Scooters, sushi draw Yale grads to Google

NEW YORK — Just over a decade ago, Lisa Farley ’96 was a psychology major filing through the card catalog at Cross Campus Library. Today, Cross Campus is Bass, card catalogs gather dust and Farley — despite an initial preference for heavy tomes and dog-eared pages over technical innovation — works at Google.

Farley may have taken an unexpected path to the search-engine giant, but she said she is now enamored of her job. But even the excitement of the many Yale students who pursue jobs at Fortune Magazine’s 2007 “Best Company to Work For” is surpassed by the enthusiasm of many — many “Googlers,” that is — at Google’s massive new Manhattan warehouse-turned-office.

A Google employee lines up his corner shot in the company’s “very casual” and “relaxed” office space.
A Google employee lines up his corner shot in the company’s “very casual” and “relaxed” office space.

“How could you not love working at Google?” Farley asked. “I ride a scooter from one end of the building to another and eat free sushi for lunch.”

But Farley, who said she frequents the sushi station in the cafeteria — which also serves, free of charge, culinary treats like butternut squash ravioli with sweet-braised short rib ragu — said Google’s gastronomical flair and other eccentricities serve not as distractions, but as attractions to work.

“The perks foster good creative ideas and thinking,” she said. “You can have a great meeting over great food.”

Lava lamps and curved furniture — along with some decorations that are more germane to Google — abound at the East Coast urban Googleplex. Projected Google Maps satellite images from all over the world dominate much of the reception area’s wall space — an omnipresent reminder to New York Googlers of the scope of their work.

The interest among Yalies in jobs at Google is perhaps inevitable, given the company’s financial success and laid-back atmosphere, students interviewed said.

According to the Association of Yale Alumni, 24 registered Yale graduates are currently employed by Google at offices around the globe.

On its face, the work Farley and her colleagues do is not altogether different from a traditional job in marketing. Farley is a sales executive in Google’s advertising division, and a large part of her day entails calling on major corporations to promote advertising opportunities.

But Google’s ubiquity on the Internet means Farley and other Googlers can take advantage of a wide range of advertising opportunities. The advertisements Farley sells border search results on Google and appear beside videos on the popular Google-owned video-sharing Web site YouTube and on scores of other Internet pages.

Farley said she focuses much of her effort these days on selling advertisers and agencies on the benefits of “Gadget Ads.” She said these “Web sites within Web sites” allow consumers to interact with online advertising — checking for show times for “Bee Movie” or an insurance-rate quote from Geico — without leaving the Web site on which the advertisement is displayed.

The philosophy behind all her work is simple, Farley said: put advertisers in close and meaningful contact with the computer users they want to reach.

“If you’re a pharmaceutical company selling a drug, you can place an ad next to the search results for the disease your drug treats,” she said. “If you’re a movie-production company, you can sponsor a trailer on YouTube’s home page.”

A search for “Lisa Farley Google” yields a sponsored link to Farley’s contact information.

But it is not just Google sales employees who get free online advertising. Farley said she also sits on the Google Grants Committee, which screens non-profit organizations for pro bono Internet advertising.

Farley, a Habitat Bike Challenge leader as an undergraduate at Yale, said Google’s commitment to the spreading of knowledge and awareness makes her eager to come to work every day.

And there are more tangible reasons that Farley and others so love working at Google.

Google’s Manhattan office, which neighbors some of Chelsea’s most fashionable art galleries, is in many ways a work of art itself. Farley said Google’s offices can perhaps be best compared to Yale’s residential colleges.

After all, with office walls painted as bright as the primary colors in Google’s logo, a game room with a pool table and video games, and employees riding Razor scooters up and down hallways, it can be hard to tell whether anyone at Google actually does any work.

William Frazier ’04, a former sociology major at Yale who now works as a legal assistant at Google’s London office, said in an e-mail that the “work hard, play hard” mentality appealed to him as a recent college graduate looking for work.

The eclectic decor at the offices mirrors the diverse interests of the people themselves, Farley said. She said she spends much of her free time training for triathlons and has co-workers who sing opera in their spare time.

Many Yale seniors — opera singers or not — seem to have caught the Google bug and are eager to begin their careers with the Internet’s nine-year-old Leviathan. Phillip Jones, director of Undergraduate Career Services at Yale, said Google now attends the UCS career fair and actively recruits on campus.

Students can also apply for jobs at Google through UCS’s e-recruiting Web site.

While Jones did not respond to requests for the specific number of Yale graduates working at Google either in full-time capacities or in internships, he said the fact that Google has returned to campus and the career fair year after year demonstrates a mutual interest between the company and Yale students.

Iris Chen ’97, an attorney who works in corporate counsel at Google’s New York offices, said she graduated from Yale as an English major and was attracted to Google for its unconventional combination of corporate law and a dynamic work culture.

“It’s a very casual, relaxed environment, which is rare in the legal profession,” Chen said in an e-mail.

One Yale senior who recently applied for a position with Google said positions at Google are popular among Yale job seekers — and not just computer-science majors.

The senior, who asked not to be named because her application is currently pending, said students are eager to apply not only because of Google’s famed office culture but also because of the diversity of its job opportunities.

“I think that this kind of environment appeals to college students looking for jobs,” she said. “[Google] seems fun and relaxed yet focused, driven and obviously productive.”

All of this excitement about an Internet search company was unimaginable during Farley’s days at Yale, she said.

With an Apple Macintosh Classic II computer and an e-mail account only during her junior and senior years, Farley said she had no intention of pursing a career in technology.

But after working in consulting, finance and Web site development, Farley said she decided to devote her career to the Internet.

“I was dying to get back to the fast-paced excitement I had known at Yale,” she said. “I found that at Google.”

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