Credit Karma seeks employee return to downtown Oakland office in September – Silicon Valley


OAKLAND — Credit Karma is telling employees that it expects its workers to return to the office in September, a move that solidifies the tech company’s headquarters presence in downtown Oakland.

The financial services tech company also has decided to completely exit San Francisco and says its only Bay Area operation will be at its Oakland headquarters.

“We have been very clear with our employees that post-Labor Day is when we intend to return to the office,” said Colleen McCreary, Credit Karma’s chief people, places, and publicity officer. “We don’t want a permanent remote workforce.”

Credit Karma has leased 166,700 square feet in The Key at 12th complex at 1100 Broadway in downtown Oakland. The leasing deal includes eight floors, floors 11 through 18, plus the basement and a roof deck.

The Key at 12th project, including a new office tower and the historic Key System Building at 1100 Broadway in downtown Oakland, concept. //

That amount of office space could potentially accommodate nearly 1,000 workers. Ellis Partners is the developer of the eye-catching new office tower, a project that preserved the historic Key System Building.

Returning to the office makes sense for a tech company that — like every tech firm — prizes its innovation culture.

“We think we create better, we innovate better, when people are together,” McCreary said. “Working from your garage is very different than coming into an office with people who are dedicated to a mission. We are very excited about returning to the office.”

Credit Karma offices in The Key at 12th office tower at 1100 Broadway in downtown Oakland, showing employee work areas. //

Oakland-based Credit Karma has been conducting what the company calls a “soft opening” where about 100 people a day come into the downtown offices.

“We had about 600 people who signed up for the soft opening,” McCreary said.

Credit Karma offices in The Key at 12th office tower at 1100 Broadway in downtown Oakland, showing conference areas and common areas. //

Wendy Blakeman, director of compensation at Credit Karma and a three-year employee of the company, said being in the downtown Oakland office provides a welcome contrast to her situation during the dreary months of the coronavirus-linked business and facilities shutdowns.

“I returned to work in May for the soft opening of our new Oakland office,” Blakeman said. “I live in tight quarters in San Francisco and craved a separation of work and personal life. Coming back to the office gave me a sense of normalcy I had been missing since before the pandemic.”

Blakeman also said she enjoyed being back in the office with workers from whom she had been separated during the COVID-linked closures.

“Seeing my team members and being in this brand-new office reinforced my decision to start coming in before the entire company returns in the fall,” Blakeman said. “The Oakland community has welcomed Credit Karma employees with open arms.”

Credit Karma says that its decision to exit San Francisco and offer all of its offices there for sublease was “a COVID-related decision,” McCreary said. Credit Karma put 162,000 square feet at 760 Market St. in San Francisco up for sublease, she added.

It was during 2019 that Credit Karma launched an exhaustive search throughout the Bay Area for an Oakland office that first became the company’s East Bay hub and ultimately its new headquarters.

“The chance to have a brand-new building is unusual in a downtown market and an urban market,” McCreary said. “Oakland made sense because we saw how many people in the tech industry were commuting out of the East Bay to San Francisco and the Peninsula.”

Another major attraction: The new Credit Karma headquarters are atop the 12th Street BART station in downtown Oakland.

“We have a brand-new building, top-of-the-line ventilation, we have great spacing for desks, we have over 100 conference rooms,” McCreary said. “We also have a rooftop deck with a barbecue grill.”

Rooftop deck atop The Key at 12th, a downtown Oakland office tower where tech company Credit Karma has its headquarters at 1100 Broadway, concept. //

The rooftop is one of the most popular meeting places within the new headquarters tower.

Overall, The Key at 12th headquarters provides offices that are of the type that companies may be seeking in the coronavirus era.

“We have the luxury of space in downtown Oakland that we would not have had in San Francisco,” McCreary said. “In San Francisco, people would have been sitting on top of each other.”

Credit Karma also is looking forward to having a physical presence in downtown Oakland, which conforms to the company’s overall philosophy for its technology services and products.

“Our business is to help people make financial progress,” McCreary said. “By being here, we can help the small businesses, the restaurants, the shops, the theaters in downtown Oakland. We can contribute to the community this way. The local community is so happy to have us here.”

Credit Karma sign in the tech company’s headquarters at 1100 Broadway in downtown Oakland. //