A visit to the Googleplex

After doing a thing with Google for the summer with a team of college, 150 or so of us were given an all-paid-for trip to the Google main headquarters in Mountain View, CA, for having completed the primary goals of the coding project.

It is certain that there are a very few number of individuals that get this opportunity. If you were just a kid, you’d be jumping up and down, but we are mature individuals (and broke college students) and know better than to get our hopes too high.

Because we were not informed at all that we were forbidden from disclosing any part of the trip, I can make full disclosure – well, at least the most interesting parts.

We – a group of three – were driven by a rather unprofessional Uber driver, who talked to us about his skepticism of the prevalence of all of these big tech companies all clustered in the one Silicon Valley, in a somewhat slurred speech (as if he just finished smoking weed on the way to pick us up from the airport). I mentioned to him rather cautiously that I had read that people working here were having a hard time even paying their house mortgages – he affirmed it completely, noting that even a small studio starts at $100k easily, and that there is no way to sustain oneself without sharing a room. I told him rather plainly that we were going to Google, perhaps a little too cheerfully. Promptly, he scoffed a little, warning us “not to get sucked into the black hole that is Google… [because] Google is not just a culture; it is your life.” I took his advice, as that of a local resident, with a significant amount of value.

On the afternoon of arrival, we are bused to the main headquarters of Google. (The driver is extremely aggressive to maintain a lead with the other buses ahead.) This visit is only possible, evidently, because it is a Sunday, and the campus is devoid of people. We take a very limited tour of the campus, and most of the time spent is actually on a small little park where all of the Android mascots have been placed. I conclude that there are probably not many interesting things around the campus, as it is very large (~20,000) campus where a vast multitude of regular office buildings have been helplessly consumed by this beast. I get to see the Google main main building, as in the one whose big logo is on Getty Images and gets used every time the press talks about some Google corporate action.

It’s no question why filmmakers decided to establish their businesses in Hollywood: perhaps it appeared to someone how picturesque California was, with its hundred-year-old tall mature pine trees, and decided to film here. It then appeared to me that filmmaking started with nature, not action movies.

During this afternoon visit, we are not really taken inside very much – in fact, we only go indoors to this one presentation lounge for a few minutes, and then sent back outside. There is probably too much at risk if they allow us anywhere beyond presentation rooms – after all, these are facilities for use by employees. There is a pronounced security presence, but it is not as prevalent as I thought it would be (no backpacks checked, no active checking of individuals, just standing around the perimeter ensuring that nobody strays away or someone sneaks in). There’s a great deal of games, and we get to meet some of the team that worked on the summer program activities. I suppose this meeting is more about socialization, which I am actually terrible at. I do my regular antisocial routine, where I walk around looking at people and waiting for someone to interact with me. If I’m asked to take a picture with someone involving some kind of Google-related prop, I just apologize to them, saying that I’m not a slave to social media.

The next day, we spend it all in a presentation room and courtyard area, in some other part of the Googleplex probably a mile or so away from the main headquarters. Clearly, it is because it is a Monday, and there is nowhere else we can go as a large group, since all spaces are being occupied by employees. We spend the day with more games and talks about diversity in the field, core Google products, 20% time, the 10x principle (which I still don’t really understand very well), a Q&A session with a panel of former members of the summer program (“does it matter what programming language you use for your code interview?” no, of course not, why would it? you should care more about the job rather than the interview) and a barbecue.

All in all, it was not very interesting. I thought we would pull out the laptops for something, but this never happened. Just one day full of talks about things, and a lot of food. Not like I haven’t endured “death by recruitment” before. (Company that starts with an “A” and ends with “T&T”, except their presentations were even more boring.)

I came here thinking to myself that there would be recruiters watching my every action, but there weren’t. The project advisers, of course, were present to talk and eat with us and things like that, but there was no one to immediately approach us for a job interview or anything like that, because that was not the purpose of the trip. They just wanted to show us the campus, and they spared no expense to provide us with this opportunity. It only proves that they can shell out any sort of money, including $100,000 for a day’s worth of flights from all across the US, and still yield a return on their investment.

One of the last things I heard before I left was that Google was receiving around 300 new employees (Nooglers) daily, yet the turnover was quite high, because it was growing at an exponential rate, and it was being limited solely by real estate (it chews up entire businesses to subsist!). Google is already around 80,000 strong (actual figures from a real employee) and will continue its growth in the coming future. And immediately, I thought of the Roman Empire. This growth is unsustainable; it will inevitably split up and break from the power struggle; people think it will last forever, but it will not. There will be more intelligent, less centralized ways in the future to find information, because Google currently¬†owns a crucial part of the gateway to information: the search engine, your email, half the world’s videos – and what next?

Perhaps I would pursue Google for an internship, but certainly not for a full-time job. Working for Google will hinder me from accomplishing my life’s work due to non-compete and special clauses in their mischievous contracts. Moreover, if Larry Page and Sergey were able to do make a succeeding business, knowing absolutely nothing about what they were doing exactly, what stops me from pursuing that same spirit and passion of working in a garage as my office? Heck, it’s hardly even an entrepreneurial spirit – I’m not campaigning daily to get money that isn’t mine – it’s just plain old curiosity and the wish to bring that idea further.

They all started off as kids who didn’t know what they were getting into, and no one understood them, and they didn’t understand much about business and public relations. The naivete simply brought them forward as a stroke of luck. Is that it, really? A stroke of luck?

No. I’m not lured by all of these “perks,” the materialistic values that are merely used as tools to entice people into joining this empire. Look, they have already been causing localized inflation; why would I want to bring that same inflation over to wherever I live?

Just another reminder of the lost, contrived, and discordant world we live in.

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