As it turned out Almaden was what I had (from Google Earth) assumed to be the Silicon Valley Lab (SVL), and arriving there made me wish it had been. The word for Almaden is "flash", but while I'd love to describe it, I can't really be bothered right now (detailed descriptions of places are Tina's job), and while I'd like to show you photos I didn't take any and now I probably can't get through security anymore. None of the SVL security cards worked at the gate and the only way we got through the first time was by telling the security guard we were dropping off a new recruit and giving the HR person's name.
Once inside things started to go wrong. Introducing myself at reception (while the car drove away) an incredibly happy woman greeted me, informed me that she had no record of the meeting I was supposed to be having, and told me that Ray usually only saw new recruits at 12:45, not 8:45.
So, in the meantime I called my supervisor, Steven, who seemed almost as astonished as I was that I'd made it. He said to take my time, that I would probably be with HR for at least a few hours anyway, and to just turn up when I could.
A few minutes later, I made a friend. His name was
Ray's office (like the rest of Almaden) was flash. Unlike the rest of Almaden, it was also covered in pictures of Ray's children, and had 90's R'nB playing on a tiny stereo. This somewhat lessened the degree of flashness, but was (as promised) very welcoming. It was at this point that the second crisis of the day occurred. As Ray was preparing to guide us through our piles of paper, I discovered my passport and my certificate of sponsorship were both missing. Needless to say, a solid form of photo ID was both the first thing they required, and the one piece of documentation they couldn't proceed without. (It turned out that a couple of hours after I had very carefully placed the passport prominently at the front of my folder, to ensure it would be there the next day, Tina had very carefully taken it out for safe-keeping).
So a slightly less happy Ray organised for me to fax them through later that day (phew!), and told me that if I didn't there would be trouble. Filling out the forms took another hour, even with Ray kindly pointing out all the places we needed to write and sign and tick, and then finally we were finished and realised we had no way to get to the SVL, which was several miles away. In the end Duncan (who will be mentioned many times in the following posts as he has been kind enough to drive us everywhere) was called and we proceeded to SVL via the apartment (Tina was very apologetic).
SVL (which I will post photos of at some point), is a pretty big place. It houses roughly 2000 employees and would also look flash, if only this were the mid 90's. The site is layed out as two clusters of + (cross) shaped buildings at each end of a large open courtyard. A, B, C, D and E buildings are at one end, F, G and H are at the other, K is the cafeteria and J appears to have become lost somewhere, much like I did immediately upon arriving. While the + shape has the obvious advantage of maximising the amount of light and the number of corner offices, they do make navigation pretty hard, especially when some (but not all) buildings are joined together by glass walkways on some (but not other) floors, around 1/4 of the complex (maybe more) is partially underground, and all the buildings are exactly the same size and shape (except, the cafeteria and, presumably, the missing J). The different buildings are colour coded (in bright, innovation-inspiring colours), but this is less helpful that one might think. G, H and F buildings, for example are coloured Green, Blue and Greeny-Blue. Not exactly maximizing recognition there...
With the help of my fellow intern guide (whose name I still don't remember), I found my way to Security (where I was issued a badge/swipecard with my name and photo on it), and eventually to a "print room" where I was able to fax off my ID. Then we got a coffee and I went to find my boss. Finding his office proved quite difficult, partly for reasons I've already mentioned, and partly because his door was covered in so much paper that I twice mistook it for a noticeboard until I noticed the handle. Steven (who was just as friendly in person and assures me people just post things on his door without his knowledge) was very keen to know all about my trip and travel arrangements, and to talk about all the exciting things that were going on with the Collaboration Portal, the project I would be working on.
Around 1:30pm, my PC was due to be delivered and set up in my office, so we went to find it. My office mate Lucy is very nice and very quiet (which I'm told describes many of the people in SVL, although none of the ones I'd met so far, who were all very nice but could not possibly be described as quiet). However my "corner office with a view" turned out not to be as Lucy keeps all the blinds pulled down, presumably to keep the glare down.
My PC was surprising. I was presented with a very nice, new laptop, but soon discovered that if you wanted to use an external mouse, keyboard and screen (as most people do), you have to go find these on your own. "Finding" them involves a trip to the PC Store (which is a store in the sense of somewhere you store things, rather than somewhere you buy them), where an incredible amount of ancient computer gear is distributed to anyone foolish enough to ask for it. I asked for two screens (no-one really uses dual-screen here, but I wasn't going to give that up), and they were brought out to me on a cart, which was just as well because they were 15-year-old 20-inch CRT's which weighed about 30KG each. After delivering them to my office, I came back 10 minutes later to get power cords, which apparently no-one thought to include. I did manage to score a reasonably new keyboard and mouse, but the fact that this seems like an achievement worries me.
And after all the carting and organizing, along with a teleconference with my manager and various other people involved in my project, it was time to head home. At around 5pm Duncan sent a message helpfully telling me to meet him "by the stairs". My last minute in my new office was spent contemplating just how many sets of stairs there are in SVL which might be "the" stairs.
This post ends the "stuff we did today" series. From now on (now that we're up to date) we'll generally be posting shorter, more specific stuff.