Fortune's Best Companies #4: Google

job interview When you talk about great companies to work at, Google is a consistent mention going back many years. Some Googlers shared their stories about why it's consistently such a great place, and about what they didn't like, too.

I spoke to a sales financial analyst (name withheld) who shared her thoughts about why she "absolutely loved" working for Google. "It has a great laid-back atmosphere that I think contributes to a productive work environment. The perks such as free food, subsidized massages, free laundry, free shuttle services from the city and year-end bonus surprises made working for Google that much more fun."

In addition to the massages, she also mentioned that she worked with some great people. "Not only are you privileged to be working with some of the brightest minds in the industry, but at the same time you're inspired to go above and beyond your best. People generally have a team-spirited attitude, where everyone works together to find the best solution to a problem. However, at the same time you feel that your individual contribution has helped bring about a positive change to the company."

Nothing is all roses, so she exposed the dark side of Google. "During certain times of the year, I was required to put in long hours that can be a bit taxing at times, but I was glad to do as it was infrequent and the end result was quite rewarding."

She described a typical day of work at the Googleplex. It "would consist of putting together booking reports, compiling financial data, attending a meeting or two, answering inner client requests. Since I worked for Sales Finance, my days started and ended earlier than Engineering. During busier times, I put in longer hours and often logged back into work after reaching home in the late-evening hours. But at the end of the day, it was an exciting feeling, that you were working for one of the best companies in the country and that every minute you put into work was appreciated and rewarded accordingly."

Now that we've heard from the sales side, it makes sense to hear what Google's engineers have to say. A senior software engineer had some different thoughts. "Great, engineer-driven company. Groups are autonomous, so individual engineers have a lot of control over direction of the group and responsibility for the team success. The company expects you to think big and aim for large goals."

Our engineer friend at Google added this about his experiences with other Googlers. "I've found the other engineers sharper and more accomplished than anywhere else; everyone has shipped great things before, and they're eager to do it again. It's not surprising to be working with a 24 year old who sold a company, two senior engineers who were VPs at startups, and a well-known researcher in a particular area."

He also added some of the daily challenges of the Googleplex. "It's a cross between grad school and a hundred little startups. I haven't always gotten guidance from management about what's important or how the teams need to work together."

Despite concern about guidance, one of the most telling comments was about Google's teamwork. "Everyone's driven to succeed. There may not be a lot of external pressure from management to pull long hours, but folks tend to do it anyway because they want to accomplish something great. It's an easy place to feel you're below average, even when you've been tops everywhere else."

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