An amazing opportunity at work opened up for me at work last June. Visiting Google in Mountain View. Other colleagues already planned their annual vacation and were not available. One of our Techleads asked me if I wanted to go instead since a spot was still available. It did not take me long to say yes. To be even considered for such a business trip to Google in the silicon valley felt like an honor. Attending meetings on possible future shaping topics for my company.
Visiting the silicon valley and Google in particular was always kind of a dream of mine. When I started my career as a software developer my first true love was developing Android apps. This got me hooked up with programming in the first place. Sparking my interest in software development and its endless creative options. I just love the idea to build something and put it in hundred of thousands of peoples pockets all over the world. To me it still feels like magic that this is even possible.
Because of this there has always been kind of an affection towards Google and their Android development platform I guess. And now just 6 years later I am visiting the place its origin in Mountain View. Not just for fun, for serious business. Discussing future topics affecting our company. Just the idea of being there gave me goosebumps.
Flight to California
It was my first visit of the US as well. After all the legal preparations and hotel booking done we embarked on our journey from Nuremberg Airport. Very convenient for me since Nuremberg is my home town and I live just a few minutes away from the airport. Flying from Germany to San Francisco takes about 16 hours.
Luckily I just did a longer journey to India Kolkata earlier that year. So it was not a first timer travelling so far. This time I was travelling without my wife and flying in the opposite direction around the globe. It felt a bit odd at first to be honest. Usually we go on such long trips for the purpose of holiday abroad. This time I was as an ambassador for my company, visiting Google in Mountain View.
Since we were flying with Air France we had a stop over in Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. Our connecting flight to San Francisco was on a 4 hours delay so we had plenty of time to get comfortable in the Air France business lounge. The sheer size of it is impressive. There was an all day buffet, very comfortable seats, heck even several Playstations for the kids and grown up children like me.
Our stay in Belmont
We arrived at the San Francisco airport safe and sound. After the usual long lasting immigration process we took an Uber to our hotel in Belmont. Belmont is almost at the center point between San Francisco and Mountain View. It feels like a typical small American town or suburb. People there are very friendly an their trucks are big. It feels like many people working in the silicon valley are living in towns like Belmont.
There is a ten hour time zone difference between Germany and the US West Coast. It makes it hard to keep in touch with your loved ones since your days are almost on the opposite end all the time. Breakfast in Germany evening in California and the other way around. This implies a quite severe jet lag when you arrive. It takes some days to get used to the time zone difference. After checking in the hotel and some Korean food we called it a day. Tomorrow we would visit Google in Mountain View.
Enter the Googleplex
The Googleplex in Mountain View California is very impressive. Googleplex is not just a collection of buildings it feels more like a whole department of Mountain View. So stretched out that buses are commuting Google employees from one side of the Googleplex to the other all day.
On our first day we went to the visitor center to have some meetings with a number of Google engineers. The atmosphere was very welcoming and friendly. We also had lunch in one of the Google canteens.
There is a dedicated Google Wellness Center. Part of it is a big swimming pool and a basketball court. Sadly it is restricted to employees only so we could not dip our toes into the fresh looking water. Over the next days we attended a quite large number of sessions here. Attendees from all over the world took part.
During these sessions we learned a lot of Googles planned and upcoming innovations. Packed with information it was hard to note all the little details thrown at us. Sessions were at very high level though so it was most important to take away the important messages. There were up to ten sessions per day with all kinds of topics. Sprinkled in between were short breaks with a lot of food and refreshments though. Google knows how to treat their guests well that’s for sure.
And oh my god all the sweets they offered us there … this job can be so hard sometimes.
After four days of hard but also fun work at the Googleplex there was some time to breathe. As a sports enthusiast of course I brought my running gear! I took that opportunity and headed out in the hills of Belmont just behind our hotel. Those hills are quite steep and instantly reminded me of funny 80’s and 90’s American movies. Cars jumping over crests at least once a minute in a heist.
I got very sweaty lifting myself up those hills. This run surely has the highest distance to gained altitude ratio since I am on Strava. Although having a tough time climbing up the never ending slopes it felt amazing to put my running footsteps on another part of the world. At the topmost point of the hill I got my reward. An amazing view over Belmont and the national park in its backyard.
Heading back home
Sadly there was just no time to do a trip into San Francisco itself since we were busy working all the time. My colleague took some extra days off to explore the city. I could not join him, because of my promise to support my wife (fiance at that time) at her dance exam the following weekend. So just after adjusting to the jet lag I had to head back home already.
Still I enjoyed every minute of my stay. Visiting Google in Mountain View will always be remembered by me as one of the most interesting experiences in my career as a professional software engineer.