My life is like tofu—it’s what gets added that makes it interesting. ~Angela Johnson
Last Wednesday, I took Kyle and his friend on A Visit to Google Pittsburgh to tour the facility as a birthday surprise. Now I want to share my surprises and the details of the Google offices!
Yes, I knew the office would be Googled up, and fun, and unique, but what I saw blew me away. First, I didn’t realize the size of Google Pittsburgh. They employ about 500, and are planning on doubling that with the expansion of the new building. Perhaps I had it in my head this office was the same office they originally occupied near Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). Not that I was ever there, but I knew it was smaller. Things have changed.
Google Pittsburgh is located in Bakery Square in Pittsburgh at the old Nabisco plant. The office consists of seven floors of sheer fun. There are no other words to describe it. In addition to all the branding, which Google does it right, and the attention to detail, they’ve really honored Pittsburgh with the themes and designs. Each floor has a different theme. While I don’t remember which floor was which, and I don’t remember everything I saw, I’d like to give a general overview.
As I mentioned each floor has a different theme. There are seven floors total. When you arrive in the Google lobby, you’re on the seventh floor and once you pass a secure door, the awesomeness is reveled.
One floor pays homage to Nabisco. Each room is named for one of their products. They even have a huge original mixer on the floor they kept from the old plant. It sits near the pool table and pinball machine.
Another floor is dedicated to Kennywood. There’s an actual roller coaster car in the lobby facing down the stairwell, enough said! While walking about, they’ve incorporated ramps and railings and Kennywood styled signs to give it the feel of being in Kennywood. It worked for me!
Another floor is dedicated to the bridges of Pittsburgh, again naming the rooms for each bridge. There are design elements everywhere representing our beloved bridges.
One floor has the parks and trails theme, with bamboo dividers, rough cut wood paneling and total nature theme. I mean they even have a live tree stretching up through one of the stairwells that connects two floors interrupted by an occupied floor. Me coming from a family of loggers and woodworkers, I fell in love with that idea instantly. I’d love to have a live tree for Thrill of the Hunt one day.
One floor captures the essence of our tunnels with hallways resembling the archways of a tunnel, the textured walls of cement and even the lighting gives you the feel of the Fort Pitt Tunnel or the Squirrel Hill Tunnel. As you’re walking through the hallway, you almost feel like the cityscape of Pittsburgh should appear before your eyes at the end.
I wish I could remember the other details of the themes and the floors, perhaps it’ll come back to me. I was in complete aw during the entire tour.
As I mentioned before with A Visit to Google Pittsburgh, the cafeteria is a huge beautiful space with snazzy chairs, booths, real plates and silverware, and food stations. All complementary for all employees and visitors. They have a quality chef on payroll with a full kitchen staff. Google doesn’t take this job lightly. I heard it’s no easy task becoming a chef for Google.
In the corner of the kitchen they grow select fresh vegetables and herbs, to be used by the kitchen or the employees can help themselves. One the roof of one of the levels, they even have laying chickens and more herbs growing. Yes, real chickens someone takes care of and picks the eggs. All the fresh ingredients are used in making the grub. Great idea! In fact, every food item at each station is labeled with the ingredients. They’re even color coded according to taste and nutritional value. The goal is to feed the employees healthy food, without it appearing or sounding healthy.
They have stations for hot foods and cold. The kitchen staff is even on hand during the lunch hours to mix up your personal salad or serve your hot meals. You can help yourself to fresh fruits, vegetables, water infused with a variety of healthy organic ingredients, desserts or even simply peanut butter and jelly. They’ve got it all! And it’s all unlimited for zero dollars!
The area is spacious and clean and very inviting.
During the tour we walked past not one, but several smaller kitchens and coffee shops scattered throughout. You’re never more than a few feet away from a kitchen stocked with a variety of drinks (healthy and not so much), snacks, cereals and so on. The kitchen staff stocks those smaller kitchens and coffee shop style areas of the building every day. The Google employees are seriously hooked up.
No employee ever has to worry about bringing their lunch or snacks. Google is also ensuring its employees are eating a lot healthier, at least that’s the goal. It’s a proven fact that individuals who eat healthier are more alert, think better, have more energy and in turn can give back to their job. Plus, Google just removed a major stress out of the day, what to eat?
Upon entering the lobby into the front desk area, I did notice (how could anyone miss it) a huge candy bowl. Again, it’s a help yourself area. When we walked in, Kyle immediately helped himself to some candy. I gave him an “are you kidding?” look stating, “Did you ask before you helped yourself?” His response? “No, it’s here for anyone to eat.” Trying to ensure he always uses good manners, I said, “Still, you should always ask first and don’t assume.”
Google even holds cooking classes in their test kitchen area for the employees. They sometimes bring in celebrity chefs. Wow!
During our tour, Andrew, our tour guide, pointed out little corners of the offices, and side conference rooms to be used by anyone who needs a change of pace from their desk, or to meet up with fellow co-workers to discuss work. It seemed like at every turn there was a sitting area or a mini escape from the daily grind.
While walking past a cubical section of the floor, watching our Google workers hard at making our lives searchably easy, Andrew pointed out a large hammock / jungle gym structure hovering over a corner of the work space. He took us up there. It was literally a huge hammock, suspended a floor above for anyone to sit and relax, take a nap or stretch your legs. It lead to another private corner with a massage chair.
Speaking of massages. They have a massage therapist on staff as another perk. Another great idea!
Keeping with the theme of relaxation and exercise, in yet another area, they have a room with walking treadmills overlooking Bakery Square. The employees can plug in and work while putting on mileage. Although, traveling through the offices will certainly give you extra steps on your pedometer.
They have a couple lecture halls to keep up with continued education and to introduce new visitors, staff members and such. Since they have so many visitors, they have a room containing several washers and dryers for anyone to use, especially for those out of town guests. They’ve thought of everything! Google is certainly very considerate.
Google even has their own tech support. Sure that would make sense since they have not only enough computers for each employee, plus.
A few additional perks include, a fully equipped gym, a music room to jam out at the end of a day, and naturally it’s a dog friendly office.
While on tour, after walking through a vault style door, we came to a hallway sporting an enlarged image covering the entire wall. Andrew shared one of his Google experiences with us. It was a distant shot of a building with railroad tracks in the foreground. The building held special significance to Andrew.
One of his first visits to Google Pittsburgh, when the office was near CMU, he said he came to the front desk, who asked him what size t-shirt. While the front desk chick had her back to Andrew, she placed the t-shirt over her shoulders and was messing with something in the corner. He said she all of a sudden turned around pointing Nerf guns at him and said “This office isn’t safe.”
Apparently, a few times a day the trains passed and literally shook the entire building for three minutes. In that time, no one can get any work done. So instead of the disturbance being a hindrance, they took advantage of the downtime with Nerf wars. I love it! Andrew even said that as per Amazon, a person is only permitted to purchase so many of the same product, for fear of that person reselling the product. His friend is forever banned for life from buying Nerf products on Amazon because of their daily recreation.
Andrew also told us that Google employees get credit for visiting other data centers and offices, when they swipe their badge. What do they get? Simply a virtual trophy or some sort. I love how Google encourages its employees to go above and beyond, in a fun and productive way. Now that’s a vision the company mastered.
Keep in mind this is all just in Google Pittsburgh. Can you imagine the headquarters? Which is now on my list to tour. I thoroughly enjoyed by visit to Google Pittsburgh. They have taken their success and done right by their employees and customers alike. Great job Google! I’d love to build a scavenger hunt in any Google office.
I can’t wait for Kyle’s next birthday. It’s a big one, sixteen!