By Seema Pun, current student of the University of Sydney Business School’s MBA program
During the second intensive weekend session of the ‘Strategic Marketing and Innovation’ unit of study from the MBA program, we had an amazing opportunity to visit Google head office in Pyrmont, followed by an interactive discussion session with Deepak Ramanathan, Head of Marketing for Google Search the following day.
The visit included a brief tour of the Google offices and a panel discussion with five Google executives, and it provided an opportunity for the MBA students to observe and understand the focus and drive for innovation at Google.
I was struck by the architecture and the design of the building. It had great open spaces and a relaxed feel about it. Tim Antcliff (Head of Industry, Government and Education) who was our tour guide for the day explained that the building is set up to allow creativity.
Google wants to make the workplace a ‘home away from home’ so that its employees are looked after, are healthy and happy. The kitchen — fully stocked with fruits, cereals, lollies, beverages and the coffee machine — was certainly impressive. As the tour progressed, we saw the massage room (I was secretly envious); the teardrop shaped informal working spaces; the library with hammocks and sleeping pod; a playroom fitted with pool table, guitars, drums, and comfy lounges; a view of the harbour bridge and the café that provides all kinds of meals.
I couldn’t help but think to myself that this is a company that really values its employees and knows how to look after them. You can actually see the kind of creative culture that it wants to create to allow that innovation to flourish.
The panel discussion was a great insight into the development at Google, now and in the future. The discussion was based around all sorts of topics such as workplace culture, learning and development, security, company branding and positioning, corporate social responsibility, customer-focused culture, dealing with the government and the wider community etc.
It was interesting to observe that even though the panel members represented different departments, they all spoke the same language. Despite being such a large organisation with different departments, they had a good understanding of where each other were at and resonated the same company values.
The discussion session with Deepak Ramanathan was slightly different and was based around his personal journey, his thoughts and his work at Google. It was fascinating to hear him talk about marketing challenges, cross-cultural challenges (working in US as an Aussie), the importance of having a global perspective to set up any business, the future of Google search, and changing consumer behaviour.
One of the things that really hit home for me was when Deepak explained that his greatest worry was the effect that technology was having on the way people behave. As the technology changes, so does peoples’ behaviour – but the changing nature of these behaviours is not completely understood. There is also a certain degree of fear associated with online activities such as privacy and tracking, although he thinks that this fear is not based on anything substantial. The opportunities are there to make the value of utility much more powerful than the value of concern or risk.
It was certainly an enriching experience, to get an insight into an innovative company at the height of its game, to understand what it is doing that sets it apart from the rest and how it is repositioning itself for the future.