Yesterday was the last day of the first week at Google. It was also the first Friday. As a Noogler that means that you should attend the weekly TGIF meeting and be welcomed by all the others (several hundreds) that attends the meeting.

Before the meeting we got our Nooglers “beanies”, which is a hat with a propeller on it that says “Noogler”. There would be no confusion at the TGIF who was a Noogler.. 🙂

On a side note: When I worked for Portal some years ago there was a sales guy named Sven. He used to call all techies “propellermössor” (propeller hats) and as soon as any discussion included too much techie stuff there was too much “propeller”. Well, at Google we like propellers. 🙂

The TGIF started with Larry and Sergey up on stage saying welcome to all Nooglers. There were 95 of us and all names were displayed on the big screen behind the stage. (If you don’t know who Larry and Sergey are you need to read up on Google.)

The TGIF continued with a bunch of announcements about what is happening in the company (of which I of course can’t tell anything..). Then there was a Q&A session. There is an internal web site where people can post questions for the TGIF. You can also vote for the questions that you like so that questions that many are interested in get priority. If you wanted to raise a question during the meeting there were a microphone you could walk up to and ask your question. Some of the questions were answered by Larry and Sergey themselves but most were answered by different managers of the areas the questions concerned.

That concluded the first week at Google. Except that I should finish some exercises over the weekend…

Early this morning the first part of my stuff that has been shipped from Sweden (shipped by air) arrived. Up until now I have been living in a suit case. But now I got most of my clothes here and some other stuff such as file server, media player etc that you can’t live without. Unfortunately I discovered that my file server only runs on 230V. I need to get a new power supply unit for it.

My temporary apartment is in an area called Rivermark in Santa Clara. It’s a nice quiet little area with a small shopping plaza that has a Safeway, a bunch of restaurants and some other shops. But apart from that nothing much happens here. And getting anywhere with public transportation is, well, let’s just say there is no subway here. Car is king here.

Going to the closest movie theater takes almost an hour with light train and bus. Walking takes somewhat less time, about 45 minutes. The only solution (apart from getting a car, which I can’t really do yet) was to get myself a bike. So that is what I did today. I looked up a bike shop on the web, bought a bike and biked back home! I figured that since I’m going to bike to work once I move to Mountain View I could just as well buy one now.

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First days at Google

My butt hurts! But more on that later…

So, a couple of minutes before 8 am Monday morning I entered the door to the lobby of Google building 43 on Charleston Road in Mountain View, California. I was not alone there. There was a good mix of people from all over the world. Some seemed to know each other (I later learned they had earlier been interns at Google) but for most people it was all new faces.

At 8am Lauren from the Noogler Orientation team raised her voice and welcomed us all to Google! We were first supposed to get our named marked on a list in the reception counter. Then there was another line where a security guy checked our ID. After that we were let in to another room where we sat down one by one at one of a couple of computers to enter the password we wanted to have for the Google account. At this point we were also given a small password generation USB device. The device acts as a keyboard and when you press a button on it it “types” a sequence of six digits that acts as a one time password. Pretty nifty!

Then on to the next room where a picture for the sceurity badge was taken and we got a temporary badge with a nice “E” (for Employee) on it. Then we went on to “No Name Café” where breakfast was served!

After breakfast we all went into a big conference/lecture room that had laptops sitting at every seat. So I went for a search for the one marked with “Niklas Lindholm” and soon found my new and shining MacBook Pro. (My first Mac ever!) In this room it was clear how many we actually were. I think about 100 persons started on this day. Not all were going to work in the Mountain View office. There were people from many places. Even someone that would belong to the London office. (I thought they would have their orientation in Zürich..) A lot of people were from the Seattle office.

Now a torrent of information started to flood over us all. At the same time emails started to drop in (into GMail of course) and events started to pop up in Google Calendar. Over the next few days there would be orientations about internal information systems, benefits and perks, security and confidentiality, “Life of an engineer”, how the search engine works etc.

And to complicate things I have been selected as one of about twenty “guinea pigs” to try out a new way of allocating Nooglers to projects. Instead of just being assigned to a project based on previously given preferences (most people knew after a day or so what project they would start on) we were given presentations from different areas and projects that needed people and is a priority to the company.

Then we got to choose three of those projects as favorites. Something that was pretty hard to do because I still know so little about how Google projects work and what I would be interested in. After that a number of one-on-one meetings with project managers started to pop up in Google Calendar. On these meetings we got to find out more on the projects we had shown interest in. I have now had most of these meetings and should know soon what I will start working on. So far I don’t know though. This also means that I have no real manager yet, and no desk. All I have is my laptop and a filled schedule. It really feels like university all over again!

So…. why does my butt hurt?

Earlier today I went to the leasing office of The Shadows Apartments to make a deposit so I would secure an apartment there. Since I had to return my rental car last night the best way to go there in the morning (the first thing on my schedule was at 10am) was to take the G-Bus (the Google shuttle bus) to Google. From there I took one of the Google bikes that can be found all over the campus and biked to the leasing office. (It’s biking distance between my new apartment and Google.) Since I haven’t been riding a bike in years and the saddle was a hard unpadded one I ended up with a hurting butt.

The Google bikes is a pretty cool system. Whenever you find a bike that is just standing there you can take it to go somewhere within the Google campus. And there are quite a lot of them so it doesn’t seem to be a problem finding a free one when you need one.

Tomorrow I think I will get a very geeky piece of Google clothing…

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Finding an apartment…

…is hard!

Last Friday I was on a tour around Mountain View with Jane visiting various apartment complexes. Renting an apartment in USA is a bit different from Sweden. The common thing seems to be a complex of 50-200 apartments with a leasing office in front of it where you can speak to some sales person that will show you around and give you a bunch of brochures. All of them have a pool, a fitness center and a barbecue place on the premises. We were looking at places in the price range of $1500 – $2000 per months. (If you sign a 12 month lease..) And it really is the case that you get what you pay for in terms of apartment quality, location, amenities etc. They all look ok at the surface but some are nicer than others. All apartments have carpet covered floors. Something that is pretty unusual in Sweden nowadays.

I had almost decided to go with a place called Avalon Mountain View that was a bit more expensive than the others but pretty close to the main street. Then I googled a bit for reviews and that place had quite a but of bad reviews. Hmm… Then I googled the other places and they pretty much all had their fair share of bad reviews. So are all apartments bad? Or is it just the case that only people who want to complain write bad reviews.

This is the living room of a model apartment at Avalon Mountain View.

Decisions decisions…

Tomorrow is the first day at Google! Exciting times!

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I’m in Santa Clara!

I have now officially started my career as a Yankee. After 8 hours flight to Newark, almost 5 hours at Newark and then 6 hours flight to San Francisco I touched down at San Francisco International Airport.

Immigration at Newark gave me a bit of a scare. When I applied for the visa at the American Embassy in Stockholm they told me that when I entered USA I needed to show the bottom slip of the approval paper together with the passport. But the guy in the passport control asked me where the rest of the paper was and said it was needed. That paper was in my checked in luggage.. He called for another official to escort me to another room. Also in the passport control both next to mine there was a girl (Swedish I think..) that also got escorted to the same room.

In that room there was a number of counters with officials behind them and about 15 people waiting on rows of chairs. We were told to sit and wait until our names were called. The girl barely had sit down before her name was called. I had to wait about a minute. (All the other people were still waiting.) An official asked me what my purpose coming to USA was. Then he stamped my visa and wished me good luck. No mention about the missing paper…

At SFO I picked up a rental car, installed my new and shiny Tomtom GPS navigator and was on my way south along US Highway 101. After a short detour since I had taken the wrong exit from the highway I arrived at 550 Moreland and entered my temporary apartment tired and hungry. As all predators do at night when they are hungry I went hunting for food. It turned out that the Safeway (a big grocery store, like ICA Maxi) around the corner is open 24 hours. I bought some bread, youghurt and juice, ate a bit and then crashed.

Today I have had some phone calls with project managers at Google to find out what project I will join next week. Then Jane Lee from Dwellworks picked me up and gave me a tour of the area Mountain View, Palo Alto and San Jose. Looking at possible locations for me to rent an apartment. On Friday we are going to look at some actual apartments that are available for renting.

We also drove by Stanford University. This is Palm Avenue that leads up to Stanford.

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The apartment is empty

Today, by using a ridiculous amount of wrap paper and cardboard, three merry men from a moving company has put everything I own into boxes and sent it on its way to California.

This blue container will be the home of my stuff during its journey across the Atlantic. Why have an expensive apartment when everything fits in a 20 feet container??

Now I’m sitting in a hotel room at Radisson Sky City. I think I will not be outdoors in Sweden again this autumn.

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Everything lined up

Now it is about a week until the adventure begins. Or maybe less than a week. When does it actually start? When I board the plane? When I land in San Francisco? When the moving company knocks on my door? I can’t decide really..

The plan for the first time gets more and more nailed down. This is how it looks:

On Monday (Sep 27th) the moving company comes to pack up my apartment. I get to send up to 500 pounds (~227 kg) by air, which takes about a week to arrive. The rest will be put in a 20 feet container that will be put on a ship over the Atlantic. That will take between 40 and 60 days to arrive.

On Tuesday morning my (first) flight leaves for New York/Newark. There I will enter the country and proudly show them my visa so I can enter in H1B status. I got about 4 hours to connect so I guess there will be some time to be bored as well. Then the next flight leaves for San Francisco.

When I touch down in San Francisco it will be a bit past 9 in the evening of an extremely long day (literally!). I will pick up a rental car, hook up my brand new Tom Tom GPS navigator and head for Santa Clara.

In Santa Clara is the apartment I will spend the first month and a half in. It’s in a newly built gated community called 550 Moreland and it looks super nice! Although.. looking at the map you discover that it is 2,5 km from one end of the runway of San Jose International airport. That could be bad but it sounds really strange if they have built such an upscale property without thinking about that…

After a (hopefully) good night’s sleep I have an afternoon appointment with Jane Lee from Dwellworks (a relocation services company) who will give me a welcome briefing and an area tour.

Then I have some days to do whatever until Monday Oct 4th when I will enter the Googleplex as a bewildered Noogler. Then on Friday the same week I hope I can get out of the Googleplex for a couple of hours because then then it’s time to meet Jane again and go looking at some apartments.

That’s most of the plan so far. I’m sure lots of other weird things will happen along the way as well!

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I got the visa!

I can stop worrying about not getting the visa in time. The good people at the American embassy must have outperformed themselves. Instead of “about a week” it took two days before I had my passport back with the visa in it!

I even got the photo back attached to the passport with a paper clip. Instead they used the picture that I uploaded together with the form I filled in online. They preferred a picture I had taken of myself at home over a picture taken by a professional photographer that costed me 200 SEK. Well well… Maybe I can use the picture for the California drivers license later instead.

The visa!

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Adventures at the embassy

Yesterday I paid a visit to the American Embassy in Stockholm to apply for a work permit visa to USA. I had been googling a bit to try to find out what would actually happen there but the only information I could find was various sites for people in India applying for visas. Including example questions like “When do you plan to return to India?” So I’d thought I would describe the visa process I went through so that other people from Sweden (and probably the rest of western Europe) maybe can find this in the future.

The visa I have applied for is an H1B non immigrant visa. It’s not a green card and doesn’t lead to American citizenship. It’s for temporarily being able to live and work in the United States. (H1B on Wikipedia)

The first step is that the employer, Google in my case, must petition for the visa. In my case that meant that I sent a copy of my passport, my university diploma and my resume to Google. They in turn handed it to an attorney that made the petition on Google’s behalf to USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). With the petition they sent a letter describing what a fantastic human being I am and how important I would be for Google’s future success. They also sent a paper from a company that had looked at my university diploma and translated that into something that makes sense to an American. (For some reason KTH is not widely known in the US 😉 )

When USCIS had made up their mind they sent a paper with the approval to Google. A “I-797B, Notice of Action”, which in turn was sent over to me with FedEx. USCIS also sent a notification to the American Embassy in Stockholm.

At this point I had thought that I could just go to the embassy and they would put the visa in my passport. But that turned out not to be the case. I now had to apply for the visa on the embassy’s web site and book an interview. When applying for the visa I had to fill out a long form called DS-160. (The form is filled in online.) It had questions like where my parents live, what schools I have attended, what countries I have visited the last five years etc.

When the form was filled in I could book an interview. The first available time slot was September 9, almost a month later. Then I realized I had written my third given name as “Gosta” instead of “Goesta” as it says in the passport. So I had to submit another DS-160 and book a new interview time. This time I got September 14. Darn…

To the interview you need to bring a whole bunch of stuff.

  • The confirmation of the submitted DS-160, which has a bar code on it.
  • My passport
  • A photograph for the visa that must be 2 inches by 2 inches. The normal Swedish passport photos you can get in machines here and there are not good enough. There are photo shops where they have this as a special service.
  • A receipt from the bank that I had paid the visa fee of 1200 SEK.
  • A self addressed envelope with 65 kr in stamps on it.
  • An extra fancy “personbevis” with stamp on it from the tax authorities.
  • The visa petition approval.

So on the big interview day my time was at 9:00. About 8:40 I walk up the street of the embassy and see a line outside the main gate. It turns out to be the line for people applying for non immigrant visas. If you had other business you could get in ahead of the line. Luckily this was a beautiful sunny morning so there was no problem standing outside for a while. (They had a bunch of umbrellas next to the gate just in case..)

After about 20 minutes I had made it through the line and was called in by the guard with a cheerful “God morgon!”. I had to show her that I had all the papers needed and then I was let in to the security control. It was an airport style security control with x-ray and everything. You are not allowed to bring any electronics into the embassy. (So much for killing time surfing on the smart phone…)

After security I walked a short path to a door and into the actual embassy building. I handed over all my papers to a woman behind a glass counter and was told to wait for my name to be called. In the room there were about 50 (?) people waiting. All sitting on chairs in three rows fronting a TV screen showing BBC World. (I had a book as well..)

After about 2,5 hours my name was finally called and I went to another window counter. There I first gave my fingerprints and then the woman behind the counter asked some questions what I would be doing at my new job. It seemed more like friendly chit chat though than formal questions. I’m not sure what it actually was. Then I was given back some papers and was told that my passport would arrive in the mail in about a week. Not much of an interview… It took about a minute.

All in all from lining up outside the embassy until I got out the gate again it took about three hours.

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Previously, on go west

It has come to my attention that some people would be interested in me doing a bit of blogging about my soon-to-happen relocation to the big country on the other side of the Atlantic. So here we go..

(Swedish disclaimer: Somliga som skulle kunna tänkas vilja läsa mina små underfundigheter pratar inte så mycket svenska. Så jag tar det hela på engelska. Jag måste ju ändå ägna mig åt engelska på heltid snart så det är lika bra att börja med en gång.)

So this is what has happened so far. Five years ago I had some contact with Google about a position in Zürich, Switzerland. That didn’t materialize but after a trip to California last year we had a new contact, this time for the main office in Mountain View. Then after some we-have-no-visas-issues, ten interviews and two trips to Zürich I was all of a sudden a Noogler (New Googler) on my way to relocate to San Francisco Bay Area.

When I got the offer there were three months to go before the move. That means that you have time to

  • Talking to FexEd explaining to them that the reason they couldn’t deliver stuff to me is that I am not at home in the middle of the day, I’m working.
  • Scanning papers, passports, drivers licenses, credit cards etc to send to different people.
  • Having a guy from a moving company over to verify that the stuff in my apartment fits in a 20 feet container.
  • Sending endless amounts of papers and answering as many questions about my economy just to have the honour of becoming a Citibank customer.
  • Answering even more questions for US Immigration to get to apply for an H1B work permit visa.
  • And the near impossible task of going through your stuff and decide what to bring, what to leave behind and what to throw away.

Now it’s two weeks before it’s time to take a one way flight to San Francisco. Tomorrow I have the visa interview at the American Embassy in Stockholm. After that they claim it will take seven days (unclear if it is business days..) before I get my passport back with a visa in it. If they do it on time I’m fine, but there is not much margin. This could be nerve wrecking..

Not only will I not be able to leave the country if they take too much time. The moving company also won’t touch my things unless they get a copy of the visa. Knock on wood..

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