Visiting the Google offices in London had been on my bucket list for a long time. So when I entered the building where their London headquarters are based, I turned from a smartly dressed young professional into an excited schoolgirl for whom Christmas had come early.
As me and 30 others from London 360, including in-house reporters and those taking part in the Multi-Media Genius training initiative run by the Mayor’s Fund, arrived at the 9th floor, the shameless photo-taking with the Google entrance sign began. This was to continue throughout the visit, as people attempted to vlog and live tweet about their experiences right from the get go.
I would describe the situation as a stampede of highly enthusiastic and happy wilder beast descending on the Australian outback. This is no ordinary office environment, as we discovered when given a walking tour by members of Google London’s staff. My preconceptions of Google before I came was that it would have quirky working spaces, complete with an indoor slide, and that the employees would be laidback, dressed in smart-casual clothing, potentially wearing trendy thick rimmed glasses and be sipping on a chai lattee while browsing the internet on their Apple Mac. On the whole, I wasn’t far off!
It wasn’t long before we found out the first perk of working at Google – UNLIMITED FREE FOOD! We needed little encouragement when offered the chance to “help ourselves” to whatever food and drink we fancied. Like kids in a candy shop, we tucked in to a range of food, from sushi to Google-branded cupcakes.
As if free food wasn’t tempting enough, there is an outdoor terrace and gym which both offer stunning panoramic views of the whole city. They have cosy chairs in all of their work spaces, and even a bed for Google creatives and techies to catch up on their much needed beauty sleep. But one of the things that really excited me was the massage room, where (you guessed it) employees are treated to free treatments whenever they wish. Where do I sign up?
We were then taken around the YouTube Creator studios by Luisa. This is where YouTubers who have amassed more than 5,000 subscribers are invited to use YouTube’s in-house studio equipment and editing software for free, taking their passion for filming from the bedroom to the big screen.
In the office boardroom, we were treated to a presentation by Phil Jones, the Global Agency Business Leader, who talked about the company ethos and working culture at Google. First and foremost, innovation can come from anywhere, and Google actively embrace this. For instance, the idea for OK Google (the voice-enabled search service) came from an engineer working at the firm. As long as you have the creative, analytical, teamwork and leadership skills, Google welcomes people from all backgrounds and academic disciplines.
In the Q&A session that followed, a question was asked about privacy surrounding content sharing and whether this created issues for Google. Phil said that Google was different from other organisations because you own your own data and therefore can opt to have it removed from search results if you want to.
This was followed by a chat with Nicole, an intern from Arizona, who has had a chance to work with some of the biggest ad campaigns in the world. It’s visible, from her energy and infectious personality, that she loves her job. Not only does she work in a comfortable open-plan space with an array of services that any working professional would die for, she works alongside people who share the same passion for innovation and working with people.Freebies aside (we also got a free Google mug on our way out), the most important message I took from the visit was that it’s ok to fail in life, as long as you fail quick and learn from it! Take risks and it can pay off in a big way, and it’s arguably the main reason for Google’s global success story. Thanks to the Mayor’s Fund, Media Trust and of course to the Google staff for making this visit happen.