I recently was visiting a client in Silicon Valley (stay tuned for more on them in future posts) and had the opportunity to visit LinkedIn HQ and the nearby Google HQ. Now – a bit of background first. I was born in Boston and worked almost all of my professional career on the east coast – mainly Boston and the surrounding suburbs. I am a diehard Sox, Pats, Bruins and Celtics fan and prefer Dunkin Donuts coffee over Starbucks (not even a debate to me). Long story short – I grew up professionally in Talent Acquisition and Human Resources in this market. Most of my career has been in the technology space, and Boston has certainly been one of the “hotter” markets for tech companies in the world – a mini Silicon Valley if you will. It was always an assumption in my mind that while Silicon Valley was Silicon Valley that underneath it all there was very little difference for the average tech worker there from the average tech worker in Boston. I had heard crazy stories of unbelievable campuses and amazing perks, but in my mind most of them had to be more urban legend than actual fact. Barbershops on campus? Yeah, right.
I admit, getting a chance to see the LinkedIn HQ got me a bit pumped up. In my line of work, they are to me what Marvel is to a comic book writer (read: epic). I had interacted over the years with lots of great people who work at LinkedIn – but we were always on neutral turf. As I drove to Mountainview, the first thing I noticed was the billboards. Yes – the billboards. Instead of in MA where you see advertising for clothing or supermarkets, the billboards there were advertising “cloud” and “security” and other technologies. Huh? OK – maybe that is a bit weird but moving on. As I got off the highway exit it was as if I entered the chocolate factory for tech workers People on bicycles everywhere. We almost hit three of them (in MA bikes are meant for sidewalks and neighborhoods and we Bostonians are notoriously aggressive drivers). Beautiful buildings were everywhere, and literally on the side of the road there were people doing yoga classes. “California” I thought, but then noticed people everywhere – in and out of buildings, walking at slow, relaxed paces and seeming to enjoying the great weather. Helpful hint for non-Bostonian readers – if you see people walking slow in Boston then they are not from there – period.
We made it to the LinkedIn HQ and the energy was palpable from the moment we stepped out of the car. It was lunchtime and the campus (yes – CAMPUS – several buildings with bikes for employees to get on to go between buildings) was bustling. LinkedIn was nice to enough to have someone come show me around, and……..wow. Let me give you a list of the things I saw that I have never seen in 20 years of working in tech in Boston:
1. Arcades – not just video games, but rooms that look like places I take my kids to on weekends
2. Jam Room – as a drummer, this blew me away. A room with one of the sweetest drum kits I have seen, along with guitars for the band to jam on
3. Yoga Studio – I don’t Yoga, but when I do I want to do it at LinkedIn HQ
4. Gym – yes – Boston companies have gyms – but they mostly are shared gyms with other tenants of buildings. And not like this one,
5. Snacks and drinks EVERYWHERE – let’s put it this way, when I showed my kids the pictures of the snacks I took, my daughter said “is that a candy store?”
6. THE CAFETERIA – this is in capitals for a reason. This totally blew my mind as something you NEVER see in MA tech companies. Countless stations of food, of all varieties. Indian? Of course. Sushi? Ahi tuna at your beck and call. Desert? Ice cream anyone? Thirsty? Pick a drink – including a row of flavored waters. Flavored waters. Name it – they have it. And here’s the kicker. IT’S ALL FREE. Repeat – IT’S ALL FREE.
Now to you Silicon Valley tech folk – this may seem standard stuff. To me, this was like stepping into Oz and I am Dorothy from Kansas. After the shock and awe wore off on the drive back, It left me scratching my head. Is this how competitive it really is out there that they feel that HAVE to do this, or is it merely great companies taking care of their employees? Probably a mix of both. As I now am working with clients in both MA and Silicon Valley, I will have much more to write about the difference and similarities moving forward in future posts. Trust me – we do some pretty awesome stuff here in MA, but there are definite differences and I can’t wait to explore them more in upcoming posts.