Former computer science students hit it big working at Google

In addition to free food and laundry, Google offers employees opportunities to expand.

Emily Kaiser

.MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – Upon accepting a job at the Google world headquarters, known as the Googleplex, employees sign on for much more than a nine-to-five job.

For University alumni Uygar Oztekin and Levent Ertoz, the free food, laundry and workout facilities weren’t the main draw to the jobs.

Ertoz, a Google software engineer and computer science graduate student in his final stages of his Ph.D., received two offers at the end of 2004, but chose Google over another start-up company in Silicon Valley.

He said the mission of the company and its ability to make a difference swayed him to take the job.

“The offers were compatible, but Google is more what I’d like to do,” he said. “You can have a bigger effect in your project and if you launch something external and visible, you can tell people about it.”

Google is one of the five most popular Web sites and is used around the world by millions of unique visitors every day.

Oztekin started at Google in 2004 as a software engineer. He officially graduated from the University in 2005 with a Ph.D. in computer science.

Oztekin and Ertoz both focus on search quality at the company, which can be hard to see on the Web site, but ensures visitors find the best answer to their query.

“Google tries to do the best for the regular user,” Oztekin said. “If we know more about what the user wants, we can give them better results.”

He said one of the visible projects he has worked on since starting at the company is the use of Google searching on third-party sites.

“You search through that site and the results you will be getting will be tailored to that population,” Oztekin said.

Flexible team projects allow both of them to stroll into the office around 10 a.m. to begin work. Their communication with several offices overseas sometimes requires them to work longer days to reach others during daytime hours.

Ertoz said the group-work ideal at Google works efficiently.

“The small groups don’t waste too much time on communication,” he said. “We sit close together and get to know each other better.”

Googleplex

Upon entering the Googleplex, employees and visitors enter a space with the best of both worlds: work and play.

With more than a dozen buildings, the Mountain View complex is one of more than 40 offices in 20 countries. Google currently employs about 12,000 people with the majority working at the main headquarters.

The company mottos, “You can be serious without a suit” and “You can make money without doing evil” shine through in the building’s amenities and attitudes.

The 13 cafés on the campus feature free food ranging from sushi, smoothies and American cuisine. Many new employees gain the dreaded “Google 15” when they start overindulging.

There’s no dress code and employees often take advantage of themes like “PJ Day.”

“That day we actually had a dress code,” Ertoz said. “We had to wear something.”

The complex also includes a workout facility, a continuous stream pool and opportunities for haircuts, oil changes and bike repairs.

Children, both humans and dogs, are also welcome on the site.

The company philosophy is based on the idea of making employees happy while they are at work, said Google Communications Manager Sunny Gettinger.

“We want Googlers to have free time of their own,” she said. “We don’t want them to plan their days around errands they could take care of while in the complex and then they can really spend their time doing what they love with the people they love.”

The work spaces inside the buildings also create more productive time at work, Gettinger said.

In between work groups bordered by glass walls, employees can be seen chatting over a game of chess or pool.

“Just because someone is playing chess doesn’t mean they aren’t talking to people,” Gettinger said. “People need a break from their computer and need that to get work done.”

The future at Google

Ertoz and Oztekin said they are content at Google for the time being. The business offers endless opportunities to expand the product for consumers, Ertoz said.

“Searching is not a solved problem because constantly the Internet is growing,” he said. “Every day there is new content because creation of content is much easier than before.”

Oztekin said the endless stream of new information can make their jobs tougher as they try to make searches effective.

“We don’t filter anything, but we always need to find ways for people to get the most relevant information,” he said.

But they both admit the added benefits of the site are definitely a plus.

“There are a lot of nice people – great people actually – and an excellent working environment,” Oztekin said.