China’s Alibaba looking to hire in Amazon, Microsoft’s backyard

March 12, 2015, 3:25 PM UTC
An employee is seen behind a glass wall with the logo of Alibaba at the company's headquarters on the outskirts of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province
An employee at Alibaba's headquarters on the outskirts of Hangzhou.
Photograph by Chance Chan — Reuters

China’s Alibaba Group Holding (BABA), the world’s largest e-commerce firm, has begun hunting staff in Seattle, home turf of (AMZN) and Microsoft (MSFT), focusing on savvy cloud computing hires as it ramps up U.S. operations.

Three positions were open to people in Seattle, two of which also allow applications for Alibaba’s Silicon Valley offices, according to advertisements on LinkedIn (LNKD) business networking site in the past week.

Several recruiters in the region said they had registered the firm’s hiring drive, suggesting Alibaba is eyeing staff at rival Amazon as well as Microsoft and Facebook (FB).

According to LinkedIn’s data, Alibaba has already hired staff away from Microsoft and Amazon. LinkedIn data list Microsoft as the top company from which former employees have joined Alibaba, not specifying the location of the hires, with 20 recruits for unspecified posts at the Chinese company having previously worked at the software giant.

With the job openings Alibaba joins the increasingly fierce fight for cloud computing talent in Silicon Valley and Seattle, where it opened a research and development centre in what is Microsoft and Amazon’s backyard late last year.

The Chinese company’s arrival on the tech job market is — for now — unlikely to pose a concern to major industry incumbents, who in past years have resorted to increasingly imaginative tactics to recruit scant human resources.

Alibaba’s moves in the region are at an early stage, and the amount of hiring still comparatively low, said recruiters. The company has fewer than 300 employees in the United States.
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But Alibaba is looking at Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook in the Seattle area for new blood, particularly developers, said Jerry Taylor, president of Executive Recruiters Inc in Bellevue, Washington.

“I’m sure they’re going to be web-based as well as mobile-type folks,” he said. “They’re trying to get a footprint in the United States. What better place to go than their direct competitor in Amazon?”

An Alibaba spokesman declined to give details of recruitment.

Alibaba’s talent hunt coincides with a broader push in the United States this year to win over U.S. business, offering American retailers new ways to sell to China’s vast and growing middle class. On March 4 it launched a cloud computing hub in Silicon Valley, its first outside of China.

Alibaba has hired at least 10 software engineers or computing experts from either Microsoft or Amazon since July 2014, all but one based in the greater Seattle area, according to their LinkedIn profiles.
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Li Xiaolong, one of the 10 and a senior staff engineer at Alibaba, openly advertises for like-minded talent on his profile: “We are actively hiring talents in machine learning, data mining and distributed computing, as well as hardcore software engineers to improve the world’s biggest e-commerce platform. The location can be Seattle, Silicon Valley, Beijing or Hangzhou.”

Alibaba declined to make its hires available for comment.

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