SAN BRUNO, Calif. -- Clearly, this isn't the typical American workplace.
Just inside the sleek glass doors of YouTube's corporate headquarters is a rock climbing wall -- "for Googlers only." Straight ahead, five guys in T-shirts and jeans cluster around a foosball table, engrossed in a lunch hour game. Nearby, a Russian film crew jabbers away, shooting footage for a documentary on the global company. Over at the reception desk, the candy jar is a big, red, furry head of Sesame Street's Elmo, watched over by the receptionist's tiny, quivering Chihuahua, which is definitely not stuffed.
And that's just the lobby.
From the standard company attire -- jeans and T-shirts, mostly -- to the indoor putting green, the outdoor Frisbee golf course and the gourmet cafe dishing up free fare all day, YouTube is a work environment that is more akin to summer camp for adults.
Never miss a local story.
YouTube and Google, its parent company in nearby Mountain View, are two of Silicon Valley's hotbeds of hiring. Jobs here are some of the most coveted around.
"Google has an incredible amount of cachet. They offer benefits that blow away the competition," said Dawn Block, a veteran Silicon Valley technology jobs headhunter.
Behind all the perks and quirks, there is a serious business. Google is a $170 billion global empire spanning more than 40 countries, with offices from Madrid to Mumbai. Having morphed far beyond its internet search engine roots, Google's business brawn has attracted antitrust scrutiny in this country and abroad.
But the atmosphere inside its smaller YouTube subsidiary more closely resembles that of a young startup.
To find out what it's like to land a job and work at one of the hippest and most hard-charging companies in California, we recently spent an afternoon on YouTube's campus. Our hosts: Christopher Dale and Josh Sassoon, two 30-somethings from Sacramento, who agree they took "meandering paths" to their Google jobs.
Dale, 36, is a corporate communications manager who toggles his time between the Google and YouTube campuses.
Growing up in Davis, Calif., Dale expected to become a lawyer, but an uninspiring summer job at a New York law firm stamped out that desire. Instead, armed with an English lit degree from Colgate University and a master's from Cambridge, Dale landed in San Francisco at a high-tech PR firm where he merged his two passions: writing and technology.
He arrived in 2000, just in time for the dot-com debacle. His employer went bankrupt; Dale survived by starting his own marketing firm and then joining a tech-focused PR agency. All the while, he kept hearing "all these cool things this company called Google was doing."
In 2007, Dale got an unsolicited email from a Google recruiter on LinkedIn. Hired to handle global crisis communications and public affairs, Dale has been at Google for three years, and is known for his "anti-uniform" of hipster eyeglasses, white shirt and, yes, a tie.
Sassoon, 30, is a "user-experience designer," which means he works with YouTube's engineering team, helping design new features such as Cosmic Panda, where users gather and "curate" favorite videos, channels and play lists.
After graduating from Rio Americano High School in Sacramento, Sassoon majored in art history at the University of California-Los Angeles. He interned at a local architecture firm, where he developed a passion for visual design, and at Intel, where he taught himself technical coding.
By the end of college, he was creating websites for small companies, which eventually led to jobs in New York at MySpace and at Sony Music, where he designed more than 200 websites for performers from J. Lo to American Idol's Adam Lambert. Last year, Sassoon was wooed back to California by Apple, which hired him as a visual designer.
It wasn't a good fit.
He stayed less than a year before "finding my fit" at YouTube. Hired just six months ago, Sassoon is a "NuTuber," the YouTube vernacular for new employees. (At Google, they're called "Nooglers.")
While job growth in Sacramento and elsewhere in California remains anemic, here in the tech-dotted valley, Google, YouTube and others like LinkedIn, Facebook, Salesforce and Zynga are "hiring furiously," their websites littered with job openings, recruiters say.
"They may only be hiring five, 10 or 15 people," said Block, "but in the aggregate it adds up."