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LIFE / Sri Subramanian

A 'Hut' Spot to Work

September 15, 1997

Sri Subramanian, 37

Santa Barbara

I'm a software developer and team manager. I'm employed by Software.Com, a small, privately held company that makes Internet software. We have offices in Boston and Seattle, but our headquarters is a 10-minute walk away from the beach in Santa Barbara. This is where I work, in a truly innovative workplace.

This workplace is a large, windowless room, lit by a skylight. Instead of cubicles separated by corridors, our workstations are arranged into "huts" of different colors laid out in a zigzag pattern across the floor. We call them huts because they have concrete walls on three sides, glass fronts and translucent plastic roofs, not because they are small and dark. They are actually very big and spacious.

The whole arrangement, which we call the "village," is geared toward openness and space. It's a very comfortable place, with a pingpong table in one hut and free drinks in the kitchen, all of which is in keeping with the culture of the software engineer. Also in keeping with that culture are the hours we have to spend here. We're still in start-up, and that means that we have to produce quickly to compete with larger companies. This comfortable working environment makes our long hours tolerable and often enjoyable.

This unique floor plan also helps us stay focused. Workers isolated in cubicles tend to leave their work often through the day to visit with one another. Because we're not isolated here--we can see people and talk to them without leaving our chairs--we don't mix with one another in the usual way. To get the free interchange of ideas that such mixing often produces, we rely on e-mail. A lot of our creativity takes place in the electronic world, which we find very stimulating.

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