Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Google Coffee Break

My first espresso shot!
Coffee breaks are pretty common at any company; employees get up to stretch their legs, rejuvenate with a cup of something involving caffeine, and talk about their lives for a few minutes before getting back to work.

My first week or two at Google, I did coffee breaks all wrong.  Google NYC has coffee brewing machines placed at convenient locations throughout the office.  The machines don't make anything gourmet (although if you're willing to walk a few flights of stairs to the 5 Borough Bistro, there's always plenty of nicer options) but I'm from Seattle and the need for a quick jolt of caffeine at frequent intervals has caused my standards to be considerably lower than the average individual.  I always arrived a few minutes before my team, since I wanted to study what I had done the day before for a few minutes before anyone else showed up; I'd go straight to the machine, stand quietly next to it while it brewed me a cup of coffee, and then go to my desk to start my work for the day. I would then repeat this procedure for the next eight to ten hours.

One day I was running a little 'late' (or rather, on time), and got to my desk at the same time as my teammates.  Seeing my lack of caffeinated beverage, they invited me to go to a different floor to grab espresso with them.  All of a sudden a whole new world opened up; not only was this a daily routine, but it was a perfect moment to ask a question that would take more than a few minutes to answer, ask them about their lives and careers at Google, and tell them funny stories about my intern ('Noogler') experiences.  All of my co-workers have wonderfully fun and quirky sides to them, and it's during these coffee breaks and latte-making teaching-sessions, that those had time to come out.

After that, coffee breaks became my favorite part of the day.  I rarely get coffee without another member of my team, and when I do I ping (I have no idea if this is a common term, the first time I heard it was at Google--it just means 'to GChat' someone) another intern to go with me.  I've made a lot of friends--and a lot of lattes--through coffee breaks.  Google understands that you're not going to be at your most productive if you stare at a screen for eight hours straight and the company makes it easy to get away from the office environment.  It's amazing how much more I get done after taking a break in the rain-forest  or Lego micro-kitchen (yes, one does have stuffed sloths and the other has crazy contraptions built by Googlers on coffee breaks).

People might think that it's a weird work environment, and I've read more than a few articles that describe my friends in MTV (Mountain View) as working in an 'amusement park,' but that's just part of what makes Google so much fun to work for, their inability to take themselves too seriously.  It might be silly, but it's easier to connect with your team and other Googlers when you're making espresso in a room designed to look like a Times Square crosswalk, and I feel more comfortable asking a question when we're all sitting around the ball pit (although I'm usually the only one actually sitting in it).  The whimsical setting always ensures that I'm not worried that anyone will tell me my questions are stupid; if they were going to say anything was stupid, it would probably be the fact that I prefer sitting in the ball pit to sitting in a chair!  I love looking around and realizing that I would never lose the sense of joy I get while coding, when working here; the workplace is literally designed to make sure that you are always aware there is a world outside of your cubicle and that it's important to be a part of it.  It makes you a better engineer and a happier person, and so I always make sure I make time for a coffee break.

My first attempt, which I affectionately named
'The Smurf'
My first semi-successful attempt which I refer to as
'Grandmother Willow' since I was going for a leaf

My only successful attempt which is just 'The Latte'

(Countdown to completion: 29 days)

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