.
  • I’m not alone.

A lot of friends stepped up and helped with advice, referrals, or simply words of support and encouragement during this time. I’m immensely grateful to all of them.

The war in Ukraine is still ongoing. My family still doesn’t own a home. However, I did eventually find a new job. I have a great team, a challenging product to work on, and a source of income again. I’m absorbed in my work and starting to breathe again. And the feeling that I have something to say that’s worth listening to is starting to return.

Thank you for listening.