Amazon Development Centre

Published: 13 February 2018

More than 4,000 miles from its global headquarters in Seattle, Washington, the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon, employs a crucial team of people at its Development Centre in Edinburgh.

The hundreds of software engineers, machine learning scientists, designers and managers based here harness the latest technology and computer science to build features that help customers discover the products they want from the hundreds of millions available.

Scotland has a long tradition of innovation and the University of Edinburgh is top-rated for computer science, delivering world-leading and internationally excellent research...We’ve found that people want to come from all over the world to live and work here.

Graeme Smith, managing director, Amazon Development Centre

 

"Today we have Development Centres all around the world, but Edinburgh is where we laid a lot of the foundations for learning how to make remote R&D teams work in other time zones,” explains Graeme Smith, managing director of Amazon Development Centre Scotland. “We learned how to really enable those teams to move fast, innovate and run experiments without being overly tied to our headquarters in Seattle.

"Ultimately, we’re here for talent. Scotland has a long tradition of invention and the University of Edinburgh is top-rated for computer science, delivering more world-leading and internationally excellent research than any other university in the UK. That’s why we hold so much value in the partnership we have established with them. We’ve found that people want to come from all over the world to live and work here and – for those who want a major dotcom career – we offer a really compelling proposition.”

The Amazon Development Centre in Edinburgh was the company's first outside the US when it opened 13 years ago.

Attracting tech talent

Smith highlighted the benefits of Edinburgh’s tech ecosystem and talent attraction opportunities during the Invest Edinburgh Tech Talks in London in 2015. Amazon has also taken part in a number of Invest Edinburgh events, including the ‘Tech Jobs in Scotland’ talent fair in London and Silicon Milkroundabout Scotland jobs tech fair in 2015, its first outside London. Amazon was one of more than 40 companies attending the event, which attracted 500 people from 14 different countries.

“Scotland is a great place to hire and develop the best talent,” Smith continues. “We support the University of Edinburgh by running regular career presentations and supporting its Centres for Doctoral Training in Data Science and Pervasive Parallelism. We also sponsor the School of Informatics 3rd year project prize. Through our Amazon Women in Innovation Bursary, we aim to increase the number of young women in science, technology, engineering and maths careers through financial support and mentoring. We deliver guest lectures at universities in the central belt. One of our managers chairs Girl Geek Scotland, a network for people working in technology.”

Amazon is also a member of ScotlandIS, the trade body for the digital industries, and every year helps to judge the Young Software Engineer of the Year awards. The drive for greater gender diversity in the tech sector is behind Amazon’s sponsorship of 2017’s inaugural Scotland Women in Technology Awards, supported by The Herald newspaper.

“By recognising and celebrating women working in Scotland’s thriving tech sectors, we can help to shine a light on emerging talent and foster greater diversity within a predominantly male technology sector,” Smith says.

Rapid growth

Since arriving in Edinburgh, Amazon has rapidly grown across the capital and Scotland as a whole, with a customer service centre, two fulfilment centres, three delivery stations and a Prime Now site in Glasgow. The company now has 2,500 employees across Scotland and over 19,000 across the UK.

Investor support provided by the City of Edinburgh Council’s Invest Edinburgh team has include coverage in the Invest Edinburgh magazine, website and social media platforms, which reach a global audience of almost 19,000 influencers, followers and readers.

In 2017, Amazon created 5,000 permanent full time jobs across the UK, taking its total UK workforce to over 24,000 by the end of the year.

“Specifically, we have over 1,500 high-tech innovative employees across Amazon Web Services and our three UK development centres in Edinburgh, Cambridge and London by the end of this year, so it’s a really exciting time to be at the company,” Smith adds.

Amazon also brought its 'Amazon Academy' to Scotland for the first time in 2017, with an event in Edinburgh to help small and medium enterprises grow their businesses online.

Amazon Development Centre supports local universities and sector initiatives to help develop the best tech talent in Scotland.

Edinburgh home

The company is growing and has a range of positions at the Development Centre, based in the former General Post Office building on Waterloo Place. The Development Centre was Amazon’s first outside the United States when it opened 13 years ago.

“We’re always looking to hire and develop the best talent and doing that helps us continue and build on the work we do here,” Smith says.

“We have positions for internships and graduates, right through to people with valuable experience in fields of software development, research and innovation. It’s an exciting place to work for anyone who wants to be at the cutting edge of their profession.”

Smith himself previously worked in software engineering and management roles in the investment banking, retail banking, consulting and start-up sectors.

“I’ve lived all around Scotland, but Edinburgh is home,” he says. “I love the city and the people here. I have worked for Amazon in Edinburgh for 11 years, almost as long as we’ve been open here, and I really enjoy it. I get to work with fantastic people and on exciting projects with experts who are constantly pushing the boundaries of what we can achieve.

“Edinburgh is just the ‘right size’ city – big enough to satisfy in terms of culture and things to do, but small enough that our people can live in easy walking distance of the office. Easy access to the outdoors is a major plus too. Where else can you run around an extinct volcano on your lunch break?”

 

If you would like to find out more about how we can help you and your business establish, relocate or expand within the city region, or would simply like more information about what Edinburgh has to offer, get in touch today.

E: invest@edinburgh.gov.uk

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