You Must Ask Mr. Google

Almost four years ago, Staffan and I were privileged to be a part of a group that was sitting on a rooftop terrace at a Coptic monastery in Egypt. We had the chance to ask questions of a wise old monk, who was willing to share the wisdom he’d gained from decades of monastic living. But to one question he answered, “That I do not know. You must ask Mr. Google.” It was the last thing any of us expected to hear from an elderly monk in the middle of the Egyptian desert, but sadly the most memorable answer he gave us that day. And so it was that the phrase “ask Mr. Google” entered our everyday conversation.

Nerdy as it might be, we jumped at the chance to visit Mr. Google at home. We got a private tour from a Google employee, Staffan’s cousin Olof. Given how much a part of our lives and culture Google has become, it was fascinating to see the epicenter of it all. There are guided tours of the campus, which are probably well worth taking. The atmosphere is difficult to describe. There is real work being done, and most employees work hard and long. But at the same time, there is a lighthearted, creative vibe that seems to say, “we don’t take ourselves too seriously.” You could choose to have a group meeting on a “conference bike” – a round contraption with about 6 seats and sets of pedals on it – and ride around campus during your meeting. Or stop by and feed some lawn flamingos to the dinosaur skeleton statue.

Watch out Emelie! With that pink shirt, he might eat you too!

Google Earth

I can see my house from here!

C’mon kids, take turns!

Visitors of every age are signed in and get name tags

What is this ancient technology doing at Google?

Android: version Doughnut

…And Ice Cream Sundae and Cupcake. If you don’t get it, don’t worry. Neither did I. And neither did the kids. They just thought it was a yummy-looking place to play! All the versions were represented, but more than two pictures seems unnecessary.

One thing we thought was particularly interesting is that no money changes hands on the Google campus. Anything you see, from sodas in the refrigerators to lunch in the cafeteria to a latte in the cafe, is all free to employees and their guests.

And so we went to visit Mr. Google. He was a gracious host, showing us where the things come from that we use everyday, letting our kids play, and giving us a good lunch before we were on our way.

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