Great GOOGLE-Y MOOGLY!

Here’s the thing you need to understand: I spent the most recent ten years of my professional life working in the non-profit sector.

I spent two of those years working in a HALF of a cube.  That’s right, the space of one cubicle, split down the middle with a wall.  Accountant on one half, me on the other. Every day.  The accountant’s side of this half of a cubicle also housed a small refrigerator with a tiny microwave resting atop it.  Our “office kitchen.”  I’m not making that up.

I had a slow PC hooked to one of those old monitors.  You know, not the nice flat ones.  The boxy ones with the glare on the screen so you could see your reflection as you squinted really hard to make out on screen whatever badass things you were creating with Microsoft Publisher. I know.

And once the offices were moved to a much larger space where I graduated to my own big office with a door, I still spent a whole year having to use pliers to turn on the old microwave, a microwave so small that a bag of popcorn couldn’t rotate properly and instead would hang up on the edge of the microwave wall and before you knew it, the entire office reeked of burnt popcorn and I don’t need to tell you that in terms of how bad things can smell, the list goes 1. rotting flesh 2. my dog’s breath and 3. burnt popcorn. You think I’m joking about my dog’s breath, but just you wait until my family hits the comments section of this post.

Back to my office. My chair gave me backaches, my space heater blew fuses, and we had to take turns defrosting the freezer of the mini fridge every other month as it iced so badly you couldn’t close the door properly.

And that’s fine.  It was a nonprofit.  That’s what nonprofits do.  Spend wisely. Pinch pennies.  Wait until the microwave explodes before shelling out for a new one.  It was rewarding work.

Bearing all that in mind, you can easily understand why I wanted to show Google my boobs after my recent tour and lunch at their Pittsburgh offices.

Okay, first, the wall behind the receptionist desk is an ever-moving projection display that gives the impression that you’re flying through space like Buzz Lightyear.  Signing in means entering your name into a computer which then spits you out a name tag while the receptionist calls your host, in this case Christina Schulman.

Christina gave me a Google Pittsburgh shirt and then took me and my butler Mike on a tour of MIND BLOWING AWESOMENESS.

Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Every single computer monitor is the size of a television and most desks had two monitors.
  • There’s a nursing room for mothers.
  • A MASSAGE ROOM.  No, I didn’t misspell “message.” MAH-SAGE.  As in, come in here during certain hours of the day and we’ll have a person in here who is trained to give you a back massage.
  • Giant exercise balls in case you want to bounce on one, or maybe pretend you and your fellow employees are giants playing a rousing game of hackeysack.
  • Pool table.
  • Gaming station with couches and comfy chairs.
  • Foosball table.
  • Espresso machine.
  • Two glass-front fridges stocked with every imaginable beverage, including Starbucks.  Free.
  • A snack station stocked with canisters filled with all kinds of cereal, bags of chips, beef jerky, candy, candy bars, etc.  All free.
  • A running Mr. Rogers theme through the entire place, including conference rooms with names like King Friday.  I also saw a wall painting of Trolley.
  • A treadmill with a computer mounted to it in case you want to walk while you work.
  • LOTS OF REALLY REALLY ATTRACTIVE PEOPLE!  My goodness, Google hires some very adorable people.

One of those adorable people was reader Zach who joined us for lunch in the cafeteria there at Google.  Now, cafeteria.  That word implies lunch ladies with mustaches and hair nets ladling out some creamed corn and maybe some other random slop to accompany your overcooked chicken breast or your stale french fries or your french bread pizza that if you sat it on a shelf, it would not mold for three years because of preservatives.

Yeah, NOT AT GOOGLE.  The cafeteria is free to all employees and is gourmet.  Gour-freaking-may! I’m talking a salad bar that included lobster salad.  Flank steak.  A real live chef decked out in chef’s gear, cooking something scrumptious right there while you watched.  A dessert bar with fudge blocks you could hammer at with a tiny chisel so that you could break off a chunk the size of your fist and toss it into your purse.  I totally didn’t do that.  The cafeteria tables were littered with bowls of Legos, Nerf guns, and games like Connect 4.  Which, try me.  I’ll connect four your ass into next Tuesday.

I’m telling you all this for several reasons.

1.  EFFIN’ A!

2.  If you’re an employer, I understand that you probably can’t recreate the Google work environment, but my goodness, if you have the means to create even 1/10th of it, why wouldn’t you do that for your employees?  Buy them a foosball table.  Decide to start stocking the office fridge with sodas for them.  Treat them like you need them there.

3.  Google Pittsburgh is hiring! Never in my whole life have I wished I knew more about computers other than Vista sucks, Internet Explorer was created by Satan, commercial printing companies cry when you tell them you created a newsletter in Publisher, and when in doubt, reboot.

Google Pittsburgh completely altered my reality as it concerns what a work environment can be.  It can be colorful.  It can be fun.  It can make you happy to walk into work every morning.  It can make you feel valued.

I can’t even begin to imagine what their new offices in Bakery Square will be like once they move, but I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll also want to show it my boobs.





50 Comments

  1. Scott
    February 3, 2010 10:02 am

    The increasing frequency of boob-showing threats are making my tummy feel all warm.

    I’ve worked in some .com type offices like this and they are tremendous. Only drawback is, if you work for a regular company that isn’t dominating the world like Google is, over time being seen playing foosball becomes somewhat frowned upon, and the free beverages disappear.

    I have been at meetings on Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, WA and it is crazy over-the-top like this…dream world.



  2. SpudMom
    February 3, 2010 10:21 am

    I’ve heard that the Pixar campus is much like this as well.



  3. Amanda
    February 3, 2010 10:28 am

    my company must have been thinking like you, and subscribed to the 1/10 theory. We have the nursing room, which was great for 9 months or so. and now I just wish we could exchange it for the free food.



  4. bucdaddy
    February 3, 2010 10:29 am

    if you have the means to create even 1/10th of it, why wouldn’t you do that for your employees?

    Because I woul … ahem, because THEY wouldn’t ever do any actual, y’know, work. It would be like having an entire office of Wallys.

    If you work for Google, what do you DO, actually?



  5. Jess
    February 3, 2010 10:31 am

    I want to go to there. I’ll be watching their job page like a hawk from now on…



  6. Scott
    February 3, 2010 10:38 am

    Not to diss the Google dudes, cause I’m super stoked that they’re investing in Pittsburgh, but I’ve dealt with them over a 4 year period in a strategic partnership and have never met a more egotistical bunch of folks in my whole career. I mean, out of control holier-than-thou business approach. Very difficult to work with. They walk around conferences and trade shows wearing pork pie hats and ratty Chuck Taylors, no kidding.

    But again, as long as they’re bullish on the Burgh, I can live with it. They pull a lot of talent out of CMU, which is all good.



  7. Chris
    February 3, 2010 10:40 am

    I feel your nonprofit work environment pain. While working for a library to be named later, I had an office in converted attic space. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated having my very own office. However,

    A. In the winter it was frickin’ freezin’

    B. When it rained it was so loud on the roof you could barely hear yourself think and you felt an overwhelming urge to pee

    C. The bathroom was on the second floor so I got my cardio in…

    D. When the electricity went out (think rolling blackouts, etc) we had to use flashlights we kept at our desk to get to a part of the building with natural light.

    And, that is just one of 4 nonprofits I have worked in…yeah…apparently I should have studied something else in college :-)

    Chris



  8. Museumpro
    February 3, 2010 10:43 am

    When I moved over from a bitty museum to CMU they had free tea and I was thrilled.



  9. Samrobb
    February 3, 2010 10:45 am

    “Signing in means entering your name into a computer which then spits you out a name tag while the receptionist calls your host, in this case Christina Schulman.”

    I *knew* that Christina would have to be involved in this somehow :-) You were in better hands than you know for your tour, Virgina.



  10. TripleC
    February 3, 2010 10:49 am

    Ok, so how many items on the Google List of Goodies would one need to come up with in order to get a peak at at least one boober? I kid of course.



  11. SpudMom
    February 3, 2010 10:57 am

    @SamRobb – I’m wondering if you’re the Sam Robb I know that works at a small start up in the North Hills with my husband. If so, Hello!



  12. Christine
    February 3, 2010 11:03 am

    My niece’s husband works at Google–unbelievable. And yes, I remember the shock and awe after working 5 years at nonprofits to finally join a for-profit venture. The supply room, filled with every type of pen, marker, pencil, post-it, tablet, envelope, paperclip you could ever imagine, brought me to tears. Even more so when the “keeper” asked, “Is there anything in particular YOU like? A certain type of pen?” I think I wept openly.



  13. Jeremy
    February 3, 2010 11:10 am

    i don’t know what the google people “do” at work – honestly, it doesn’t really even matter to me – but the environment that’s been established is one that will inspire creativity – one that will let its employees know that they are appreciated…and i’m certain (at least i hope i’m certain…) that their employees understand and appreciate this…
    i used to think that businesses that gave a ham/turkey as a christmas bonus were absolutely ridiculous – right now, i’d kill just for a thank you…



  14. ScareHouse Scott
    February 3, 2010 11:16 am

    There’s always a catch. If the office environment is that ideal it can only mean that there’s a kitten-grinding factory in the basement.

    I keed. The environment sounds fantastic.



  15. Chuck
    February 3, 2010 11:20 am

    From what I have heard that in companies that have all the perks they expect you to almost live there. Playing some Foosball is ok if you’re doing a 16 hour days.



  16. Pensgirl
    February 3, 2010 11:58 am

    Where I work we can’t even manage to have computers that allow you to do your job for 10 minutes without freezing. They kill productivity. I’m home with a cold today, but I’m doing some work on my own computer through our new web portal, and it’s better because it only freezes every 20 minutes. Plus, we’m hardly allowed to hit the ladies’ or gents’ rooms without management asking where we are. Google? Sounds like it can’t even be real.



  17. Karyn
    February 3, 2010 12:06 pm

    I had the priviledge of working at a pretty amazing non profit before my current job. While the pay wasn’t awesome, it was still decent. And the work i did allowed me to help alot of people. I’m no social worker, but i know clients were sad when i left. I connected them to things they otherwise wouldnt have. and i really miss that in what i do now. However i had a huge cubicle, and access to all the supplies i could put in my drawers if need be. But the only thing that was free was the use of the fridge and microwave. (if others didn’t steal your lunch before you ate it). You’d think they could at least buy some crappy coffee to give you for free…
    google sounds like bliss!



  18. Toad
    February 3, 2010 12:13 pm

    @ Chuck:

    Must first thought exactly. The turnover there would be ginormous if people were working 16 hours a day without some sort of break/distrction, etc. Hell, in my cushy government job, I need various distractions (like right now…).



  19. Cindy
    February 3, 2010 12:15 pm

    Google has a fantastic environment, both in Pittsburgh and out here in CA where I am. They set it up so that people interact with each other and trade ideas, so that they can produce wonderful creative things. Also important, at least to me, is that the folks I know there really take the “don’t be evil” thing seriously. A company that creates an environment where their people are actively trying to do good is a rare and wonderful thing in this world.

    Chuck, I have not seen them expect you to live there. They do expect that while you’re there, you’ll work hard… creatively, collaboratively, but hard. They also encourage you to spend some of your work time on a personal project. Some of these projects have grown up to become products and some (such as coaching robotics leagues for kids) improve the state of the world. That said, it isn’t perfect. No place is. But it’s darn good.

    What do people do there? They write and test code to create applications (Gmail, Android, Chrome, Google Earth, etc.), research how to improve their products (such as how to better filter spam), fix bugs, do public relations, handle legal issues, create those cool Google Doodles…



  20. Julia
    February 3, 2010 12:22 pm

    I spent the first two years of my still-developing career at a university. After the initial thrill of getting a regular paycheck wore off, so did the job. I had my own office, which was great, and we had a ton of PTO days, but the work just wasn’t gratifying and the people were really screwy. So I switched and went to for-profit. I may not have my own office (yet), but we have an unlimited free supply of high-end coffee and tea in every break room, we have Christmas and yearly bonuses, and the paycheck actually allows me to pay my bills. It’s no Google, but having come from such a backwards environment before, it’s like night and day.



  21. spoon
    February 3, 2010 12:22 pm

    This is how FORE Systems was when I worked there. Free beer friday’s with live bands. foosball all the time (@scottsweep and I would dominate), massages and catered food (not free though). Man I miss those days before the dot com bubble burst.

    It’s great to see Google is providing such a kickass atmosphere. If you did whip out the girls though I’m afraid your butler would have a coronary.



  22. Lauren
    February 3, 2010 12:36 pm

    I do kind of laugh about this. My husband, who belongs to, er, I mean works for the Army, recently had to buy his own blood pressure cuff because after asking for a new one 4 months ago was told that his request was still being processed. He’s also worked in a trailer for the last 2 years, at 2 different bases. Love that Google values their employees, but just goes to show how “valued” soldiers are (says she who is bitter because the Army took away her $8000 new home buyers tax credit…)



  23. Sheila
    February 3, 2010 12:56 pm

    I agree with Chuck I’ve seen big firms do this (onsite cafeteria gourmet menu free, dry cleaning, day care etc…) bc they don’t want you to have to leave the office for anything! Great that Google puts forth friendly homey environment and glad to have them here. Perks are nice but they come with high expectations



  24. NullRegister
    February 3, 2010 1:01 pm

    The type of people who thrive in these environments are the type Google, Pixar, etc hire. Creative workaholic types. If you’re not into working hard, it is painfully obvious and you won’t last long.

    Also, you can do amazing things for a workspace with a few coats of non-institutional paint and large, cheap, DIY whiteboards.



  25. Ashley
    February 3, 2010 1:08 pm

    Several more reasons to add to the “I Hate My Fucking Job” list.



  26. Betoon
    February 3, 2010 1:24 pm

    Well in my non-profit environment we had a dog come in from the street and poop in our conference room. That about says it all.



  27. bluzdude
    February 3, 2010 1:45 pm

    If Ginny makes good on her threat to show Google her boobs, guess what’s going to be filling the O’s on the next Google Doodle?



  28. Magnus Patris
    February 3, 2010 1:50 pm

    I worked at the Pentagon a few years back and our employer gave us these really cool gas masks, duct tape and plastic sheeting. Bitchin’! I had to give the gas mask back when I quit. (Shhhhhh! I kept the duct tape).



  29. Mary
    February 3, 2010 2:01 pm

    The day I was there, some tabloids were in the waiting room. Very cool. But people are expected to put in looooooooong hours.



  30. Lou
    February 3, 2010 2:45 pm

    Is it weird that I want to work for a non-profit OR Google? I’d take either please.



  31. me
    February 3, 2010 2:55 pm

    it sounds much like the internet company i worked at in the Boston area back in 2000… free beer Fridays, a masseuse on staff, fitness center, etc..

    then the bubble burst and the venture capital money dried up and a slew of people got laid off…. careful Google – this look awfully familiar.



  32. red pen mama
    February 3, 2010 3:27 pm

    I wish they hired writers.



  33. Scott
    February 3, 2010 4:06 pm

    Most tech companies employ “tech writers” who produce manuals, instructions, etc. You should “Google” it to find out more.



  34. aDerek
    February 3, 2010 4:06 pm

    I spent a fantastic afternoon in the Google NYC office visiting a friend who works there. They had everything Ginny described plus scooters that you could ride from meeting to meeting since the office was so big! And disposable silverware in the cafeteria that is made from plant/potato starch so is 100% biodegradable.



  35. SpudMom
    February 3, 2010 4:45 pm

    @redpenmama – my husband is a writer and he’s worked for a number of computer companies. It’s called Tech Writing and he writes those manuals we never read.



  36. ChickLitLisa
    February 3, 2010 4:56 pm

    Do the employees get to USE all that stuff? I had an interview once for what appeared to be a “dream job” with some of the things you saw at google-or similar (massage chairs, not actual people, for instance). I found out later that the employees were not actually allowed to use the “perks”.

    Unless, of course, the owners were out of town :)

    It never made sense-Why have 10 massage chairs, 4 pool tables, etc. and only 2 owners that are “allowed” to use them.



  37. Samrobb
    February 3, 2010 5:40 pm

    @SpudMom – probably… there’s not a whole lot of us Samrobbs running around in the North Hills :-)



  38. WesternPATexan
    February 3, 2010 6:20 pm

    regarding Connect Four – my boss @CandlewoodPIT is the champ! I believe he might give you a run for your money. If you are out in Robinson…come by and visit us.



  39. Bojack
    February 3, 2010 6:55 pm

    That’s precisely the approach I would take—-

    ON MY WAY TO IMPLEMENTING TOTAL AND COMPLETE
    WORLD DOMINATION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Be afraid, VERY AFRAID!!!!!!!!



  40. OldMetalGuy
    February 3, 2010 8:38 pm

    (speaking as someone who has been in both kinds of places)

    there are a lot of places around this area that provide some of the ‘perks’ listed, and are amazing places to work (and don’t require you to work slave hours 7 days a week in return)

    for the people that say ‘if I did any of this, my people would never work’, then I would suggest that you re-evaluate the hiring and retention processes you have.

    Granted, for some types of work, walking away from your desk for 10 minutes during the day for a game of fooseball isn’t practical, but even the smallest effort of a company can pay big dividends toward a better work environment.

    If people hate coming to work because the environment sucks, then it’s a pretty safe assumption that their work output will reflect that.

    red pen mama – most internet companies (people that develop web pages / content for clients) do use writers.. programmers and serious geeks can rarely write good copy :)



  41. NewBurgher
    February 3, 2010 10:00 pm

    @OldMetalGuy – what companies would this be exactly? I’m new to the area and will be needing to find a new job soon. I of course will also be checking the Google status daily.



  42. john jake
    February 3, 2010 11:03 pm

    Oh Ginny, I cannot begin to tell you what a hero you are. You may say don’t call you a hero but will not listen to that. Your tales of your half cubicle, well I just want to thank you for blazing those trails so that the likes of someone like me can enjoy the confines of my friendly cubicle.

    Burnt microwave popcorn you say? I can’t imagine having to smell that. I can’t say I’ve ever been in an office where I’ve had to deal with that.

    From the bottom of my heart I, along with every hard working. Pittsburgher must thank the queen while we sit in our comfy office chairs and look at our huge PC monitors.

    Also, regarding Google, you guys might want to go find the piece Leslie Stahl did on Google for 60 Minutes a few years ago. These perks are to encourage marathon work hours. Don’t get it twisted that you’re going to show up at 9, hackysack for a hal hour, do a few hours work, go to lunch, play foosball for two hours and go home at 3. Yes, they take great care of their employees but they expect great things in return.



  43. blackandgoldchick
    February 3, 2010 11:06 pm

    Not sure if I’m allowed to say where I work, however!! In our break room, we have a couch, cozy chairs, a foosball table, an air hockey table, doughnut days, and company picnics to amusement parks. Not a bad deal.



  44. butcher's dog
    February 4, 2010 8:55 am

    @john jake: I believe I speak for many here when I say…BITE ME! Why people have to come here and diss Ginny escapes me. If you read the post with even half the sense God promised a goat, you’d know she was setting up a contrast between her previous experiences (and by extension the experiences of others) and what she saw at Google. Go troll someplace else, asshole.



  45. Political Party Pooper
    February 4, 2010 9:23 am

    I may be late here with my comment, but so what. Who is going to call me on it? You? You?!!!! Well, are you?!!!!!!!!!
    That’s what I thought.

    Google absolutely treats its employees like they are valued. It’s their clients, business partners and customers they treat like shit. Especially if they owe you money. Strike that…they don’t really owe anyone money, how can they when they don’t acknowledge that the work was ever done? Long and short; if you want to get paid by Google, you have to be an employee. Everything else is a crap shoot.

    They definitely use their size in an attempt to intimidate, and they are very good at it. I had one website that, though it was a for-profit company, actually became a non-profit company when Google decided to ignore their bill. Really, it can happen that fast. Only, I still didn’t get to buy stuff at Office Max without paying sales tax.

    Definitely not a fan of Google, until they learn what “Amount Now Due” means.



  46. efw_west
    February 4, 2010 1:43 pm

    Aren’t the interviews for Google pretty tough? I think some of the questions are “Tell us what is your favorite math equation and explain why this is so?”. That one is actual and there are more to follow.



  47. red pen mama
    February 4, 2010 2:08 pm

    Thanks, guys, but I’m not a tech writer. I’m a marketing copy writer (in my former life, a journalist). I actually take tech manuals and tech writing and turn it into good English (mileage may vary) and/or marketing writing at my current job. So: I wish they hired creative/marketing writing. And if they do (I’ll Google it), I’m applying.



  48. Clair
    February 5, 2010 2:12 am

    I would love my hubby to get a job at Google…he is an IT guy, he could get it if the right opportunity popped up I am sure. But it has to be in Pittsburgh so I can come home! Working here in NoVA or in DC just won’t do…I need an excuse to move back!



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