The scoop on benefits and culture in Amazon headquarters
Amazon's reach is global: it employs 750,000 workers, and in 2019 alone it had over 2.5 billion packages delivered. 2020 was a particularly great year for this tech giant, as the company has established more locations for Amazon Go, released a plethora of new Alexa skills and integrations, and brought many large government departments their AWS technology.
Amazon is located throughout the globe, with a whopping 234 office locations spread across 36 countries. Its main headquarters rests in the “Emerald City”, better known as Seattle, WA. Currently, this tech giant has 110 active fulfillment centers around the U.S. alone for storage and the distribution of products. Amazon has another 185 centers globally to serve other overseas demands.
With such an impressive reach, it comes as no shock that Amazon has an equally impressive headquarters. We'll break down everything you need to know about this massive structure.
Photo Credit: The Guardian
If you are ever wandering through Seattle and find yourself around the South Lake Union or Belltown area, there is a chance you are unknowingly standing in front of an Amazon HQ1 building. Vastly different from Facebook or Google's college-campus feel, Amazon’s campus is integrated into the urban life of the city.
The headquarters employs over 45,000 Seattleites and has over 40 state-of-the-art buildings spread all throughout South Lake Union, Denny Triangle, and Downtown. The heart of HQ1 is around 2111 7th Ave, Seattle, WA 98121 and is known as “Seattle Downtown Main Campus”. While it may be difficult to see how impressive the campus is due to its sporadic layout, back in 2018 Amazon held 8.1 million square feet around the city, and they have plans to expand to a net of 14 million square feet in the coming years.
The center of HQ1 lies within three blocks, called Denny Triangle, flanked by Blanchard Street, 6th Avenue, and Westlake Avenue. The central office buildings Doppler, Meeting Center, Day 1, and Amazon re:Invent are known as the heart of the campus. They are arranged around the Spheres of Amazon with foliage and parks between the massive buildings. This notable complex was completed only last summer, spanning around 3.3 million square feet. It has six specific buildings connected through paved paths, shops, lush plazas, dog parks, and eateries.
Photo Credit: Seattle Mag
The three high-rise buildings that mark Denny Triangle are impressive as well. Day 1, also known as Amazon Tower II, stands at 521 feet tall with 37 stories. Dopper stands at 524 feet high, appearing parallel to Day 1. At 37 stories, Amazon re:Invent looks across to the other buildings at the last triangle corner. Between these massive structures are three, intersecting 80 to 90-foot glass-and-steel spheres.
Photo credit: Architectural Record
Right next to Day 1 is the Amazon Spheres, a 60,000 square-foot exhibit with a greenhouse-like interior, where guests and Amazon employees may go to explore. A few steps to the east is Amazon re:Invent, adorned in hazy orange and floral pink-tinted bands, and is surrounded by seating areas, fountains, and even waterfalls. Next to Amazon re:Invent is a low-rise building garnished with rust-colored striated aluminum in the form of ribbons. This structure, The Summit, houses a daycare center on the first floor with a bonus flexible training area right above.
Photo Credit: UMC
Aside from Amazon HQ1, NBBJ has designed a plethora of architectural structures. In addition to corporate buildings, the company dabbles in landscape architecture, interior design, and even urban design. Examples include The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation HQ in Seattle, and Tencent Net City in Shenzhen, China. NBBJ also plans to construct Amazon’s second headquarters, HQ2, in Arlington, Virginia. This 2.8 million-square-foot future campus will be dubbed “PenPlace” and is expected to be completed in 2023. This design was developed through Amazon’s desire to have a sustainable and healthy campus for both its employees and surrounding neighbors.
In essence, the Amazon HQ1 holds special meaning for those who are part of its culture. Buildings like Day 1 even echo the history of the company. After its completion, Jeff Bezos announced that “this is Day 1 for the Internet and, if we execute well, for Amazon.com." This shows the company's commitment to constant innovation and technological development for its customers.
Photo credit: GeekWire
The intensity of Amazon's campus is reflected in its culture, which is not to be taken lightly.
Susan Harker, one of Amazon's top recruiters, advises “this is a company that strives to do really big, innovative, groundbreaking things, and those things aren’t easy...when you’re shooting for the moon, the nature of the work is really challenging. For some people it doesn’t work.”
While this may be discouraging to some, those up for a challenge may want to learn more.
👍 On the bright side, Amazon's culture promotes autonomy and teamwork. The company builds small teams and discourages unnecessary meetings. They also tend to mix their groups, allowing departments in different buildings to stay connected. These interconnecting teams are small enough to be fed by two pizzas. Today called the “two-pizza rule” by Amazonians is known as a company custom.
👎 On the downside, employees long complained about the company's Pivot plan. Under this plan, low-performing employees are given the option to accept severance or be put on a Performance Improvement Plan. Amazon notoriously issues these to the bottom 5% of performers each year, making it a competitive environment to operate in. Other commonly cited issues include poor work-life balance and a lack of perks, as compared to other tech giants.
There are many perks that are inherent to living in the city. In Seattle, you would be living in one of the nation's top tech hubs. Nearly half of all office jobs in Seattle are tech-related, meaning connections for employment are boundless. Other notable companies that share the area are Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook, and Snapchat. With such a central location, delicious restaurants and iconic spots are well within reach. For example, the Space Needle is less than a mile from Amazon’s headquarters!
Photo credit: Yahoo Finance
Because Seattle is one of the most dog-friendly cities in the U.S., it is no surprise that life in HQ1 will also center around your most loyal friend.
Not only does this campus have a public dog park between Day 1 and the Amazon Spheres, but employees have access to a private, dog-friendly area inside the Spheres. And as there are over 6,000 dogs accompanying employees every day, you and your pup will never be alone at work again.
Photo credit: Curbed Seattle
This structure, highlighting the advancement in engineering and horticulture, is the company’s dominant contribution to the city of Seattle. Within these three interlocking balls, there are over 40,000 plants throughout the four stories picked from the cloud forest region.
There are plenty of places to sit down and work, and even a restaurant to stop in! This jungle exhibit is open to the public and employees who are looking for a spot to eat, relax, or work.
Photo credit: Curbed Seattle
Within the larger buildings, there is still plenty to see. Whether you're looking to let loose or seeking to relax, Doppler has what you need:
Inside Day 1 on the 16th floor, you will find an open space area for both fun and work-related activities. This area contains foosball, a rotating art display, bean-bag toss, a comically large chess board, a ping pong table, and pleasing views of the Seattle area.
Photo credit: Seattle Mag
While employees are encouraged to explore independent restaurants nearby, they still have food options within the building.
If you’re an Amazonian at the Oscar building, just down the street from Denny Triangle, then you may enjoy lounging at the panoramic cafe on the 21st floor to view the city of Seattle.
Photo credit: Amazon
Once it’s time to get into work mode, there are many spots to which employees can focus. On the second floor of Doppler, you will find community stairs where employees go to work and people watch.
The building also holds a workspace with dividers that have been repurposed from the fulfillment centers' conveyor belts. If employees are in need of a private space to focus on a project or host a meeting, there are many small office rooms provided to workers.
Photo credit: Amazon
One unique aspect of the campus is the phone-booth style pods. These spaces have a small desk and seating area with large glass panels on either side. The primary use of these pods is for Amazonians to focus in a space they will not be interrupted; however, they can be utilized for a private phone call as well.
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