SpaceX, Tech Giants Perk Up Seattle Employment

January 10, 2016 – 11:34 pm

What’s New This Quarter

Among the more interesting visitors to Seattle in recent months was SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who showed up in January to outline a space-related business that he wants to build in the area. “SpaceX Seattle” plans to launch 4, 000 geosynchronous satellites, a network in space that could deliver high-speed Internet access anywhere on Earth. The satellites will be designed by software and aerospace engineers in SpaceX’s new engineering office in Redmond. Bloomberg reports that SpaceX could eventually employ “several hundred people, maybe a thousand people” in the Seattle area.

Facebook also continues its local growth spurt, with work on virtual reality goggles, drones, and data centers driving a Seattle hiring spree. The company wants to add nearly 1, 200 new employees globally, many in its Seattle-based Oculus Rift VR headset business, which needs experts in logistics, procurement, and global supply-chain planning. Facebook has 500 employees in Seattle today, up from 90 three years ago, and its latest real estate move—leasing 274, 000 square feet in the Dexter Station building and getting Frank Gehry to design the space—will make room for up to 2, 000 employees.

2015 may also see some new names grab attention, since venture capitalists invested a total of $1.2 billion in Seattle-area companies in 2014, the most the region has seen since 2007. The average investment size rose from $7.3 million to $11 million.

Other top hiring highlights:

  • HP will host operations for its new cloud-computing portfolio, HP Helion, in Seattle. With this initiative, 200 employees will drive HP’s growing cloud efforts in a local tech ecosystem that is increasingly friendly to cloud-based projects.
  • Best Buy is opening a technology center in Seattle as it strives to grow by innovating its online and mobile platforms. It joins Staples and Sears, both of which have also opened or expanded local offices to tap into the area’s tech talent. Best Buy will initially employ 50 engineers, product managers, and Web developers, with an eye on ultimately growing the staff to 100.
  • China’s Alibaba Group is hunting for talent in Seattle as it begins to build U.S. operations. According to LinkedIn data, Alibaba has already hired staff away from Microsoft and Amazon in order to improve its cloud smarts. But it won’t be a juggernaut anytime soon; the company currently has fewer than 300 employees in the United States.

Statewide, Washington’s tech industry employed 210, 800 people in 2014, making it the state with the ninth most tech workers in the nation, according to CompTIA’s “2015 Cyberstates” report. “Washington state has an extremely strong tech industry cluster, especially around software, ” said Kara Bush, director of State Government Affairs for TechAmerica. “Our software industry employs more than 55, 000 people in the state and is the largest of all the states. They help the tech industry contribute a remarkable 12 percent to the overall economy of Washington.”

Salary Trends

According to the “Cyberstates” report, the annual average wage for a Washington tech worker was $119, 300 in 2014, which was the third highest in the nation and 126 percent greater than the average private sector wage in the state.


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