I was recently out in San Francisco, and I took advantage of my time in the Silicon Valley to visit some interesting places and people. I had the privilege of visiting the Google Campus, and it was exactly what I expected and surprising all at the same time.
About 25,000 people work at the Mountain View, California campus. While they have strict security to get in the buildings, the campus is pretty open. You can see a beach volleyball court in the middle of all their buildings, and the employees play regularly. There are multi-colored (Google colors) bicycles everywhere, and you can just take one when you need it to get across campus. They also have about a dozen restaurants or cafes, and all the food is subsidized, so employees (and guests) can eat whatever you want, whenever you want it. My host told me Google was the first to start this practice, but now most tech companies offer the same kinds of privileges for their employees. There were high-end coffee and espresso machines everywhere with plentiful snacks. As you might imagine, everyone was dressed casually. Very casual! I felt complete overdressed and very northeastern in my sports jacket!
Google provides shuttles to and from San Francisco for employees so they can get work done during the traffic-filled commute. Of course they have wireless internet on the shuttles. There are also several fitness centers and even a bowling alley on campus. It seems like a very fun and creative place. And of course, we saw lots of people wearing Google Glass!
One of the coolest things I saw was a 360 degree photo display. I clicked on various places on a world map and then could turn a knob to see a 360 degree view of beautiful locations. The view in New Zealand was spectacular! I can only imagine the cool educational implications for this technology.
As you might imagine, they try to measure everything. Everyone there has bought into big data. There is simultaneously a lot of freedom and a lot of accountability.
I was only there for an hour or two, but it is the kind of place that will open your mind to new possibilities and how different workplace cultures can be effective.