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Big booms and busts in the tech job market, combined with huge earning potential, has turned many of its workers toward a new professional networking platform offering crowd-sourced compensation data and unfiltered job reviews.

The app, Team Blind, caters to the likes of programmers, data scientists and computer engineers who value its anonymous insights, particularly when the employment market is feeling choppy.

For example, in January, 2023, Microsoft announced plans to lay off 10,000 workers. That same month, 9,000 employees at the company joined Blind using their company e-mails, according to Rick Chen, the app’s spokesperson. As the latest round of layoffs hits the tech sector, the app is seeing membership grow again.

Blind’s biggest appeal is the all-access pass to salary transparency. Members are drawn to what they call “TC” – total compensation – across global tech companies, which includes salary, stock options and signing bonuses.

Through anonymous discussion threads, groups and private chats, Blind users can view the latest compensation data from employees across hundreds of tech firms, from startups to tech giants. Amazon, Microsoft and Google are among Blind members’ top employers.

“On most job boards there can be huge discrepancies and ranges of hundreds of thousands of dollars between the minimum and maximum – it can be very outdated,” said Kyle Elliott, a tech career coach and business consultant.

Blind is different, he said: “It’s really fresh, people are really active on it, you can ask questions – people are sharing salaries from 2024 rather than 2019.”

An offer evaluation – a popular type of Blind post – typically goes something like: “Accept Google Canada offer with a 25-per-cent cut?” followed by offer details and the hallmark sign-off: “TC: 210 USD” – that’s US$210,000 in total compensation. Comments either praising or berating the offer flood the thread.

The only thing Blind users know about each other is the company they work (or had worked) for, as the platform requires verified company e-mails to sign up.

Founded in 2013 by two tech workers from South Korea, Blind grew exponentially after COVID-19 lockdowns ushered mass layoffs followed by tech booms. Membership doubled between 2020 and 2022, according to Mr. Chen.

Today, Blind has over 10 million verified users, with three million joining in 2023 alone, according to Mr. Chen. Though it’s headquartered in the U.S, the platform’s Canadian membership more than doubled since last year, with around 100,000 verified users.

Much of the appeal is the exposure to a wide range of global tech salaries, or to see what others in their company are making. Once users verify their work e-mails, they can access groups just for people in their organization, anonymously comparing raises or bonuses – or frankly discussing big changes at the company.

For example, one software developer at Google – who lived in Toronto but moved to the U.S. after seeing how much his role paid on Blind – told The Globe and Mail that he has been able to see how the sentiment in his company has been affected by the recent round of layoffs. (The Globe is not identifying him because he fears retribution for his career.)

Such high level of transparency has gotten heat from Silicon Valley bosses.

“There’s power in anonymity – people feel confident stating their true salary on the platform but that also creates a lot of noise,” said Travis O’Rourke, managing director of Hays Canada, a tech staffing agency.

Anonymity also has its drawbacks, as members can exploit their ability to speak without implications to engage in crude comments that don’t mesh well with many senior-level professionals.

“The comments I saw immediately pushed me back. I said, ‘I’m not touching this platform,’ ” said Yasemin Sezer, a board member of CIOCAN, a non-profit representing Canadian IT leaders.

The platform can certainly feel chaotic: full of diatribes from dissatisfied employees and teeming with heated exchanges in the comments. But that might be a reflection of the culture and pitfalls in equity that the tech sector grapples with more broadly.

Seventy-five per cent of Blind users in the U.S. and Canada identify as males and 25 per cent as female or non-binary, according to Mr. Chen. Deloitte data shows that women represented roughly 33 per cent of employees across large global tech companies in 2022.

For Mr. Elliott, Blind’s benefits for pay transparency outweigh the downsides.

“My clients on the platform identify as members of historically oppressed groups: LGBTQ, BIPOC, neurodiverse,” he said.

He sees the platform helping those traditionally disadvantaged in job negotiations by letting them “access data that was behind closed walls.”

But Ms. Sezer notes its popularity spotlights the inadequacy of pay transparency legislation.

“Sure there’s social media communication happening on salaries,” she said. “But really, my question is why are we still hiding salaries in an organization?”

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