When conducting interviews, I often get questions about our workspace and engineering environment. What IDEs do you use? What programming languages are most common? What kind of tools do you have for testing? What does the workspace look like?
Google is a company that is constantly pushing to improve itself. Just like software development itself, most environment improvements happen via a bottom-up approach. All engineers are responsible for fine-tuning, experimenting with, and improving our process, with a goal of eliminating barriers to creating products that amaze.
Office space and engineering equipment can have a considerable impact on productivity. I’ll focus on these areas of our work environment in this first article of a series on the topic.
Google is a highly collaborative workplace, so the open floor plan suits our engineering process. Project teams composed of Software Engineers (SWEs), Software Engineers in Test (SETs), and Test Engineers (TEs) all sit near each other or in large rooms together. The test-focused engineers are involved in every step of the development process, so it’s critical for them to sit with the product developers. This keeps the lines of communication open.
The office space is far from rigid, and teams often rearrange desks to suit their preferences. The facilities team recently finished renovating a new floor in the New York City office, and after a day of engineering debates on optimal arrangements and white board diagrams, the floor was completely transformed.
Besides the main office areas, there are lounge areas to which Googlers go for a change of scenery or a little peace and quiet. If you are trying to avoid becoming a casualty of The Great Foam Dart War, lounges are a great place to hide.
Working with remote teams
Google’s worldwide headquarters is in Mountain View, CA, but it’s a very global company, and our project teams are often distributed across multiple sites. To help keep teams well connected, most of our conference rooms have video conferencing equipment. We make frequent use of this equipment for team meetings, presentations, and quick chats.
What’s at your desk?
All engineers get high-end machines and have easy access to data center machines for running large tasks. A new member on my team recently mentioned that his Google machine has 16 times the memory of the machine at his previous company.
Most Google code runs on Linux, so the majority of development is done on Linux workstations. However, those that work on client code for Windows, OS X, or mobile, develop on relevant OSes. For displays, each engineer has a choice of either two 24 inch monitors or one 30 inch monitor. We also get our choice of laptop, picking from various models of Chromebook, MacBook, or Linux. These come in handy when going to meetings, lounges, or working remotely.
We are interested to hear your thoughts on this topic. Do you prefer an open-office layout, cubicles, or private offices? Should test teams be embedded with development teams, or should they operate separately? Do the benefits of offering engineers high-end equipment outweigh the costs?