Walmart plans 2,000 hires for technology development

Walmart Inc. plans to hire 2,000 technology workers this year to support its e-commerce business and in-store innovations, the company said this week.

A spokesman for the Bentonville retailer said Thursday that all the jobs will be in its Walmart Labs division. Headed by Jeremy King, the chief technology officer, Walmart Labs develops technologies that support the customer experience in stores and online. These entail "any technical capabilities that power our stores, website or app," the spokesman said.

Walmart Labs is responsible for nearly all the innovations the customer sees, from robots that scrub floors to app features that enable online grocery ordering and faster checkout in stores.

Software engineers, designers, data scientists, product managers and other "technologists" are needed, the spokesman said. The new jobs will be spread across Walmart Labs' nine offices, which are in Bentonville; San Bruno and Sunnyvale in California's Silicon Valley; Carlsbad, Calif., near San Diego; Portland, Ore.; Reston, Va.; Hoboken, N.J.; Dublin, Ireland; and Bangalore, India.

King recently told Bloomberg Television that his division now employs about 7,500 people after hiring 1,700 last year.

The retailer also is seeking a chief executive officer for a "stealth company," the newest startup in its Silicon Valley tech incubator, Store No. 8. Job duties include "building a business from scratch," working closely with Walmart's senior executives and serving as a "public champion" for the business. The job posting lists the ability to handle competitive threats as a key skill the successful candidate must have.

Much of Walmart's recruiting for the Walmart Lab positions will take place on university campuses, the Walmart spokesman said. The company also works with the nonprofit group Path Forward, she said, hiring and mentoring people trying to re-enter the workplace after several years' absence.

Cameron Smith, founder of a Rogers executive recruiting firm, said the new jobs will be filled by current employees wanting to learn the tech side of retailing as well as tech workers from outside the company. "Finding these workers on both sides will involve heavy communications on exposing its internal and external labor pool to the amazing things that Walmart is doing with data," he said.

Walmart's rapid growth in the 1990s was the result of its emphasis on the grocery line with the supercenter concept and its mastery of data, Smith said. "They gave away data to suppliers to run their businesses effectively," he said.

"The 2019 equivalent is Walmart leveraging its treasure trove of consumer data to know how to win in the digital shopper customer journey," Smith said. "Telling this story to the world will draw tech workers from both fields who want to solve relevant and exciting business problems in retail."

In recruiting on college campuses, Smith said, Walmart also must tell this story to students who still think of Walmart only as stores in order to compete with companies like Google in snaring top talent.

As for the jobs that will be based in Bentonville, Smith concedes it can be tough to persuade professionals from other parts of the country, or the world, to move to Northwest Arkansas. However, once they arrive for the first visit, he said, "the region sells itself and most of them never leave."

Business on 01/18/2019

Upcoming Events