A look back on Biztech's experience at the Google campus tour .
By: Jeff Chen
Last Thursday, a few lucky Biztech members had the incredible opportunity to visit the Google office in Cambridge. A while back, I remember watching a comedy movie called the Internship featuring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, working as two 40 year old interns at Google. Although the events that occurred in the movie were comical, the scenes offered a realistic portrayal of the office environment and lively working culture of tech companies. It has always been a dream of mine to visit Google, and that dream came to fruition this past Thursday. Nestled among the many biopharma companies along Main Street lies the incredible Google offices. Upon entering we were welcomed by a giant Android statue in the lobby, and it was only later that we found out that this office, in Kendall square, was the birthplace of a small startup called Android Inc. This startup was eventually acquired by Google in 2006 and has now become the world’s most popular smartphone software.
Shortly after arriving we met our warm Google hosts, Jason and Joe, to begin the office tour. Google had designed their offices to reflect the Boston Public Transit system. Each building represented a different stop along the red, blue or green line, with the Silver Line running across the three. Pretty cool.
This really set the tone for the evening as we were brought around the different ‘neighborhoods’ of Boston and to the various buildings that housed the different departments. I was really impressed by the attention to detail in all aspects of these recreations. The Beacon Hill area for instance had cobblestones and lamps that made us feel like we were actually there.
The highlight of the trip was perhaps the Google Fire pole. The first thing that caught our attention upon entering the lobby was a person casually sliding down a fireman’s pole. The story of how Google Cambridge got their first fireman’s pole was a testament to their ingenuity and passion for tinkering. Initially the idea of the fireman’s pole was proposed in 2004 by employees, and over the years the government of Cambridge had rejected all the proposals due to safety reasons. But, the Googlers at Cambridge never gave up on the idea and it was something that employees always cared about. There was even a band started by Googlers called the Firepoles. Finally in 2009, they got their breakthrough, when one of the Googlers developed a prototype based on a model that one of their relatives in a New Hampshire fire station had used. In 2010, after six years of lobbying and perseverance, Google Cambridge finally had their fire pole! A few of us were brave enough to step close and wanted to slide down but unfortunately guests aren’t allowed to use it.
One of my biggest takeaways from the office visit was the importance of office layout and design. Most of the office spaces were designed with transparent windows for natural lighting, ensuring a comfortable and bright working environment. One of the things that stood out to me was when Joe said “at Google, we try our utmost to bring colors and personality to our workplace because we believe that this would encourage our employees to be as creative as possible and to think out of the box.” Long gone are the days of cubicles and the office being a work only space, this was a second home to many Googlers. A couple of other things I saw were a library with shelves full of books from many different genres, retro arcade machines (my personal favorite), a public garden, coffee store, nap pods, and of course tons of snacks.
After Thursday’s trip, I had begun to understand why the open office layout has started becoming very popular amongst startups and tech companies. However, as one of the pioneers of this concept, they are in a class of their own and through the subtleties and thoughtful design, you begin to understand why Google is considered one of the best companies in the world to work at. I would highly recommend anyone interested in technology or company culture to visit Google in the future! A special thanks to Joe and Jason for being such awesome hosts and thank you to everyone who came to our Google Office Tour. We hope everyone enjoyed themselves and had a great time! Be sure to stay tune to the Biztech Facebook Group and our website: www.biztechclub.com, we look forward to meeting everyone at the next Google office tour!