One of the pleasures of this job – by which I mean plying the trade of journalism – is getting invites to check out the latest and greatest the IT world has to offer. An important part of this is visiting newly-appointed offices, complete with gadgets and gizmos, flexi-working environments, bright colours, and all manner of soft things strewn all over the floor.
A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of a guided tour around Vodafone’s new home down at Auckland’s Viaduct. Clearly, they had done their best to be cool and funky, and it sorta lived up to that. I did like the screens in the waiting area, the hot desking and the wall of chillies, or whatever they are.
Not so impressive was one of their near neighbours forgetting to plan for parking – and, of course, those are the things one remembers, not the fancy office space.
I was impressed when I got to review the environmentally-friendly Landcare Research building at the University of Auckland’s Tamaki Campus. It really is quite a place, at one with nature (as much as any man-made construction can be), complete with recycled floor tiles, heat recovery systems and self-composting toilets.
You may have seen that a Microsoft employee has bid US$35,000 in a company charity auction to tour Bill Gates’ home (personally guided by the man himself and with appetisers at the end!). That would be cool. I can only begin to imagine the tech feast his humble abode may boast.
I do, however, hope to get an invite to Telecom’s new campus HQ and ‘quadrangle’ on Victoria Street West when it’s done. Should be interesting.
So, it was with eagerness and enthusiasm that I got to take a peek at another new place the other day. A latte and a looksee was the offer … how could I refuse! It wasn’t brand spanking ‘still wet paint’ new, but still had the promise of that new building smell and all the mod IT cons you had expect of any self-respecting tech company.
There was a big plasma screen in the lobby with a video loop of the company’s greatest achievements, and the lift was voice-activated ... nice start. More screens in the ‘meet and greet’ space, a power saving system I couldn’t really understand, but it sounded good. Plenty of headsets that keep everyone incommunicado (as well as firmly in a chapter out of 1984). I quite liked the light-emitting concrete, the ergonomic chairs and cushions ... and so it went on.
Overall, I was impressed until I went to my contact’s work space for a final few words. There in a corner was a shiny multi-function printer. Sleek in black and silver, and not out of place by any means except ... well, it’s positioning left a little to be desired. ‘It’s the perfect height,” my host insisted.
After millions spent on the building, the decor, fixtures and fittings, it turns out the perfect place for the printer to sit was on the box it came in! Priceless.