Austin + Walmart = Magic

Walmart opens an engineering subsite in Austin? Walmart? Huh?

Big Red Car here on a nippy 33F morning headed to 55F, but 75F on Thursday say the weather fairies.

So, Austin continues to prosper as a home of high tech, in general, and software development, in particular.

A recent addition to the tech scene is a Walmart software engineering hub which will focus on AI, ML, blockchain, and IOT to serve the company’s operations (Global Business Services Division) around the world specifically including finance, governance, human relations, employee training, and manufacturing.

New Walmart engineering hub in Austin By God Texas. That’s Sam Walton’s famous pickup truck getting ready to drive into Austin’s iconic Barton Springs. What would Sam say about Walmart today? [Pic credit: Austin American Statesman]

Big Red Car, Walmart?

Walmart has 1,500,000 employees and had $485,000,000,000 in gross revenue in 2017. They are big time.

The Austin software engineering center will operate out of 8,000 SF in downtown (used to be an Alamo Drafthouse movie theater once upon a time back in the OLD DAYS). It will grow to sixty employees from the thirteen it opened with.

Why Austin, Big Red Car?

The answer is obvious — Austin is a great place to hire software engineers because it is already an established tech center [Don’t believe me? Ask USAA and General Motors who have recently opened tech centers here.] and is way cheaper than Silicon Valley or New York. Can you say: COST OF LIVING?

Walmart, in announcing the new operation said, “Austin is a really unique city in that you have a very deep pool of that talent, but you don’t incur some of those higher costs of living that you do on the West Coast and East Coast.”

That sound you hear in the background? That is the Quality of Life siren singing her luring tune.

This is why Walmart picked Austin for its first such outlier from lovely Bentonville, Arkansas.

Bottom line it, Big Red Car

Walmart is becoming a tech company (using tech to run its business and to operate in an eCommerce world) and their first engineering subsite is in Austin. They are hiring sixty engineers. That’s all you need to know.

This is Walmart? Huh? Yes, dear reader, this is Walmart in Austin. Cool, eh? [Pic credit: Austin American Statesman]

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. A great week awaits you. Carpe diem, y’all! Walmart, come on down! We love you!




5 thoughts on “Austin + Walmart = Magic

  1. IMHO, for buying via a Web site, Amazon is much better than Wal-Mart. Amazon has a better designed Web site and much more of what I want to buy. So, from that and much more, it can appear that Amazon is on the way to taking a lot of business from Wal-Mart and that Wal-Mart has been slow to improve their work, slow to respond to Amazon, and needs to “up their game” and in particular to respond to Amazon. Bezos is a bright guy, but Wal-Mart shouldn’t have to and shouldn’t let Bezos beat them.

    Let’s see: No doubt some new computer applications can help Wal-Mart’s business. So, go to people who know about computers, right? That is, have academic computer science be the foundation of the work on those new applications. In particular, pursue AI/ML. Okay: If can find some good applications of AL/ML and for those applications can’t find anything better, then fine.

    But there are two biggie problems here:

    (1) Should look first at the candidate applications and then for the tools.

    (2) As tools, AI/ML are very new and narrow. Basically they are some applied math done with lots of intuition and guessing and relatively little from theorems and proofs.

    Solution: For each candidate application, pick it and the promising tools jointly. When this is done, will find that for tools AL/ML are low quality, small potatoes compared with the applied math already on the shelves of the research libraries.

    Soooooo, one reason for the Austin center is the old objective of “luster” to suggest to the stockholders that Wal-Mart is up to date and not falling behind Amazon or anyone else.

    One of my guesses about Bezos has been that early on he saw that for the computing he needed for his Web site, logistics, etc., he needed one heck of a good server farm. Then for managing that server farm, he concluded that it should not be particular to just the Amazon uses but should be fully general purpose, say, a “cloud” service — with performance, reliability, efficiency, security, ease of use — able to serve essentially anyone or a large fraction of everyone. So, he got AWS — Amazon Web Services. IMHO, Wal-Mart will have to come to the same conclusion. So, Bezos collected some people who had already done well building big server farms. He got the people from, I’d guess, Google, Microsoft, Apple, and maybe some of the largest banks and manufacturing companies.

    To hire such people, Wal-Mart may have to work on their compensation plans: Yes, such employees will want big bucks in salary, but they aren’t stupid people but do realize that they need some financial security and that a salary can stop at any time for any reason, good or bad, or no reason, no matter what the employee does. Also the employee realizes that much of their financial security is their resume so will want that to continue to improve and not stagnate.

    So, net, the employee needs: (1) The job has to be good for their resume, e.g., let them be a good player on one of the best teams and moving ahead quickly. (2) Have plenty of cash, salary compensation for to be a good provider for their family with food, clothing, shelter, transportation, insurance against risk, high quality educations for their children, recreation, medical care, savings, and retirement, e.g., 401(k). This junk that they have to rent an apartment, drive an old, rusty car, delay having children, send their wife to work, and hope to accumulate a down payment on a house in 10 years is a bummer. (3) Need equity in something that is growing and to become really valuable. Well, Wal-Mart is no longer growing very fast, due to Amazon, etc., maybe is even shrinking. So, maybe Wal-Mart will have to set up a corporation with its own stock, soon to be public, to be the entity to hire the people they need. So, those people get stock options or stock in that corporation.

    Net, Wal-Mart fell behind and will have to play catch-up ball or shrink. A group of 60 people in AL/ML, IoT, blockchain might do a little for luster but won’t do much to get Wal-Mart caught up. I can guess that Bezos sees Wal-Mart as a gigantic herd of easy prey. Fundamentally the people Wal-Mart needs to compete with Amazon won’t want to join a herd of easy prey.

    What could Wal-Mart do? Here’s one guess: Don’t expect to staff Wal-Mart with people with the best educations and experience. E.g., don’t expect to pick stars from Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, etc. Instead, hire people with good educations and talents and train and grow them into what Wal-Mart really needs. Good news; For the expertise, knowledge, etc. needed, that is readily available mostly just from universities and the technical support staffs of vendors.
    E.g., I have to believe that for networking, just go to Cisco and a few others. For Windows Server, SQL Server, and system monitoring and administration, Microsoft has long known enough to build and run some fantastic server farms, and likely nearly all of that expertise is readily available to good customers of Microsoft. So, hire promising people, give them some big challenges and a lot of support and freedom, and let them have ready access to experts in universities and at Cisco, Microsoft, etc. Have a compensation plan with equity, etc. good enough to keep these people and keep them happy and well motivated.

    For the mural with Sam’s truck, maybe take that down.

  2. You mean it is cheaper than Palo Alto and Cambridge???!!! Let’s compare…8000 feet near Harvard Square…

    • .
      The days when Austin was cheap as dirt are gone, but the cost of living and real estate in Palo Alto, NYC, Cambridge is insane. Comparatively, it is a bargain.

      For the workers, it is a great deal. No income tax, so a paycheck has a little more in it.

      The young folk love Austin.

      Be well.


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