Walking from Zurich Central station to the Google offices I was wondering what was ahead of us. What I had in mind was a mix of flash-forwards, involving PlayStation corners, employees riding bicycles across offices and me sliding down to the canteen. I was curious and intrigued and so were the students: why was Google the best large-company workplace in Switzerland for three years in a row? The reasons started to materialize during the first few presentations.
Four senior Googlers gave us a warm welcome and, through their stories, a real insight of what it takes to work at Google, as well as some clarity about the company culture. Also, we had the chance to learn how Google recruits and encourages employees to draw their own career paths within the organization. As their presentations and answers to our (many) questions were so interesting, I had to jot a few things down while listening. But let me go through the three key facts that, in my opinion, are particularly relevant to understand how the company operates.
At Google you need to be able to learn, as much as to re-learn. At the fast pace the company is cruising, employees need to constantly challenge themselves and embrace change pro-actively and fully. One of the speakers, long tenure with the company, spoke about his experience of getting in the company with minor responsibilities. Eight months after he was starting an exciting career, leading for several years projects in Tokyo and London – to mention just a couple – and keeping on challenging himself embracing change and exploring several areas of the business.
Google re-hires good employees. They let free their employees if they feel they want to take another path however if and where possible, they are welcome to re-join the company without going through an official interview process.
Google encourages you to make mistakes and work on personal projects. To employees, the company provides some physical spaces to develop special projects and own ideas to be developed outside their own competences, however within their working hours. There is also a small auditorium where employees present their ideas while other googlers listen to them, comfortably sitting on some vintage armchairs.
After the visit, I realized that Google is not only massage rooms, ping-pong tables, chill out areas and incredible services to employees. It is much more than that, and our experience was so enriching that is so hard to describe. What can I say, you need to see the place, you cannot just Google it.