California living: Google campus & perks

Work is still slow, as I'm learning the ropes, so let me tell you a bit about the work environment instead. But first, few of you were asking what am I working on. Well, closest Google product to what I'll be doing is Image search. However, I'm in the Infrastructure team, so I'm more on the backend side of things and moreover, I'm a Software Engineer in Test, so I'm working on the testing infrastructure, rather than the product itself. Anyway...

To begin with I have to say that the campus is somewhat different than what I imagined. I thought it would be like a huge university campus: with plenty of green open space. Instead, it's more like a small city, including streets and traffic lights, one difference being the abundance of colorful Google bikes cruising around :).

But with regards to perks and benefits... it's at least as good as I imagined, maybe better ;). Most of you probably heard stories of how Google is as close to paradise as work can get for geeks. After spending 1 month here, I can confirm that. My typical day could go as follows:

  • I come to work on the shuttle, working on the way, thanks to on-board WiFi.
  • Once at work I'd grab a quick breakfast.
  • I get hungry during the day, so I'd head to one of many micro-kitchens for some snack and fruits. I'd often also stop in one of the cafes serving fresh juices and smoothies.
  • Lunch time is a tough time for someone as undecided as myself, as there are so many cafes to choose from... and then there's the tough existential question: should I have ice-cream or frozen yogurt for dessert?
  • At some point I need a break from work so I head over to the gym. Little things, but the readily available towels, drinks and protein bars really do make live so much easier (I used to forget some subset of those items on a regular basis).
  • Before going home I'd usually grab dinner...
  • and then sometimes practice on one of the digital pianos.

Not bad, huh? Total cost: $0.00. Obviously, there is more and the things I mentioned above are just things that I care about and regularly take advantage of. Few other things; for instance yesterday I had a hair-cut at work. You can also do your laundry on campus, wash and change oil in your car, send mail and do tons of other things.

Another interesting thing are the "nap stations". I broke the spell after first two weeks, but at first I used to get up at 6 almost every day and head for the 6:30 shuttle. That meant that at many points during the week I'd be pretty tired. So once I decided to take a nap at work. Those things look a bit like recliner chairs; you sit there, program the alarm, optionally set some soothing music, put it in horizontal position and... nap time! This device stands in a very busy corridor, so I was quite skeptical but actually it works great. I did rest and felt much refreshed for the rest of the day.

One thing that I did not do so far, but want to try at some point, is to check the group classes at the gym. For instance for yoga, which I'm interested in, there are, I don't remember exactly and I cannot look it up at this moment, but I think something like 20 classes weekly to choose from (!). Yup, we do get spoiled here.

One of my thoughts while being here is that it's a really dangerous workplace for kids freshly out of school, as they'll probably assume that's how work is. Everywhere. And if one day they change jobs... it's gonna be tough on them.

Ok, time to wrap it up. Tomorrow I'm running a half-marathon and will need to get up at 5:30 (ouch). Wish me good luck! :)

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