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I think, therefore I Google: search giant's quest to capture knowledge

Tony Wright (via SMH) | Nov. 29, 2011
If you want to find out something these days, you Google it. But being the planet's go-to search engine just isn't enough for the booming company, which is fast moving towards a radical new technological frontier, writes Tony Wright for the Good Weekend magazine.

Hardly surprisingly, with all those perks - the free meals, free laundry and dry-cleaning, subsidised massages and childcare, a fleet of buses to ferry employees to and from their homes in San Francisco and beyond - Google has been ranked for much of the new century among the top employers in the US. This year, CNN Money placed it at No. 1 and Fortune magazine had it at No. 4. Salaries, while solid, aren't excessive in the tech world, ranging from about $90,000 to $200,000 a year. Page and Brin, both multi-billionaires thanks to their stock holdings in Google, pay themselves exactly $1 a year each.

The message? Job satisfaction is worth more than salary. It seems to work, although nobody calls the Googleplex a workplace. It's a campus. In this temple to bright youth, it fits. If you were to imagine, however, that this was no more than a playschool for spoiled geeks with PhDs, you'd be wrong. Signs scattered around remind everyone that they are involved in a serious enterprise. "Standards," proclaims one such poster, a touch self-consciously. "Great just isn't good enough."

Former Melburnian Glen Murphy makes clear what that means. Murphy, 30 - "I'm older now than my first boss" - is on the team that designs and constantly improves Google's browser, Chrome. It's all about speed, stability and security, and he's convinced the browser is better than the competition, but he and his colleagues are constantly having their work put to the test "by people trying to find any weaknesses, wherever they can".

"Fortunately, they're mainly on our side - we have some really amazing security people testing us all the time," he says. In other words, pressure on results is a part of the job description. It is simply that Google allows its employees the freedom to meet their targets in their own way.

"There are some pretty eccentric people here - some like to shut themselves in a room for a week and solve whatever it is they are trying to do, others like to sit around, talk and socialise, but they're working. So long as you do what you say you're going to do, no one cares how you do it." As we talk, two young Googlers slide, giggling, down a stainless-steel slippery dip into the interview room. Murphy hardly notices. Just a couple of colleagues letting off steam.

 

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