Amazon to expand office in Pittsburgh, add 125 jobs
Amazon has plans to more than double its tech-focused workforce in Pittsburgh, the company announced Tuesday.
Amazon will add 125 jobs in machine translation and speech science.
The company opened its Pittsburgh Tech Hub in January 2017 with about 50 employees and steadily grew during its first year. The office in SouthSide Works will add about 22,000 square feet of space.
“Since Day 1 at Amazon in Pittsburgh, we've been focused on expanding our pool of local technical talent as well as investing in the community,” Bill Kaper, general manager of Amazon's Pittsburgh office, said in a statement. “From machine translation engineers to Alexa speech scientists, our Pittsburgh employees love inventing every day on behalf of customers.”
The announcement of Amazon's expansion comes as Pittsburgh is courting the company for its second headquarters. Pittsburgh is among the 20 finalists for HQ2, which could bring 50,000 tech jobs and $5 billion in investment. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said Tuesday that Amazon's expansion at SouthSide Works has nothing to do with the HQ2 process.
“This is more looking specifically at how Amazon can take on a bigger presence locally to help out one part of their operations, not their overall,” Peduto said.
Peduto and others in charge of Pittsburgh's bid have kept quiet on communications with Amazon or what comes next since the city was named a finalist. Neither the city nor Allegheny County has released the bid submitted to Amazon despite rulings from Pennsylvania's Office of Open Records for them to do so. Peduto said the city will likely appeal the state ruling to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, which it must do by a deadline on Friday.
Officials are “looking at what may be able to be released compared to what would need to be protected,” Peduto said. Attorneys at the city and county and from outside firms are offering advice.
“If I were a betting man, I'd bet, yes,” Peduto said of submitting the appeal.
Amazon is laying off hundreds of workers at its Seattle headquarters . Calling the layoffs “small reductions,” Amazon said at the time it was still aggressively hiring in other areas of the company.
Amazon's Pittsburgh team works on translating shopping content and entertainment into multiple languages. The team helped launch Amazon.com in Spanish in early 2017, the company said in a press release.
In 2015, Amazon acquired Safaba Translations Solutions, a Carnegie Mellon University spin-off company founded by Alon Lavie and Robert Olszewski, then both professors CMU's Language Technologies Institute. Both now work for Amazon in senior manager roles. All but one of Lavie and Olszewski's original Safaba team members still work for Amazon, according to a blog Amazon posted Tuesday .
Lavie told the Tribune-Review that providing content for Amazon's vast online marketplace in different languages is too big a task for humans.
“This involves translating millions of words on an ongoing basis,” Lavie told the Trib in February 2017. “Developing high-accuracy machine translation systems for this wide diversity of scenarios is a major challenge.”
The Pittsburgh team helped develop Amazon Translation, which was introduced in 2017, and translation technology used for Kindle content, documents and emails, according to the blog post.
“The dynamics of working on this kind of translation technology, and pushing solutions into production at scale, and watching the impact those solutions have on customers is something I've never experienced before,” Lavie said in the blog post. “What we're doing at Amazon is not research in isolation. It's about solving global scale types of language problems for global enterprises. Which is incredibly cool.”
Team members are also working on integrating Alexa, Amazon's digital assistant, into cars.
Staff writer Bob Bauder contributed to this report. Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.