On visiting Google and inspiration

google visitMy Young ICT Explorers teams got to visit Google’s Sydney offices last week – and they made me go with them.

Let’s just get this out of the way first: The Google offices were exactly as cool as we’d been led to expect. Secret places behind bookcases, jungle meeting rooms, cool toys spread around liberally – they’re a geek’s idea of a heavenly workspace made real. For my 11-13-year-old companions they were in 7th heaven, and I wasn’t far behind; it’s simply hard not to smile when you see a willingness to do cool stuff combined with the money to make it real.

The kids’ first reaction was – “I’m going to work here when I grow up”, they were completely inspired. I’m guessing that’s exactly the reaction the Google management is looking for. I did make a concerted effort as we toured the offices to point out the people actually working, though I have to say there weren’t enough harried and stressed looks amongst the Google employees we saw to make that effort really dent the kids’ enthusiasm. It occurred to me listening in on this that Google has really shifted the concept of what to expect from a workplace and they’ve pitched it precisely at their intended audience. I presume Google pays well – because at some point mortgages, school fees and so on hit most people square in the forehead – but they’ve put effort into the intangibles that attract this generation of young geeks. And more than that, because they’ve done it, they’ve given their brand a cachet as a place to work that is hard to beat.

As I drove the kids’ home, though, I was pleased to hear their conversation shift as they thought through the idea of working for Google. As they discussed the cool things they’d seen – the foyer has the TARDIS painted on the wall above a parking place for scooters! – without any pushing from me, they started changing their view from ‘I want to work for Google’ to ‘I want to create a company that is as cool as Google to work for’. That’s just an inspiring place for them to end up.

The other inspiring thing about the whole experience was that the chance to do it came from the kids winning the Young ICT Explorers and then presenting at the Pearcey Awards. Being able to see that sort of intangible benefit from all their efforts is priceless and very motivating.

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