Sunday, February 21, 2010
Behind Google's Closed Door
Nowadays it is a norm that whenever we need a piece of information, to get a definition of an unfamiliar word, to find a Web site that we don’t know the exact URL for or even to check the spelling of a word or a name, what we do, of course, is we “Google it.” It is interesting how many people are behind this simple Web page, or to be more specific, behind the little dummy-looking button that is labeled “Google Search.” And how many smartly-written lines of code are behind it.
The van took us from San Francisco to Silicon Valley, the U.S. location of all the major high-tech companies such as Adobe Systems, Advanced Micro Devices, Apple, Cisco, HP, Intel, Oracle, Yahoo, eBay and the list goes on. Silicon Valley has 280,300 high-tech jobs with an average salary of more than $144,000 a year, according to Wikipedia. That is higher than the average physicians’ salary in the United State, as reported by Worldsalaries.org. And Google is one of the biggest names among these companies. It made around $1.5 billion in the first three months of 2009, according to the Guardian newspaper.
We arrived just in time to Googleplex, the name of Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. I immediately noticed the beauty of the area, colorful buildings, nice gardens, statues for famous inventors, a volleyball yard and a funny dinosaur skeleton. We entered the main building; at the front desk there is a big screen that displays real-time queries of Google users around the world. On the left there is one of the very first servers that Google used, and it was built by Google’s engineers at that time.
The funniest thing in Googleplex is that the furthest cafeteria from each working office should not be more than 100 feet (nearly 30 meters). And because of that they have coffee machines, chocolate bars, candies and all kinds of juices and sodas nearby the offices in addition to the main restaurant, which serves mainly all kinds of foods for free.
After having lunch with my new IT friends and developers in Google, we continued our tour in the building. The most astonishing thing was the circular screen that has Google Earth on it, controlled by a joystick, which was specially designed for Google Earth. It simply enables the user to fly over the world and zoom in to the place in a fraction of a second. And if the user did not want to use the joystick, he can simply pronounce the name of the city, and it suddenly appears.
The work environment in Google is different; most of the employees are young, and they dress in a very casual manner--no need for business suits at all. The offices are close to each other, and those in the same area are more likely working on the same project or task. The managers in Google have created the ideal environment for creativity and competency; it is created in a way that the employees love their offices more than their apartments.
There is a big library in Goolgeplex for the ITs who take advantage of their leisure to enrich themselves with new knowledge. Google also provides housing for its employees who do not live in the city. They have swimming pools, gyms and many other entertainment means. They work, invent, enjoy, make money, help people--like helping rescue efforts via Google Maps in Haiti --and learn at the same time.
“Google’s main revenue comes from advertising” one of the young marketing employees told me. “The way we do it is that we charge the cost per click.” That means if a company advertises with Google, each time a user reaches the company’s Web site through a Google Ads portal, Google will charge that company a certain amount of money. And if someone tried to click many times on the same link trying to ruin the advertising process, it will not work because Google immediately determines whether that click is made based on a good intention or not. And the reason the code behind Google’s search engine is smartly written is because it brings back the most relevant information based on the phrase itself, location of the user and other variables. That is the biggest reason that makes Google the top search engine.
There are still several unique experiences inside Googleplex that there is not enough room to mention. However, visiting Googleplex summarizes the life in Silicon Valley and other high-tech cities. Finally, the hardest moment of this tour was when I left Googleplex because once you see this ideal work environment you do not want to leave it.
First Published in Auisvoice.org