Amazon's new Headquarters--what do 25 thousand people do there?

Amazon is in the news a lot today because they’re abandoning New York, and there is much debate about how much NY is losing/gaining by not having 25000 new jobs.

So I got thinking—why does Amazon need 25000 people in its offices? What do they all do?

This is their office headquarters, not one of their distribution warehouses. (The distribution side of the business obviously needs thousands of low paid workers, drivers, etc.)
But these high paid HQ workers…what do they do?

Obviously, Amazon is a massive company, as measured in stock values.But it doesn’t produce massive amounts of product–basically its product is a single website .
Of course, it’s a huge website, and needs a lot of maintenance techs.
But not 25000.

And of course there are layers of management,and accountants and lawyers…but 25000 of 'em?
Just wondering…

One of my current coworkers recently worked at Amazon’s current HQ. He was a “business analyst”, which is a fancy way of saying he made charts and graphs for people.

Aside from their “marketplace” website, Amazon Web Services is a world-class infrastructure-as-a-service provider, they bought Whole Foods IIRC, and they produce their own line of digital devices (Kindle, Echo, Fire, etc). They’re also getting into self-driving cars. Basically, they’ve got a lot going on.

That’s not even close to their only product. Amazon is:

  • one of the dominant tech players in cloud based computing services
  • a major tv/movie studio
  • an ebook publishing company
  • one of the major players in streaming music and video entertainment
  • a company that designs and sells it’s own tablets and voice activated home assistants; they’ve also tried designing/selling a mobile phone
  • a major developer of artificial intelligence both for their own backend and to license to other companies; they also support DOD with AI development
  • a developer of drones

Retail sales through their website don’t even really make them much money. That part of the business operates at close to break.

Amazon’s job application page gives some indication of the kind of jobs they are hiring for. The largest category by far is software development, currently 7666 openings available - about half of them in Seattle, and about 1/3 of it for Amazon Web Services.

I think 25,000 would be a lot for just C-suite, finance, marketing, hr, strategy, etc. But presumably Amazon selected NYC for access to top talent in all areas (in addition to the tax benefit). That said, it’s clear they had a backup plan.

My SIL works for Amazon. In Manhattan. He worked for a smallish company that Amazon bought a couple years ago. They produce software that, among other things will take your body measurements (height, weight, leg length, thigh, hip, waist, chest, etc. measurements and produce a virtual body for fitting clothes to. This has obvious utility for Amazon. He had been assuming he would eventually wind up in LIC. Guess not.

Some of those 7666 openings were last updated 3 years ago. I don’t know if they are actually still open.

I have no doubt some of them figure out how to legally avoid paying taxes and hiding the loopholes.

Yea, their web services section is huge. From Wikipedia:

“During the 2015 re:Invent keynote, AWS disclosed that they have more than a million active customers every month in 190 countries, including nearly 2,000 government agencies, 5,000 education institutions and more than 17,500 nonprofits.”

Also, I assume that “25,000 jobs” number is from Amazon, as part of their campaign to get tax breaks and other subsidies from NYC/NYS. So you should treat it as any other number coming out of the mouth of a salesperson: there may or may not be some vague connection with the truth, but even if there is, it’s with all the assumptions carried to the edge (or beyond) of credulity. So that 25,000 would be a best-case scenario (again for some value of ‘best-case’ that you may or may not find believable), and certainly includes the janitors, snack-counter workers, fuss-ball table repair team, and anyone else Amazon could include, whether or not they’d actually be working directly on Amazon projects (or even working directly for Amazon).

And of course, it’s quite possible that had the development gone through, Amazon would have pulled a FoxConn in Wisconsin and said “Oh, about that 25,000 jobs, well now that we’ve got your money, we changed our mind and will have 5,000 employees there. Or maybe 250.”

It doesn’t produce massive amounts of product, but it does produce massive amounts of physical sales and deliveries. Sure, some sellers only use the platform and do the work themselves, but millions of orders are “fulfilled by Amazon” even when they aren’t just straight up sold by Amazon, requiring the hundreds of warehouses and fulfillment centers Amazon need to manage and coordinate.

Amazon also sells many things themselves, not just from third-party sellers. This involves teams to manage relationships with suppliers - buyers, account managers, etc.

Some of their clients:

Adobe, Airbnb, Alcatel-Lucent, AOL, Acquia, AdRoll, AEG, Alert Logic, Autodesk, Bitdefender, BMW, British Gas, Canon, Capital One, Channel 4, Chef, Citrix, Coinbase, Comcast, Coursera, Docker, Dow Jones, European Space Agency, Financial Times, FINRA, General Electric, GoSquared, Guardian News & Media, Harvard Medical School, Hearst Corporation, Hitachi, HTC, IMDb, International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, International Civil Aviation Organization, ITV, iZettle, Johnson & Johnson, JustGiving, JWT, Kaplan, Kellogg’s, Lamborghini, Lonely Planet, Lyft,, McDonalds, NASA, NASDAQ OMX, National Rail Enquiries, National Trust, Netflix, News International, News UK, Nokia, Nordstrom, Novartis, Pfizer, Philips, Pinterest, Quantas, Sage, Samsung, SAP, Schneider Electric, Scribd, Securitas Direct, Siemens, Slack, Sony, SoundCloud, Spotify, Square Enix, Tata Motors, The Weather Company, Ticketmaster, Time Inc., Trainline, Ubisoft, UCAS, Unilever, US Department of State, USDA Food and Nutrition Service, UK Ministry of Justice, Vodafone Italy, WeTransfer, WIX, Xiaomi, Yelp, Zynga.

I assume too for every ouside seller there’s the need for assorted teams to handle the whole cycle - finding new sellers or dealing with applications to sell on Amazon, coordinating the addition to web catalog, setting up the financial arrangement and how to forward orders, etc. Tracking the resulting commerce, monitoring for problems addressing customer complaints (or dodging them), returns issues, etc. It’s probably a rule of thumb that $X million in sales means Y% problems that need human intervention, etc.

Plus I assume there are teams to analyze web activity to determine what sort of things create more traffic, more sales; and to dig into other opportunities and collect the statistics to verify these things.

Usually the tax breaks are formulated so the company is required to employ so many new workers within a certain time (a couple years or so) or the break is revoked. Unfortunately, these employment requirements are not always enforced.