Guest Blog: Alexandra Levit
Upfront disclosure: I don’t work for Google…yet.
Thanks to my new friend Sally Anderson, a human resources partner at Google Chicago, I recently had the opportunity to tour the office and see for myself why Google is one of the most desirable employers in the world. I wasn’t disappointed.
The Customer is King
While I sat in the brightly lit, colorful lobby and sucked on a lemon Jolly Rancher, I watched the front desk receptionist field several calls from prospective summer interns. Did he turn up his nose and scoff? No sir. Google understands that when a call comes into the organization, you never know who’s on the line and what kind of influence that person might have – so its receptionists are helpful and friendly to everyone.
Diverse Work Spaces Promote Concentration and Collaboration
Google generally favors an open office environment, but the organization is very creative in its use of space. If you need a moment to relax alone, you head to the porch swings by the windows. You can brainstorm with colleagues in a room decorated like a garden. Want to impress a new client? Take her over to the speakeasy-themed conference room.
A Wellness Focus is Everywhere
Google serves up gourmet, healthy breakfast and lunch to its Chicago employees so they won’t rely on the plethora of fast food options in the area. And if you don’t have time to hit the in-house gym or massage chairs, you can meet with colleagues as you walk around the office track – 12 laps equals one mile.
Creativity Flows Unobstructed
The people at Google, even the engineers, are always making art. Evidence of their work is on every floor, from wall masterpieces made by paintball guns to complex “Blox” structures built to resemble Stonehenge. I think if I worked here, I might just get over my fear of art class and discover my inner Picasso.
Every Office is Innovative
I would have thought the coolest projects would be reserved for Google’s West Coast headquarters, but Chicago can hold its own when it comes to intrapreneurship. Employees here were responsible for Google code (an internal site for developers, the Data Liberation Front, including Google Takeout, and portions of the Art Project. The latter was responsible for bringing the collections of museums including the Louvre and the Art Institute of Chicago online.
Community Engagement is a Priority
Google Chicago supports its local branches of the National Society of Black Engineers, National Engineers Week, National Lab Day and Girls in Engineering Day. The office participates in Chicago Ideas Week and helped judge the FIRST Robotics Competition. It provides space and resources to non-profit tech incubators, and hosts or co-hosts events including ORD Camp, the Parent Internet Safety Workshop and the Internet Bootcamp for Your Business.
It’s Like Being at the Ellen Show
A string of high-profile visitors parade through Google Chicago’s hallways, from the mayor, Rahm Emanuel, and chef Rick Bayless, to Lollapalooza acts like DJ White Shadow and Cold War Kids. Standing in the main meeting room, which manages to be intimidating and down to earth at the same time, I could fancy myself among the roster of authors and thought-leaders that grace the stage on a monthly basis.
It’s an Open Book
Other than not allowing me to take pictures of specific employees, Google was happy to show and tell me anything I wanted to know about. This openness and transparency was a refreshing change from working with organizations that ask me to sign an NDA before a 30 minute phone conversation. Google people trust others, and so others trust them.