IBM

IBM is one of the largest technological companies in the world. The main source of income is IT-outsourcing, where people can use the servers of IBM to host website or to run their programs. IBM has 40 datacenters worldwide that host a multitude of Popular programs such as SPSS (statistics) and weather.com. IBM also produces the processors that van be found in most gaming consoles.

The full name of IBM s International Business Machine corporation. The headquarters are in Armonk, New York. IBM has about 366.000 employees, or ‘IBMers’. These IBMers are situated around the world.  Most of them work in India (130.000). This is because IBM has fired a lot of its American employees in the past few years (they had 430.000 employees in 2013). Despite this setback, IBM was still the 7th largest company by market value n 2016.

IBM has developed a lot of new technology in the 20th century. Among those are the ATM, the floppy disk, the magnetic stripe card, the bar code and the Scanning tunneling microscope. This last invention resulted in one of the five Nobel prizes earned by IBMers. Today, research at IBM is focused on four sectors. Artificial intelligence, Healthcare, Quantum computing and blockchain technology. These sectors have a large amount of overlap, allowing IBM to do more efficient research. The research facility in California also does a lot of research in semiconductors.

One of the interesting things to come from the artificial intelligence research is the speech analyzer Watson. This program can understand natural speech and became famous when it won the American television show Jeopardy, which is based on very subtle hints contained in natural sentences. This proved that IBM’s artificial intelligence can understand and interpret unstructured data.

Google

In the afternoon we visited Googleplex, the headquarters of Google. Google started as a research project by Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Stanford in 1996. The company was founded in 1998 in Palo Alto, with the name taken from the number 10100 which is called “googol”. In 2003 they moved to Googleplex in Mountain View, where they have expanded from 4 buildings to a huge campus since. In 2015 the company restructured, with Google becoming a daughter company of Alphabet. This was done to better separate the many projects undertaken by Google, both financially and organisationally. In total, Alphabet has a revenue of $138 billion and almost a 100,000 people work there.

We were greeted at the visitor centre by Aart Bik, who was born in the Netherlands but now works in Silicon Valley. He studied computer science in Utrecht and Leiden, and worked at Intel before joining Google. There, he currently works on the Dart programming language, and has worked on various other projects in the past as well, such as within Google’s advertisement division and on Android. He told us about Google’s application process, how it is to work there and his own experience.

Google receives an enormous amount of applications, more than a 100,000 per year. Everyone can apply by sending a resume, but to get through the screening process it helps a lot to have an internal reference or have done an internship. The next rounds consist of a phone interview and a full day on-site interview to assess your technical and non-technical skills. One can apply for a specific role, but a lot of people are hired as a generalist and find a team to work in later.

One advantage of working at Google is having the perks, such as on-site dining facilities, the provided free shuttles to commute (which is actually the second-largest transportation system in the Bay Area) and exercise facilities. You work within a team that can consist of up to a few hundred people, but on a daily basis you work within a smaller group of around ten people. You can decide your own working hours, but you have to attend meetings and it is expected to be available between 10am and 4pm.

Aart told us that what he really liked about Google was the interesting and challenging work, the wide variety of domains, the very knowledgeable colleagues, the ability to have an impact on a lot of users and the large scale of the company. Some things that stood out were that a simple mistake can easily cost the company lots of money because of the large scale. Another thing is that some employees experience the so-called “imposter syndrome”, where they think they’re not good enough because for the first time they work in an environment with many other smart people. Employees are also allowed to spend a portion of their time working on their own ideas within the team they are with.

After the interesting discussion, he showed us around the campus for a bit and we took some pictures. We ended the visit at the garden with the somewhat famous Android sculptures and the Google merchandise store.

Categories: San Francisco

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