This editorial article is a part of Big Tech + You Month 2023 in Technical.ly’s editorial calendar.
For all their cultural influence, none of the Big Five tech companies — aka MAMAA, aka Microsoft, Alphabet (Google), Meta, Apple and Amazon — have primary headquarters beyond West Coast tech hubs. And, for the purposes of Technical.ly’s local focus, none hold corporate offices in Greater Philadelphia (though there is a digital transformation-focused Microsoft Technology Center in Malvern). Philly sure did try to lock in Amazon’s HQ2 back in 2018, but the bid was ultimately beat by DC.
Still, these giants employ people all over the world. Even before the pandemic, when remote work became commonplace, the Philly region hosted some number of remote Big Tech workers. Pandemic-prompted tech migration has furthered this geographic spread, as many tech employees no longer needed to live within commuting distance of their employer.
We at Technical.ly were curious: How many employees of these tech giants live in Philadelphia and its surrounding ‘burbs? Earlier this month, this reporter reached out to the Big Five asking for their employee counts in the region.
A seemingly simple question, no? However, responses were scarce.
A spokesperson for Microsoft declined to answer, saying the company doesn’t generally share that information. Google’s rep gave a vague response that there are “800+” employees in all of Pennsylvania. Amazon’s person said they would get back to us, but haven’t yet. Reps for Apple and Meta didn’t reply at all.
So, why might a Big Tech company not respond directly to our question?
A renewed focus on in-office work could be a factor
Recruiting expert Hilliary Turnipseed, who is based in the DMV region, has an idea.
Some companies that had a policy during the pandemic that employees could work from anywhere may now be asking employees to return to in-person work. One prominent recent example: Amazon CEO Andy Jassy announced just last week that the ecommerce conglomerate would be returning to the office in May. Yet employees could have moved away from their employer’s closest corporate office when those pandemic work-from-home policies were implemented.
Turnipseed told Technical.ly she’s been seeing companies roll back their work-from-home policies knowing that some of these employees who moved away won’t want to or won’t be able to come back. Pros in the corporate space are theorizing that companies may be making the choice to require people to work in person and then see some percentage exit the company on their own, she said, rather than enact mass layoffs to cut employee count.
Turnipseed said it’s “too risky” for a company to share employee count in a given region because some employees may have moved to that region — away from a corporate hub — because of a previous work-from-home policy. If that policy gets reversed, that could change the number of employees in that area.
Big Tech companies may also consider employee counts and locations to be private data, with associated nondisclosure policies. Lack of transparency is an issue with bigger companies in general, she noted — for topics such as diversity numbers and salary averages, too.
“Usually, large public companies won’t disclose much around their employee data because it also will open them up to more scrutiny,” Turnipseed said.
Robin Gaster, the author of “Behemoth, Amazon Rising: Power and Seduction in the Age of Amazon,” suggested something similar regarding Big Tech and the concept of transparency. All companies are hesitant to share information unless it is specifically benefitting them, he said via email.
“We live in the Information Age, so it’s deeply ironic that for companies, it has become the age of no information,” he said. “Time for a fundamentally reassessment and rebalancing between corporate demands to protect ‘confidential’ business information (ie everything), and the public’s right to know how big companies in particular operate.”
Big Tech in Philly
So, how many Big Tech employees are in the Philly region? We’re still seeking an official count, but for now, here is our best guess by filtering each LinkedIn company page according to the Philadelphia and Greater Philadelphia area:
- Microsoft — 693 local employees
- Google — 989 local employees
- Meta — 334 local employees
- Apple — 860 local employees
- Amazon — 6,200 local employees (some of whom may not be technologists, but warehouse workers or delivery drivers)
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