For my ‘Nerdy 30’ birthday, I visited Google’s global headquarters in Mountain View, CA for a tour of Google’s campus.
Google is famous for the amenities offered to their staff, so I had high expectations before the visit. Google did not disappoint. In fact, visiting the “Googleplex” was a revelation for me about work and company culture in general.
1. The amazing outdoor areas.
Simply put, the “Googleplex” campus lives up to the hype.
My tour started in the Android Statue Garden – a park featuring large, colorful statues each dedicated to an Android OS release like Jellybean or Honeycomb.
Me in front of “Jellybean.”
Next, we strolled through campus, taking in the sights and sounds of Googlers at work and play. I was astounded at how beautiful the campus is. There are walking and biking paths everywhere. It wasn’t uncommon to see a group of 4 or 5 Googlers enjoying a sunny stroll down a tree-lined trail or next to a babbling stream.
There were little surprises around every turn, like bike-sharing stations (similar to Divvy in Chicago, but free), outdoor basketball courts, a sand volleyball court, and running trails. Interesting sculptures and artwork line the sunny streets and modern architecture featuring the Google logo abound. To me, it felt like Disneyland for brilliant businesspeople.
2. The cool people.
Talking with people in line at one of the cafés, or eavesdropping on conversations in the massive outdoor lunch area, it was a shock to me that everyone was not only obviously intelligent but also seemed extremely confident and social. It seems that Google’s HR people are good at finding ‘unicorn’ workers who are both brilliant and interesting to talk to. Not only that, but I expected a fair amount of superiority complexes in Googlers – I mean, these people work at a company that’s extremely difficult to get a job at, but there was none of the pretentiousness that one would expect.
I spoke to one of the Googlers about their favorite thing about working for Google, expecting them to mention the amenities or interesting projects they get to work on, but with no hesitation, they said that it was being surrounded by brilliant people. After meeting Googlers, I can understand the appeal.
3. Food! Food everywhere!
The sheer quantity of excellent food and drink options was probably the biggest surprise of the tour. I was told by one of the Googlers that Google has a ’50 Feet Rule,’ meaning that no Googler is ever more than 50 feet away from a food option on campus. There were food options everywhere, for example, a giant cafe with restaurant-quality fresh food (I had grilled salmon and sushi), a juice bar featuring fresh-squeezed juices, and an area featuring a bunch of trendy-looking food trucks.
The main Google Cafe was stunning. There’s a huge, shaded outdoor seating area with beautiful views of the campus and stunning sculptures. When you first walk into the Cafe, you wash your hands by sticking your arms into a futuristic device that washes and sanitizes like a mini car wash for your hands.
Oh, and did I mention that for the Googlers the food is free!? For example, they can walk up to a juice bar and get a fresh-squeezed juice that would probably cost a pretty penny in Chicago, for free, no questions asked. It blew my mind.
The bottom line.
For me, the Googleplex exceeded all expectations. The campus was nicer than I envisioned, the people were cooler than I expected, the food was superb – it’s just a really fun place to experience in person. If you have the opportunity to go, I highly recommend making the trip.
In front of the first Google Maps Street View car ever.
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