After mass layoffs by big tech companies, many Indians working on temporary visas to the US face uncertain futures. Surbhi Gupta tells the story in her own words about her experience at Meta.
My mum was celebrating her birthday. It was my mum’s birthday and I was up all night to send her a happy birthday. That’s when I began receiving messages from friends regarding layoff announcements. All of them were anxious.
Around 6 a.m. here I got an email letting me know that I had been fired. Meta had hired me earlier in the year to be a product manager. Because I was performing so well, my team was stunned.
This was against the motto “work is worship”, which I learned early from my favorite teacher. It felt almost like the Titanic was sinking, as I lost access to my workplace, email and laptop. My LinkedIn network surprised me and I was delighted. Ex-colleagues, friends, and colleagues reached out to me in an extremely supportive manner, making referrals and introductions. This made me feel that I am not alone in the country and there are many who will care about me.
I am leaving Meta in January. My H1-B visa (a visa which allows foreigners to work in the US up to 6 years) allows me to remain in the US for 60 more days. Therefore, March 1st is my deadline to search for a new job.
It will be hard to find a job right now, as December is slow for hiring due to the holiday season. However, I am very focused. I’m in contact with several companies, and am exploring other options.
Meta will be missed most by me is my workplace and colleagues. Meta was a place where I could build a great product that millions can use. It also allowed me to take part in learning and development fireside chats. It would have been rewarding as a product manager to see my project grow.
I was taught by my parents to not give up on life. Because I can turn problems into opportunities, they tell me to keep my head up. I’m told by them that “aur kuch ga mil jayega” [you will find better]
My H1-B visa is what determines my ability to stay and work in the US. My H1-B visa was granted in 2009. I came to America in 2009, and have been working hard to develop my professional career through my intellect and strength. I’ve worked for prominent companies such as Tesla and Intuit. I built amazing products, received top ratings, paid taxes, contributed to the US economy over 15 years. However, I don’t feel I can stay permanently in America due to the restrictions of H1-B. My idol, Sushmita Sen from Bollywood, crowned me Miss Bharat California. New York Fashion Week was my first time walking the runway. My podcast is mys.
Because the US has a limit on countries, it takes forever for Indian H1B holders to obtain a green card (permanent residence). This causes unnecessary stress. When I check my status I get sometimes a wait time of 20 years, while other times it is 60 years.
Uncertainty can cause problems in our personal lives. My mind has always been confused about buying a house. Do I buy a home or do I need to sell it? Despite having applied for the YC [Y Combinator, an American tech start-up accelerator], my idea is not allowed to be started because I do not have a greencard.
Before turning 30, I had traveled to over 30 countries. But, I can’t travel as much because of my anxiety about having to face problems when trying to get my H1B visa re-stamped. My friends at PayPal and Google have shared their experiences about being stuck overseas.
Even my return to India has been curtailed. A while back, my travels to India were halted. My H1-B visa had to be stamped because I was going to a wedding. It took many months because it was going through random administrative processing. I didn’t know when it would get through. My marriage was hampered by the uncertainty and long wait. My marriage was ruined by visa problems. This was not my only problem, it also led to the breakdown of our marriage. Because I wasn’t sure when I could return to the US, I had to withdraw from a New York University semester. This is why H1-B holders have to cope with it.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, I have not seen my parents. They have not been able come visit me in three and a half years. Their parents are old and can’t maintain their health. My constant thought is, “If my parents require support, can I go and help them?” It is a huge impact on our lives that we don’t realize.
However, I see the silver lining in this whole experience. Spirituality plays a major role in my daily life. Sadhguru Ji is a belief and a follower. His followers are Indian yoga guru Jaggi Vashudev. According to him, we shouldn’t be limited by our profession or identify ourselves only as our job. The most common question in Silicon Valley is “Which company are you working for?” However, I’m still you and not just a product manger. Everybody should realize that they are much more than the company for which they work.