Google’s famous corporate culture emphasizing openness and collaboration is continuing to evolve as the company expands around the globe, according to the executive who is leading the expansion of the company to Tempe.
Douglas Merrill, vice president of engineering for the Silicon Valley-based search engine giant, told a gathering of chief information officers of Valley companies that the free-wheeling style, easy to implement when the company was small, is harder to carry long distances as the company opens engineering offices in countries with different languages and cultures.
The company has used email and video conferences to link offices and personnel, but they don’t provide the complete answer, he said.
“There are no technological solutions to social problems,” he said. “We still have people who do a lot of traveling around.”
Merrill added that “the need to provide working business processes is the core noncomputer science problem we will tackle in the next 10 years.”
Founded in 1998 in a Stanford University dorm room by entrepreneurial students Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the purpose of the company was far from modest: To organize all of the information in the world and make it easily accessible. The result was the creation of the Google search engine commonly used to find information on the Internet as well as numerous other products such as Google Image Search, a searchable index of images on the World Wide Web; and Froogle, a shopping search engine.
And the company has been wildly successful as a business enterprise. G oogle cracked the Fortune magazine 500 list of the largest American corporations for the first time in 2005 with revenue of $6.1 billion, and it enjoyed earnings per share growth of 243 percent, ranking 15th. On Thursday, Google’s stock price closed at $411.18 a share.
To encourage creativity, the company’s managers have allowed employees to work in unstructured ways. They are encouraged to play pool and pingpong on the job, but in the process they talk about design problems or other work-related issues. That style encourages open discussion, Merrill said.
“What we do well is live out loud,” he said. “It can be inefficient if everyone has a voice, but we get everyone’s opinion on every matter. . . . Collectively, all of us are smarter than any one of us.”
The challenge has been to bring that corporate culture to “non-U.S. places” as the company has tried to customize it products for local markets, he said. Google, which has opened engineering centers is such diverse places as India, Japan and Switzerland, has responded by hiring local management for each office but making all the offices act and feel the same by standardizing hardware and services, he said.
Google decided to open a branch office in the Valley because of the available pool of engineering talent and the presence of strong corporations and educational institutions, he said.
“And there is a great quality of life here,” he said. “This place is gorgeous. How could you not be happy here?”
When someone in the audience yelled “come back in July,” Merrill replied “it’s hot!”
HEADQUARTERS: Mountain View, Calif.
BUSINESS: Creates advertising and Internet search products.
IN THE VALLEY: Employs more than 20 people at regional engineering office, will move to permanent location at the Arizona State University campus in Tempe in June.
2006 REVENUE: $6.1 billion
2006 NET EARNINGS:$1.47 billion ($5.02 per share)