‘I was blindsided’: Coinbase candidates in employment limbo after job offers pulled

June 9, 2022, 2:50 PM UTC

Harish Rajanala was on vacation when the email landed.

It was the beginning of June, and the recently minted University of Texas at Austin graduate was aimlessly scrolling through his inbox when he came across the subject line: “Update to your Coinbase offer.”

Excitement coursed through Rajanala’s head. In about a month and a half, the 22-year-old was set to join America’s largest crypto exchange as a software engineer. And while over the prior few weeks the news cycle had been a brutal one for Coinbase—what with its first-quarter earnings disappointment, plunging stock, and hiring freeze being enacted—Rajanala wasn’t worried about his standing with his soon-to-be employer. Perhaps there would be layoffs down the road, Rajanala recalls thinking, but he would just need to perform the best he could to make it through any cuts to come. He was actually excited seeing the email sitting there.

And then, Rajanala opened it. He didn’t even have to read the whole thing to know, as his eyes quickly darted to the line about halfway down spelling out in no uncertain terms that Coinbase—the company whose offer Rajanala picked over five others way back in October—was pulling out as it prepared for a rocky operating environment in the months ahead.

“I was in shock,” Rajanala tells Fortune.

One week ago, with a bear market quickly taking hold in crypto, Coinbase made the decision to rescind “a number of accepted offers” and to extend its hiring freeze “for the foreseeable future,” chief people officer L.J. Brock wrote in a blog post at the time. “It’s become evident that we need to take more stringent measures to slow our headcount growth,” Brock wrote. Weeks earlier, Coinbase had revealed that it no longer planned to triple the size of the company over the course of 2022 as it originally set out to do and, a little while later, that it was refocusing its efforts on “revenue-generating products.” But Coinbase was taking the cost-saving measures to a new, and rare, level in removing offers from the table.

How many offers Coinbase ultimately rescinded is still not known. The company did not scrap every offer—some in parts of the company like security and compliance remained. But a “talent hub” set up by Coinbase to connect those impacted to recruiters and job opportunities shows that at least 300 people were hit by the cuts.

Now, would-be Coinbasers from all around the world—a group that includes current college students, new grads, mid-career professionals who had already left prior jobs in anticipation of joining the crypto exchange, and even veterans of Silicon Valley who support their retired parents financially—suddenly find themselves back on the job market and, in many cases, in limbo.

“I was blindsided,” one candidate who was scheduled to join Coinbase this summer and asked not to be named over concerns about impacting future job opportunities told Fortune. “I quit a job that I wasn’t required to quit. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do now.”

Coinbase is providing severance as part of the decision to rescind offers. Several people told Fortune that their severance packages ranged from one month to three months of salary, seemingly depending on the immediacy of their start dates.

The sting of having a job pulled out from underneath a candidate’s feet is far more than just financial, though. Critically, for some, a clock has now begun ticking on finding a new employer in the coming months who can sponsor their visa, according to social media posts from candidates. In a tweet on Monday, Brock wrote that Coinbase is reaching out to “all candidates who have immigration considerations” and that the company is providing “legal services” to those individuals.

Rajanala recognizes that he’s one of the lucky ones. He got two months’ salary for severance, and has already managed to line up interviews with a handful of companies for open positions. “I’ve already come to terms with it,” Rajanala, who lives in Houston, says. “I’m just trying to do my best to find my [next] career move.”

Still, the 22-year-old does not plan to wade back into crypto anytime soon—and he’s not alone.

The Coinbase saga has added a stink to working in crypto for plenty of new grads whose careers got stalled by the episode. “Personally, I’m not touching it with a 10-foot pole right now,” says a University of California at Berkeley graduate who asked not to be named and had an offer rescinded just days before the job’s start date.

When Ryan Riahi was interviewing with Coinbase for a software engineer position back in December, the UCLA senior, who is about to graduate, was as bullish as ever on crypto and blockchain. “I thought that crypto could really be the future,” Riahi tells Fortune. So when Coinbase offered him the position soon after, Riahi dropped the other opportunities he was exploring—including at companies like Meta and SpaceX—to sign up with the hope of helping to build the “future of the internet” in Web3. Today? Riahi is planning to stay away from crypto and Web3 companies altogether. There are “a million and one companies” to work at as a software engineer, Riahi says, and Coinbase has left quite the “bad taste.”

“Lesson learned. These companies, at the end of the day, care about the numbers more than they care about the people. You’re not necessarily a person to them,” Riahi says. “You’re a cog in the machine that can be thrown away.”

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