Main image of article Amazon HQ2 Will Pay Dearly for Machine Learning and A.I. Talent
Amazon plans on hiring 25,000 workers for each of its new mega-offices (collectively dubbed “HQ2”) in New York City and Virginia. Not to be outdone, Google announced that it would add 14,000 workers to its already-massive office in New York City’s West Village. That’s great news for tech pros in those locations—provided they have the skills and experience that Amazon and Google actually want. Both companies are intent on capturing the market for artificial intelligence (A.I.) and machine learning applications; for example, Amazon recently announced that it assigned 10,000 employees to Alexa, its voice-activated digital assistant. Google also competes with Amazon Web Services (AWS) in the cloud-services arena, a burgeoning market that will increasingly leverage A.I. in coming years. Over the past year, roughly one-fifth of Amazon and Google job postings have asked for machine-learning skills, according to an analysis by Burning Glass for the Wall Street Journal. Nationwide, only 3 percent of job postings ask for machine learning knowledge, which hints at just how hard Amazon and Google are leaning into these technologies. A.I. and machine learning are still relatively nascent disciplines, at least outside of university laboratories. Research and development costs are high, with many initiatives resulting in commercial products only after many years of work. In light of that, Amazon and Google are among the few tech firms that can even afford to hire and foster the necessary talent. In New York City, both companies will pay a pretty penny for A.I. and machine learning experts, according to Dice’s database: Although 238 local governments submitted bids for Amazon’s new headquarters, it’s clear in retrospect that very few cities could have provided the company with the deep pool of tech professionals it will need in coming years. Northern Virginia, thanks to its proximity to Washington, DC, has long positioned itself as a talent-rich tech hub; New York City is obviously another, especially since the local government has spent the past several years touting the metropolis as “Silicon Alley,” home to startups and tech giants alike. The talent competition within major tech hubs leads to higher salaries for tech pros—great for them, but aggravating for smaller companies that don’t have an Amazon-sized budget for talent. According to Dice’s most recent Salary Survey, tech pros in both New York and Virginia commanded big paydays last year: What does this mean for Amazon and Google as they build out their respective offices? Whether they’re hiring machine-learning experts or coders to work on their latest cloud applications, they’re going to pay a healthy premium for talent in New York and Virginia. Good thing the governments in both those states offered some sweet, sweet tax breaks.