Douwe Osinga's Blog: The way of the engineers

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The way of the engineers

Google is an engineering driven company of course and it shows. And with such a large concentration of engineers at one spot, you get to see the similarities. For one thing, nobody seems to have a watch. You stand around with a group of ten people, ask for the time and all of them reach for their cell phones. Who needs a watch if you got one of those? Sense of directions is something that doesn’t seem to necessarily with good sense of engineering. People get lost left and right (admittedly, the  floor plans are sort of confusing) and a surprisingly large percentage of engineers don’t even seem to drive, including yours truly.

Politically, your average engineer is rather left leaning – one guy had a t-shirt saying in five languages: I’m sorry for my president, I didn’t vote for him, but some of them are radiate libertarians, denying the state the right to levy taxes. There’s not much in between and social conservatism doesn’t quicken pulses around here, everybody should basically just do what works for him.

Engineers like simplicity and are against rules that are unnecessary, since they know that these kind of rules lead to more trouble than they’re worth, so the like libertarianism. But then again, they usually don’t care too much about money after they have satisfied their lust of tech and gadgets, so they don’t see why the rich shouldn’t give some of their wealth to the less well off. Money, like anything has a decreasing yield of happiness the more you collect, so it just makes sense to redistribute it at some point.

Clothing is the other thing. Wayne, our VP of engineering, when pressed for a Google dress code came up with the rule, everybody should wear clothes at work. But there is an unwritten dress code among engineers. When I went to a Google drink I noticed that the females from sales stood out like they were civilians on a military ball. They were not wearing the uniform of jeans and darkish t-shirt, but colorful and fashion inspired wear. Jeans are comfortable and non white t-shirts are easier to wash.