Sears is recruiting engineers for a new software development office in downtown Seattle, and the venerable retailer has hired a group of former Amazon executives to lead the charge — renting space in a skyscraper just across town from the e-commerce giant’s headquarters.
The new Sears engineering office, in Seattle’s Columbia Center, will lead an effort to upgrade the technology and user experience for the Sears Home Services business.
It’s a big opportunity: The company describes Sears Home Services as the nation’s largest provider of residential services such as appliance repair, furniture cleaning, home remodeling, maintenance and other forms of home improvement — making more than 13 million house calls a year, for much more than just Sears products.
The new office puts Seattle on the front lines of Sears’ effort to bring a key part of its business into the modern era of technology.
Responding to our inquiries, the company said it wasn’t yet ready to talk publicly about its plans, but GeekWire pieced together the basics through permit filings, job postings and people familiar with various aspects of the initiative.
For starters, Sears has hired at least three former Amazon executives in recent months:
- Ian Clarkson, the first general manager of the Amazon Fresh grocery delivery service;
- Heidi Robinson, an early Amazon Fresh employee who was most recently with Seattle-based home improvement startup Pro.com;
- and Parag Garg, a former Amazon Fire TV product manager who has worked for Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and Seattle-based home improvement startup Porch.
Garg’s LinkedIn profile describes him as the vice president of engineering and product for Sears connected solutions, overseeing engineering and product management for the Assurelink platform and Sears’ Internet of Things initiatives. Existing Assurelink products let users control their garage doors with their smartphones, for example.
However, the focus of the new Seattle engineering office is overhauling the technology for Sears Home Services. The former Amazon Fresh managers give the company a team experienced in building an online service and apps for scheduling home deliveries, along with the underlying technology infrastructure.
One job listing for the new Seattle office seeks a data scientist to work on a team that “delivers real-time, data-driven, distributed systems that make a positive impact on millions of Sears customers by applying machine learning technologies to enrich each customer experience.”
In addition to the data science job listings, Sears recruiters have started contacted software developers in the Seattle region, looking to hire mobile and user-experience engineers, core web services engineers, and technical PMs and product owners.
According to a sign at the company’s future office at Columbia Center (which has yet to be built out) the space is roughly 8,500 square feet, or enough room for about 35 to 55 employees, depending on the configuration.
Sears Holding Co., based in Hoffman Estates, Ill, is the parent company of Sears and Kmart. The company posted $36 billion in revenue last year, down from more than $45 billion two years earlier. Sears is the latest in a big wave of out-of-town companies that have established engineering centers in Seattle, including tech giants such as Google and Facebook, and also retailers such as Staples.