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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Former Google Masseuse Tells Her Story

Bonnie Brown worked as a masseuse with Google Inc right from the early days, and struck gold when Google went public in 2004*. She has now revealed her book project titled “Giigle: How I Got Lucky Massaging Google” and is looking for a publisher. Bonnie’s book is partly available online as 93-page strong PDF.

Google ski trips

Not being technically savvy, Bonnie didn’t quite fit in with the geek culture, but she got quite close to many employees. Her’s is a an inside view of an outsider, if you want. She remembers a holiday trip with the other Google employees:

Of all the Google traditions, my personal favorite was the annual ski trip. It was held at the Squaw Creek Resort in Lake Tahoe, Calif. (This was the best chance I had to form solid friendships with my coworkers, because we were both dressed and talking was encouraged.) There were, of course, limitations to my conversation time with my clients, so I loved spending a couple days skiing with them and really getting to know them as human beings, not just the physical evidence of their angst.

The first year, we stayed two nights and three days. The trip was paid for by Google and included your choice of skiing, snowboarding, dogsledding, ice skating, snowmobiling, or spa treatments to relax. My roommate didn’t show up, so I had a marvelous room with a view of the ski runs all to myself. There were only about fifty-eight employees back then. One night we filled the banquet room of a quaint restaurant on the water. Directly after dinner, as payment for losing a contest about showing up for work on time, three Googlers, whom I will leave unnamed (except to say that the face of one of them can be seen on many magazine covers) dressed in their bathing suits and hotel robes, and walked outside onto the boardwalk alongside the freezing, dark, and deep waters of Lake Tahoe. We all followed them, which made the restaurant manager very nervous. The pier was swaying under our weight and the manager was running back and forth, letting us know he would not be responsible for any of this activity. One woman and two men unrobed and slithered down into the icy water. At first, everyone was pretty shocked that they actually did it, and then they started cheering them on like kids do around a school fight. The loser had to stay in the longest because he was the most tardy to work. I felt like I was really starting to know my new colleagues.

Google’s food

Bonnie also talks about the free food available at Google, from sweet snacks in many places to the lunch food by Grateful Dead chef turned Google chef (and now ex-Google chef) Charlie Ayers:

When it got too crowded, they installed lunchroom cameras, so you could sit at your desk and click on the lunchroom site to see how long the line was, to determine when to take a lunch break. I never had time to do that, or stand in line, so I always butted. No one ever complained. After all, who wants to be mean to the masseuse? Charlie took great care of us, by providing meals using the best ingredients, and with a lot of cultural diversity in mind. I ate a broader variety of vegetables and ethnic dishes at Google than during the rest of my life put together. Lunch and dinner were provided to Googlers every day with simple menus like “Rosemary scented New Bedford sea scallop skewers with lemony apricot couscous, grilled, stuffed squid with teriyaki sauce, cauliflower asafetida ...” et cetera.

One engineer informed me that it was a bad idea to tell your wife what you had for lunch. When she set down a plate of spaghetti with meatballs in front of you for dinner, it didn’t create a pleasant evening when you described your lunch at work beginning with phyllo-encrusted halibut...

Dogs at Google

And then, Bonnie remembers how dog-friendly Google was – that there were more dogs than babies around, that there was a doggy care center and so on. She also cites the following from a memo on “dog policies” which was sent around at Google (such a policy page is also available online at Google):

1. Yesterday in Building 44, some Googlers were disgusted to find a plastic bag filled with dog poop in one of the microkitchens. This is a serious health hazard (and, it also made the kitchen and the building stink like dog poop). Hopefully you get the idea on this one ...
2. We’ve had reports of dogs being bathed in the showers. This has happened a few times over the past couple of months. Again, dogs should not be in the bathrooms, locker rooms, or showers.

Bonnie adds, “I don’t know, maybe it’s me, but shouldn’t dogs be playing in the yard with dirt, instead of going to work every day?”


*Bonnie is by far not the only millionnaire via Google, of course. The New York Times writes: “Although no one keeps an official count of Google millionaires, it is estimated that 1,000 people each have more than $5 million worth of Google shares from stock grants and stock options.” NYT remarks that a Google employee told them it’s considered uncool within Google to check the daily stock price of GOOG though...

[Thanks and Julie Smith!]


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