Tableau Software is a data visualization company, so it makes sense that the first thing that you see when entering its new headquarters building in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood is a sculpture depicting an enormous piece of data: a giant inverted model of the topography of Mount Rainier.
Tableau lifted the curtain on its new Seattle headquarters at the four-story, 210,000-square-foot NorthEdge building Wednesday. Construction finished about a month ago on the building, which has room for about 1,200 people. A few of the finishing touches, such as a sign on the door or at the front desk were still missing. But everything else was in place, including sporadic appearances by topiary dogs.
The tour, led by Tableau Director of Global Real Estate Mike Ross and Chief Marketing Officer Elissa Fink shed light on the company’s plans for growth in the Seattle area and gave an inside look at the company’s culture. The building itself is divided into “neighborhoods,” Ross said, with bustling areas on the north side near the lobby and where the sales side works, and a more intimate environment on the south side of the building for developers.
“For a development organization these neighborhoods are really quiet, and for a sales organization they are really loud so it’s a whole different problem to solve,” Ross said.
Each floor has a theme. The ground floor is land, the second floor is water, the third is sky and the fourth is space. The building is split by an outdoor courtyard into a U-shape, and on the east side of the building, conference rooms are named for the types of transportation used to navigate the designated themes, and the other side has rooms named for elements found in each theme. For example, the land floor has a bicycle conference room and also a Mount Rainier room. The fourth floor has an Apollo room and a dark matter room.
Throughout the building are common areas meant to bring together people from different teams to interact. The second floor has a more than 10,000-square-foot “hub” space with multiple well-stocked kitchens and seating areas. The building is replete with open collaboration areas, providing a complement to the more private conference rooms.
The new headquarters is part of a consolidation plan for the company. It has put space in several buildings up for sublease, including the former Sound Body & Mind Gym, which Tableau transformed into approximately 50,000 square feet of tech office space in 2014 for its engineering team, and two floors in its former headquarters space at the Lakeview Building at 837 N. 34th St. Google is subleasing the former gym space and may be looking at the Lakeview space as well.
In addition to the NorthEdge building, Tableau is set to move into a couple other buildings over the next few years. Just down the road is a project under construction that Tableau has christened DATA1, an homage to its stock symbol DATA. Tableau is taking 110,000 square feet in that building at 744 N. 34th St., with room for approximately 800 people. The company will move in toward the end of the year. On the other side of Lake Washington in Kirkland, Tableau plans to move into three floors, totaling 92,000 square feet, at a new mixed-use development in Kirkland called Kirkland Urban in early 2019.
“We had these opportunities to bring groups together under one roof in this highly-efficient space in NorthEdge and DATA1, and that allows us to consolidate groups together and create these great group workplace environments,” Ross said. “The subleases allow us to have options to reoccupy space as we grow in the neighborhood.”
Coming into 2016, Tableau had aggressive hiring plans to bring in 1,000 new people that year — including 600 in Seattle — a big increase over its headcount at the time of 2,800. Then in May, the company decided to scale back those plans by about 50 percent. According to its most recent earnings report, Tableau’s worldwide headcount at the end of 2016 was 3,223, up from 3,008 at the end of 2015, but down from the third quarter of 2016 when it employed 3,280 people.
Approximately 1,300 of those 3,200 people work out of the Fremont neighborhood. As it grew, the company looked at other areas for office space, but Fink said employees consistently said they liked Fremont and wanted to stay there.
Location as well as office space can be a tool to recruit and retain top talent in ultra-competitive Seattle. Fink said the focus at Tableau is on creating a great work environment for current employees and the word will spread.
The company put a lot of emphasis on things like light and sound and the role they play in the work environment. Fink said Tableau tinkered extensively with light in the conference rooms to build a comfortable environment because bad lighting can be exhausting. A pair of top-floor roof decks and the courtyard ensure plenty of natural light flows in even on the dreariest Seattle days.
“Build a great workplace for the employees, for us to collaborate together, and that reflects your culture and makes it something that’s attractive to the people we want to attract to Tableau,” Fink said.