She worked for Twitter. Then why she tweeted at Elon Musk?:- Solomon, a software engineer who used to work at Twitter, joins others in the media business who lost their jobs this year after publicly taking on their employers.
In the middle of a workday, Sasha Solomon, a 34-year-old software engineer in Portland, Oregon, puts her French bulldog, Bosworth, on a leash and walks down a leafy street to a favorite coffee shop.
It seemed like a normal November afternoon, or as normal as it could be for someone working at Twitter under its brand new owner, Elon Musk. Solomon ordered a latte for herself and a drip coffee with cream for her husband. Then he and Bosworth head back home.
Sitting at her computer on her living room couch, she tried to check the latest messages on Slack, only to find that her account was locked. He then removed his work email account or tried to. Also locked. She logged into her email account and saw something in her inbox from a human resources executive on Twitter.
“Your recent behavior has violated company policy,” the email said, according to Solomon. She turned to her husband and said, as she recalled in a recent interview, “I guess I don’t work here anymore.”
With this, Solomon became part of a small number of media industry employees who lost their jobs this year after using Twitter where they worked. In Solomon’s case, he directly challenged his boss in a series of tweets.
She said she’s not sure whether those tweets caused her to lose her job, or if she was one of about 3,700 Twitter employees who began being laid off shortly after Musk took ownership of the company in October.
When Solomon was growing up outside Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, she never imagined she’d end up working at a big company, much less tangle with a billionaire, she said. Even while studying computer science and math at the University of Idaho, she thought she would stay in her home state forever, she said.
But then a friend got a job at a tech company in San Francisco and suggested she look for work there. Solomon was hired by a Bay Area startup and soon landed a job at Medium as a software engineer. In December 2018, he started working on Twitter.
She joins the so-called Core Services Group, which oversees the platform’s digital infrastructure. His specialty was GraphQL, a query language at the heart of Twitter’s application programming interface.
For some time afterward, Solomon was representing Twitter at events and conferences, she said. “I started doing a lot more public speaking,” she said.
In October 2020, she and her husband, Mike Solomon, who also worked at Twitter, received permission to work remotely and moved from San Francisco to Portland. Earlier this year, she said, she was promoted to manager, a role that put her in charge of about 10 engineers. “I had many opportunities to grow,” Solomon said.
He liked the workplace culture of the company. “Twitter has always been about open expression,” she said. “Internally, we’ve always been very vocal. If you have something to say, you don’t have to worry about the repercussions.”
Solomon fills his own Twitter feed with the standard mix of the silly, the irreverent, and the earnest. Earlier this year, she posted lyrics to a love song about Diet Coke, photos of herself and her husband posing for a renaissance fair, and links to Twitter job openings.
In April, Musk announced that he wanted to buy Twitter. Solomon indicated his displeasure with the potential change in ownership in a tweet.
It included a picture of her usual coffee shop, with a sign in the window saying it was closed for a staff meeting. “She better not even buy my favorite coffee shop,” wrote Solomon.
Weeks later, Musk settled with the company’s board of directors. In one of his first public comments on the deal, he announced that he would “reverse the permanent ban” on former President Donald Trump on Twitter. Describing himself as a “free-speech autocrat,” Musk also said he hoped his critics would stay on Twitter because “that’s what free speech means.”
Solomon was mostly silent on the deal through the summer, when Musk tried to back away from the sale and lobbied for defection to Twitter’s board of directors. On 27 October, the sale was finally completed. Solomon responded with a tweet: “Ahhhhhhhhhhhh.”
The next day, his working life began to change. She’s heard old rumors about the tasks Musk wants to prioritize, but she and her aides have had little or no interaction with the new leadership team, she said. “There was zero communication, and I had no visibility,” Solomon said.
In early November, Twitter’s roughly 7,500 employees received a brief email from a general address: “To keep Twitter on a healthy path, we will be going through the difficult process of reducing our global workforce.” The note was signed “Twitter”. On November 3, some people at the company received emails indicating they would be laid off from work the next day.
That night, Solomon, her husband, and some co-workers went to the Dots Cafe, a lounge on Clinton Street in Portland. The phones were on the table, face up, she said.
As work friends chatted, they tapped into their phones, participating in chats on the Signal app with colleagues in London, Seattle, and San Francisco. Messages like “I’ve been hit” were flying across the screen, Solomon recalled. “You were watching your co-workers drop like flies,” she said.
By the next afternoon, his team of about 10 engineers had been reduced to four. Solomon and her husband survived a period of layoffs. The next week, he recalled, he waited for further direction from Musk or the new executive team. Nothing came, she said, except for an email warning employees that remote work would not be allowed with some exceptions.”
Many employees learned about Musk’s priorities by looking at his Twitter feed, where he frequently posts about company business to his more than 100 million followers.
On 5 November, he complained about the platform’s search function: “Search within Twitter reminds me of Infoseek in ’98! That would be much better too,” he wrote. The same day, he tweeted: “Twitter soon Will also add the ability to attach long-form text to Tweets, eliminating the absurdity of Notepad screenshots.
This was more than Solomon and many of his associates were hearing internally. “Radio silence,” she said. She started venting her anger on Twitter.
His first tweet in this vein came on November 6, when Musk announced a new rule in a tweet for Twitter users: “Any name change will result in a temporary loss of the verified checkmark,” he wrote. He posted that message after several people on Twitter changed their names to Musk, most of them mocking him.
Noting the new policy, Solomon tweeted: “Full legal names only.” She added: “For example, my full legal name is ‘sach @ the hellsite’, but if I want to change my Twitter name to ‘sach @ combination hellsite dumpster fire’ I need to submit my proof of legal name change Will happen.”
On November 10, during a week of frequent meetings on changes at the company, Solomon tweeted: “We will be scheduling multiple hands-offs every day until morale improves.”
His mood did not improve on November 13, when Musk criticized Twitter’s programming infrastructure in a tweet: “I want to apologize for Twitter being super slow in many countries,” he wrote. “The app is doing > 1000 bad batched RPCs just to render the home timeline!”
Batching of RPCs—which is a term for “remote procedure calls,” a data communications term—is directly related to the work of Solomon and his team. In an interview, she said that Musk’s tweet was wrong in her view.
If the Twitter app was slow in some countries, he said, “it wasn’t for the reasons he said. If he had come to me or my team and said, ‘How does it work?’ Then we would have explained it.
Solomon said he interpreted his boss’s statement as “a dig at the employees who maintain Twitter’s digital infrastructure (known in-house as “infra”). “I was so upset, I couldn’t let that slide,” she said.
She retweeted Musk’s post referring to “poorly batched RPCs” and added a comment of her own, in which she addressed him directly: “You didn’t lay off almost all the infra, and then how do we do batching?” Make some sarcastic comment about it,” Solomon wrote. “Like you even bothered to know how GraphQL works.”
Three minutes later, he followed up with a second tweet which included two expletives. In it, she told Musk that he had no right to criticize the people in charge of Twitter’s infrastructure “while you’re scrambling to rehire the people you hired.”
“It was a bit impulsive,” she said.
The tweets got a lot of traction, with thousands of likes and retweets, putting Solomon at risk of becoming Twitter’s main character of the day. The next day after walking to a coffee place from Bosworth she found herself locked out of her work email and Slack account.
The return of ‘Bossism’
There was a time in the not-too-distant past when employees of high-profile media companies could publicly complain on Twitter about what they thought was sexist, racist, or other otherwise inappropriate practices by their employers and still keep their jobs.
Let’s keep It seems that time has passed. In 2022, the relative tolerance that some employers once extended to whistle-blowing employees is wearing thin.
Before Solomon challenged Musk in a public forum, two people who worked in the media — Erin Overbey, an archivist at The New Yorker magazine; And Felicia Sonmez, a reporter for The Washington Post — gained a large Twitter following because of her frequent postings about the workplace cultures of her employers.
Overby posted threads in the magazine about pay inequality and diversity issues, as well as other workplace concerns. In July 2022, she stated in a tweet that she had been fired. Overby did not respond to requests for comment for this article. The New Yorker declined to comment.
Sonmez used Twitter to criticize the Post’s social media policy and other aspects of workplace culture. She was fired in June via an email that cited “disrespect” and “violating the Post’s standards on workplace collegiality and inclusivity.” Sonmez and the Post declined to comment.
Sonmez and Overbay were taking their concerns to social media audiences amid shifts in the balance of power at some media companies, according to Linda Ong, CEO of Cultic, a consulting firm in Los Angeles that advises companies on shifting cultural norms. Let’s give
“There was an employee empowerment movement that gained a lot of traction in the era of MeToo, in the early days of Covid, and after George Floyd was killed,” Ong said.
“But now inflation is high, a potential recession is looming, and corporations are under pressure. Elon Musk is the poster boy for the double whammy of old-fashioned capitalism.
He said, “‘Vocism’ is giving way to ‘bossism’ – the ascendancy of the C-suite taking its power back from employees.”
Like Overbay, Solomon shared the news that she lost her job through the same means that may have accelerated her unemployment: “lol just got fired” because of her post, she tweeted on Nov. 14. “I said it before and I’ll say it again,” she said, “kiss my ass, Elon.”
“I was a little salty,” she said, reflecting on her recent tweets.
The next morning, Solomon’s husband woke up to an email from Twitter. “Your recent behavior has violated company policy,” it said. He was fired without giving any explanation. (He didn’t tweet at Musk.)
Later that day, a friend texted Sasha Solomon to tell her about the account “TikTok’s Libs”, which has 1.7 million followers and is known for mocking employees of mainstream media companies, following Solomon’s footsteps. Shared screenshots of the latest posts. It seemed Musk was addressing Solomon when he responded to TikTok’s tweet on Twitter. “A sad case of adult-onset Tourette’s,” he wrote.
Solomon replied to him: “lol good one champ.”
Despite saying on Twitter that she was fired because of her tweets, Solomon said she was not sure why she was let go, noting that she had received no explanation beyond the email which stated that He “violated company policy.”
Along with nearly 100 other former Twitter employees, Solomon is being represented by labor lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan.
On Tuesday, Liss-Riordan filed a “Demand for Arbitration” on behalf of former Twitter employees, including Solomon, who say they are entitled to severance pay and other benefits should private arbitrators work through them.
Whatever the outcome, Solomon now finds herself out of a job she could not have imagined while studying computer science in Idaho.
“It was a big deal for me, to have a job like this,” she said. “My younger self would have been devastated. When I grew up, getting fired meant you were doing a bad job.
But he does not regret those tweets. “I feel good about everything I did,” she said. “Holding people accountable seems important.”
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