One of the geek highlights of the Geek Tiyul was our visit to Google, which made all of the PresenTense Institute innovators immediately think we were in the wrong business (we could "not be evil" by working at a multi-billion-dollar company with offices everywhere...plus--did I mention--free snacks? Oh, I guess I did.)
At Google's Haifa office, which shares a technology park plaza with companies like Yahooo and Microsoft, we met with Yoelle Maarek, originally from France, who opened the Google Haifa Engineering Center in July 2006, and is now its Director. "I assume you are all Google users," she said matter-of-factly, causing me to reflect on what it must be like to be able to correctly assume that everyone knows your product and is a user. (Personally, I know I would never say "Oh, I assume you all read MyUrbanKvetch.com," unless I were talking to my parents.)
Yoelle gave us a very enthusiastic presentation about what search provides, how Google works, and gave us some advice in terms of our approach to individual and team work. She explained the Google work ethic, which encourages employees to work on their own projects one day a week, noted that the biblical concordance was the ancestor of the contemporary search engine and told us that the Google search autocomplete function was created at Google Haifa. (Makes sense, since Jews have been finishing other people's sentences for years.)
So here are some of those lessons, followed by some of my elaborations/comments. (Plus your scrolling bonus after the jump, videos--not taken by me--that further explain what working at Google is like.)
- "You have to trust in the ecosystem."/"Know who your users are and make them happy." (Google as a company of users rely on their users to tell them what's working and what's not working--through usage, you troubleshoot, mend, and improve the final product. Because really, if the user's not using it, what's the point?)
- "Give trust to people of quality, and you get it back." (Having an idea is one thing, but trusting others to help you achieve your vision is another. By bringing on people who care about the product and have the skills to make things happen, you give them a personal investment in the company or product and empower them to speak in an authentic "we" voice, which creates an atmosphere of mutual commitment.)
- "Be funny and cool, and break the routine--that's part of the culture." (A culture of iconoclasts, against a background of chill humor. I'm in.)
- "We're a company of geeks, we really don't care about money." (Say no more...I shall rescue you, O Google, by removing said troublesome money henceforth and forthwith. No, no--you don't even have to worry about where it's going. I'll take care of it. You're welcome.)
I wasn't allowed to photograph the inside of the office, but if you'd like an inside peek of what it's like to work at Google in general, check out this video made by Google itself.
And if you want a look inside the company as a whole, check this BBC documentary.