Monday 12 March 2012

Visiting Google In London

As a person who manages his own websites and being dependent to large extent on what Google does in respect of its search engine algorithm, it was nice to be invited to attend a seminar on how to improve AdSense revenue. For a website builder it was like being invited to visit God! I have visited three times now and I'd like to briefly write about the experience as it might interest some people who would like to know what it is like inside Google's offices.
Complimentary gift that Google generously gave me.
This is a really nice Italian made note pad.

I'll tell you right away that it is not the kind of place I worked in all my working life. In fact, Google offices are startlingly different to the conventional office environment.

I have a lot of experience working in offices in England as a lawyer. I would have given my right arm to have had the opportunity to work for Google when I was younger. Google didn't exist when I was younger! But hypothetically speaking you get the message.


The Google office space in their London, Victoria offices and the ones near Tottenham Court Road are extremely pleasant work environments. The outside of the buildings are modern and you know that Google occupies the building as there are bright, modern Google colors outside. This is especially the case at the 1-13 St Giles High Street, London WC2H 8AG offices near Tottenham Court Road.  The Google street view image below shows the offices being built.

View Larger Map

There is a very relaxed feeling about the place. They don't seem like work places; more like a big club. There are canteen areas dotted around the building brimming with food and drink and what seem to be brainstorming areas in glass walled rooms. There is an open feeling.

The colour schemes are modern, bright, colourful and a bit funky. I guess the idea is to encourage employees to think out of the box and creatively.

One slightly unpleasant aspect of visiting Google that I experienced last time was "reception". In the Victoria, London offices nearest Victoria station there is what appears to be a large reception desk. I went up to it and announced my arrival for the seminar. This was not a reception desk, I discovered. The two women behind the very long counter were security only. They were unhelpful and simply said that I must know the name of the person who I was visiting before they would let me in. They could not ring up to the Google offices. They had no means to do that. They were a complete brick wall. I was about to go home when one of them mentioned that there were other offices down the road. I figured I was in the wrong place but the general mood at the massive entrance hall was cool, unwelcoming and unhelpful. This problem of visiting the wrong office (the other one being near by) must have happened before and you would have thought the people at the counter would have been trained to deal with it pleasantly.

There was another security guard near the lifts. I presume that this office building did not receive Joe Public but only Mr Businessman.
Another generous Google gift. Thank you Google.
Culture and Employees

All the employees that I met and saw were young and there were lots of females. I don't know if the people that I met were a representative group but young/female would describe them. Perhaps women are more often employed in communicating with the public - people like me. They were international ladies; women whose first language was not English. They were multilingual. I use the word "lady" deliberately. They were nice intelligent people. That gives a clue as to the type of employee Google seeks.

On the downside, I really feel that Google has become a bit flabby in its culture and mentality. I think this is because of the large profits that roll in without the usual effort (in my opinion) and they are a monopoly almost.

Without wishing to be over critical, the time keeping and organisation by Google employees was not first class and neither were the presentations. And I expected first class from a company that produces first class free software (usually). You wonder how hard they were trying.

I enjoyed my visits and I thank Google for inviting me. However, I think Google should tighten up a bit and put a bit of rigour back into their workplace. It has got too easy at Google. It is not the real working world. Not from my perspective in any case.

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