Monday, June 23, 2008

Symantec for lunch

I am not sure if we were authorized but when it is written "Symantec" and you see real people (not empty cubicles) you want to eat with the crowd. I saw a gorgeous lobby, beautiful trees, signs. Symantec makes your computer feel good: I mean the vaccines if you prefer. Like the Norton Anti-Virus. The company has beautiful outside spaces, a grand cafeteria (today special was risotto with lobster, shrimp and cream!) grilled steaks, a lot of organic everything and a company that is living its grand hours. Well I was so impressed by the look of the company that I promise myself I will visit it next! In the meantime, we got another date for Apple: with the release of their Iphone, they are very busy.

My visit at AOL / My lunch at Symantec

How do you call an empty office with empty areas, big empty everything in the heart of the Silicon Valley? American On Line. Here I am again, embarking on an hour 1/2 drive to visit AOL offices. Well offices for sure, plenty, on demand, a la carte but empty. Why so much waste are you asking? I hardly saw anyone. Yes my host! A delightful executive who, did not mind not being surrounded by anyone. Now AOL here in California is only 120 people, the rest is in Virgina. AOL bought Netscape in 1998 and got rid of all the unnecessary people but kept the space. And you should see the space, as big as an airport. Now you have to pay me a lot of money to spend a day there: imagine the silence. Some poor souls clicking on the computer. A lobby empty of life. Every employee has a cubicle: why don't they give each person a whole floor? Isn't it what the space is for? So it will feel like you own the company? The nicest part of the offices were the designers' corner. Well they are designers so they design all around and it looked neat. One of them was doing his stretching in the middle of the hallway. Well when there is nobody around, you can do your stretching I guess. You are not going to disturb anyone are you? A few ping pong table, area for coffee, tea, all left abandoned. Like it is the end of the world. So we crossed the street for lunch... so we could see people.

Monday, June 16, 2008

My visit at Ebay

Ah Ebay. I dream of Ebay, I live with Ebay and was I excited (even though Ebay is 65 miles from my home, 105 kms) when I got my invitation to go to Ebay. Ebay in the very southern end of the Silicon Valley looks very square when you arrive. Old fashioned buildings, full parking lot. Nothing looks very exciting but the lobby has it all. The whole history of how Ebay began with the first auction and the memorabilia just makes you forget the "old fashion" look. Now do you know the story of Ebay? Ebay started when Pierre Omidyar realized his (then) girlfriend was collecting Pez candies dispensers and could not find a way to get more. Actually in the lobby, you can see all the dispensers she has been collecting for years. Do you know that Ebay is the ONLY webpage when people spend more time on than any other online site? Though making it the most popular shopping destination on the Internet. People spent an average of 17 min each time they enter Ebay. Ebay campus (it does look like a university) has a lot of fun features. There are signs with the same words you find on the web site "collectibles, toys, cars etc." see picture. I saw some employee's children playing with fussball (babyfoot) Like Google, umbrellas are everywhere to relax and sip some coffee. A relaxing mood typical of the Silicon Valley offices. I think Ebay must be the coolest company to work for: can you imagine having any desirable object at the tip of your fingers??? That's life!

My visit at Intel

Well it only took me one hour to reach Intel and let's put it that way, I could have done without it. Intel is the most boring company I have visited so far. The whole company is grey. I mean G R E Y. Not any grey, a prison grey: all the cubicles, everything did not do anything to me. Even though I had the most delighting hosts, Intel stays as a boring place. But well, they don't really do anything any woman will be excited about: computer chips. OK without the chips we will not have computers. But please what about adding some colors? The lobby some kind of indefinite maroon/orange sofas was ok. Nothing to be "ooh la la" about: ah yes, one of the coffee table was full of computer chips. Cute. If you like computer chips on your coffee table. Something neat was the way employees swept their badges. A bigger chip taking the datas! This was fun to watch. Now Intel is 85,000 employees with some interesting benefits: 3 weeks vacation after one year in the company. That is very unusual in the USA. Then if you work a full 7 years, you are entitled to an 8-week sabbatical time fully paid. The offices were cubicles (the norm in the Silicon valley) No doors, no private areas for anyone: CEO, President everyone has a cubicle. And the same size. And everyone decorates the outside of the cubicle, a flag, kids' drawings, calendars and a lot of "stretching, fitness" posters. Obviously someone at Intel needs to remind the employees that moving around is important. Now at Intel, the most amazing part was the museum. You go back in time since computer and cellphones were introduced. Interactive too. And around the dull campus, there were (I did not see them but I believe my hosts) basketball and volley ball courts, a fitness center etc. And a lot of advice are given about healthy lifestyles: I guess it is a MUST when you environment is so colorless. Good bye Intel.

Friday, June 6, 2008

My visit at IKEA....Or is IKEA a pastry place?

So I am planning a big party and I decided to buy a dozen of different cakes. Since I have been in the Silicon Valley a lot, I heard IKEA makes good cakes. I am sure you did not know: I did not. Because IKEA and I are not very good friends. Cheap furniture you have to mount from scratch is not my style. Anyway, we stopped at IKEA on our way back from Oracle and bought 3 cakes. They look fantastic and cheap even though made with butter, and real recognizable ingredients. So we got home, and I wanted to see one of the cake. And may be try it. Woahhh. Look at the picture on the left (first row) then on the right (2nd row). In English (and French and probably more languages) we call that DECEPTION. So If you go to IKEA stick to the cheap furniture...Now In San Francisco, there are a lot of bakeries. French, Chinese and yes....Austrian. My favorite croissant comes from a Viennese baker on Clement Street (at 6th Ave.)and he makes the most unbelievable millefeuille (we call it Napoleon here) with cream and strawberries. My sister, a Parisian who only buys the best from Fauchon, Hediard etc. told me that there are unique. And I order from him the whole world's favorite cookies: cranberries and walnuts (sometimes he puts pecans) I say the whole world because except if you hate sugar or cranberries or walnuts (My husband!) you cannot help eating tons of these cookies. I bring them to everyone and I promise you they all love them. So yesterday, I sent my son to collect an order: 2 cakes and 2 pounds of cookies. He came back but no cookies!! I called. The owner Hans recognizes my voice and right away apologizes. Well "don't worry I will send a messenger to you tomorrow morning" Great. That is good news because I have a party and will be busy and don't want to drive back to San Francisco. Well it is 9 am and the doorbell rang and not only did I get my cookies but he added a freshly baked cake with fruit on it. THIS IS BUSINESS. For sure, he will see me back in his store. Actually Hans is clever, in order to get rid of his baked goods every day, he puts them 1/2 price from 5 pm. If you are there at 5:30, the shelves are empty. Thanks Hans. I should say danke schon Hans! See the pictures with the cookies (in a box) the "present" I got a fruit cake and the napoleon my sister dreams about.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

My visit at Oracle

We arrived at Oracle on a very windy day. 8 buildings shaped like a database (base de donnees in French) absolutely immaculate, shiny and very 21st century. Oracle is the company that makes Amazon, Yahoo or Google work so well. When you order at you put your name on a database and Amazon is able to use all this information because of Oracle. Oracle is 80,000 employees worldwide 8,000 in California. If you go on their website and check their list of products, you will be amazed that the whole alphabet from A to Z is complete (or almost except 3 letters!) We met a top engineer in charge of creating a product. Because of confidentiality, we only know his product is ready to be launched at the end of June. We arrived in a splendid lobby, top luxury furniture, Huge windows, the design spelled with a big D. Look at the shape of the chairs. Check the alleys where employees are reminded to walk and exercise: ah the American way of life when exercise is supposed to be part of your day. A fitness center, tons of beautiful benefits, 3 weeks vacation "I hardly can take 3 weeks together" said our host. Well Oracle is a company you wish to work for: very often between 3 and 4pm, the parking lot gets emptied, because at Oracle, we are comfortable. The products they have created, well there is very little competition. So employees are just happy to work, "do their hours" and go home. But the outsourcing (so important at Oracle) is pushing some employees to work from home. "No problem and better, if your job is done, no one is checking on you" We like that! Now Larry Ellison, the CEO has a different way of life. When you are a billionaire, well, your life can change overnight. First, yes, check carefully, the metal detector (picture in 2nd row on left) in the building where he is working. And the red plane on top of the ceiling, his "first miniature" plane. Don't you love it? Larry owns a few airplanes, the beautiful boat (called the BMW Oracle Racing. Picture in 2nd row on the right) you can see through the window (used for the American Cup) and a mansion in Woodside worth a few millions dollars. Do you know that his income this past year was 21 billion dollars? (not a typo) Well with such a salary you need bodyguards (he has a few everywhere he goes) and yes metal detectors doors...

Ma visite chez Orange (France Telecom)

Bon c'est reparti pour une heure de route. Mais bon, pour la premiere fois,aux abords de la Silicon Valley, nous avons decide de pousser la porte d'un groupe francais: le groupe Orange (c'est France Telecom.) Et meme si on m'a decouragee "qu'est ce que tu vas faire a France Telecom" eh bien, je peux vous dire, on a fait et appris beaucoup. D'abord, regardez le "welcome" du building. Ce n'est pas francais ca? la porte ne marche pas et n'empeche, qu'on est accueilli comme en France, pas avec un sourire... Nous avons eu la chance de visiter les bureaux : tres spacieux, tres aeres, une vue sublime sur l'aeroport et les banlieux aux alentours. Un accueil bien sympathique : du cafe, des biscuits et des oranges (mais on n'y touche pas elles sont fausses!) Alors me direz-vous que fait France Telecom/Orange en pleine Silicon Valley. Eh bien un groupe de 60 personnes, dont 20 qui parlent francais, des horaires sympas, un transport gratuit pour les employes (tous transports de SF: trains, bus, Muni) mais 3 semaines de vacances seulement : c'est peut-etre pour ca que les francais ne se bousculent pas pour venir y travailler. Un groupe qui cree beaucoup et qui essaie de s'implanter un peu plus aux USA. France Telecom c'est quand meme pres de 60 milliards de dollars de chiffres d'affaires (d'apres Business Week.) France Telecom c'est Orange mais c'est aussi Wanadoo et pleins d'autres choses. Si vous etes curieux, allez voir le dernier Business Week. Et alors saviez vous que si vous venez de France avec un portable, on vous le debloque ici!!! Ca c'est une information qu'on ne manquera pas de faire circuler ! Maintenant je ne me porterai pas garante sur le montant de la facture. Qui dit debloquage du portable francais dit facture elevee..mais bon au prix de l'Euro. Alors on a aime le nom de la salle de conference "les jardins de l'innovation gardens" on ne dirait pas un parfum de Chez Guerlain? Il n'y a que les francais pour enjoliver une salle de conference : et il fallait voir le materiel dans la salle de conference, du jamais vu, de l'incroyable, de la haute, pardon HAUTE technologie. D'apres notre hote, chez Orange, on ne travaille pas (difficile a traduire en anglais) "straight to the point, we take turns" en un mot, c'est un peu comme Lombard Street. Vous vous rappelez a quoi elle ressemble la rue Lombard a San Francisco (photo de gauche) et vous ne me croirez pas mais le dernier PDG est nomme Didier Lombard. Alors on a tout compris non??