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Wednesday, November 17, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
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Google branch grows near Microsoft's yard

By Kim Peterson
Seattle Times technology reporter

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Google, the search-engine technology company, has opened an engineering office in Kirkland and is having an invitation-only party to celebrate tomorrow night.

The office will be Google's sixth remote engineering center; the company has others in New York; Santa Monica, Calif.; Zurich; Bangalore; and Tokyo.

So far, the Kirkland office has only 10 employees, but Google, which has become one of Microsoft's most serious rivals, is planning to hire more from the area and allow engineers from its main campus in Mountain View, Calif., to transfer here.

Alan Eustace, a vice president of engineering at the company, spoke with The Seattle Times yesterday from Mountain View. Here are excerpts of the conversation.

Q. Tell me more about this new office.

A. We decided to go into the area because there's a large number of engineers out there, very talented, incredibly qualified engineers that are difficult to sometimes move down into the Mountain View area.

For reasons that I don't understand, I mean, it's beautifully sun shiny here (in Silicon Valley). But you can't always get the best engineers to come down to Mountain View.

Q. Where are these engineers that you're talking about?

A. Which ones?

Q. The large number of engineers up here.
 
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A. I don't know. They're graduating from school. The University of Washington is one of our favorite sites. Some of our most senior engineers come from the UW.

Q. But college students can pick up and move anywhere. Is there any other large group of engineers up here that you may be speaking of?

A. Yeah, but I'm not going to tell you that (laughing). I mean, basically, they're the people that we've been trying to hire for a long time and have been turning us down. They can be from any company, they can be out of colleges, they could be people whose family lives up there.

The other thing that we're going to try to do is we're going to try to move some engineers from here (Silicon Valley) that are interested. We have a lot of people that love Seattle. It's not just that we're taking engineers away. I think we're going to be adding some quality engineers as well.

Q. So let's just get right to it then. Are you going to steal Microsoft employees?

A. No. Are they going to steal our employees?

Q. Why aren't you going to steal Microsoft employees?

A. The way I look at this is that area right there is just an amazing technology melting pot, and there are so many great technologists in that area. And adding a company like Google in my mind to that mix will be very positive from a recruiting point of view for the whole area.

I expect that there will be a lot of people that might, for instance, choose the UW because of the proximity of the technology companies that are around there. I expect that we'll have a growing presence in all of that and that we'll be able to contribute in many ways to the technology community in the area.

I'm not trying to steal. The reverse of that is if you look at the Valley here, one of the reasons that Silicon Valley has been so successful is not because there's one company or two companies or five companies or 20 companies. The success of this Valley is really completely based on the fact that we're a center of technology and great people come to this area to learn about technology.

Q. Do you think having Google could lead other companies to open offices here?

A. I would hope so. I think other companies will see, as we saw, that that area is rife with talented employees and I think it's really a technology center. To not play there, I think, is a mistake for companies. Although my purpose in this interview isn't to get others to move there. I think the talent level in that area should be attractive to a lot of companies.

Q. Will this office have a focus?

A. I'm not trying to find a focus. One of the issues I have with remote engineering sites — and I think Google has this philosophy — is if I create a focus for the site that is very narrow I would feel like I've eliminated a lot of possibly great people from working at Google. We try to keep our projects relatively small so that people are really effective, so if I find people with a particular pool of talent that would be great in a particular area I'm not going to say no to them.

Q. Do you have immediate plans to hire?

A. I'm sure we'll start hiring at some point. I don't really believe in massive hiring plans. I believe in trying to find the right people that will be able to come in and be able to contribute immediately. I'd much rather grow the office slowly than grow it very quickly.

Q. Do you really have espresso machines and beanbags at the Kirkland office?

A. Yeah. Espresso machines are like required equipment. No engineering office is complete without them.

Q. There are going to be some sad baristas here that you're taking work away from.

A. People do go out anyway. Going out to coffee is a social thing, even inside the company. I've got a feeling that we will add to the total amount of coffee that's consumed in the area.

Q. There's no Chef Charlie (Ayers) up here as there is in Google's main office.

A. I know, isn't that horrible?

Q. How are you going to make up for that?

A. There's a lot of reasons to select Kirkland. It's a small town; it has an atmosphere that is much like the roots of Google, which came out of Palo Alto and now is in Mountain View. It's a friendly town, there's a friendly atmosphere, there are lots of shops and restaurants and things like that. We really like that atmosphere. My guess is for a while we'll have to get takeout.

Q. What will the work atmosphere and the culture be like?

A. One of the reasons why we're also bringing some people from down here up to there is to try to make sure that as we build this new site we build it in the culture that we've grown accustomed to here and we think is productive and keeps people very happy.

The culture of Google is very innovative. We try to work really hard at making sure that everybody feels like they're contributing to the idea pool. We have a very flat management structure here, which tries to keep management out of the way of brilliant people whenever possible.

We try to keep people that are software engineers coding rather than being stuck in management meetings all day. We try to make sure that we have a friendly culture where people talk to each other and that we don't end up in a situation where we've got a heavily divisionalized people that don't talk to each other kind of thing.

Q. Do you have anything fun planned for the office opening?

A. I think we've got all kinds of fun stuff planned. I think there will be music, we're going to have a bunch of raffles, those kinds of things. One of the things that we're trying to do in this open house is invite friends and family, people from the area, civic leaders, people even from other companies in the area. This is not a recruiting event.

Q. Is Bill Gates going to be there?

A. I don't know, I don't think so. (Laughs) If he wants to come he can write me.

Kim Peterson: 206-464-2360 or kpeterson@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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