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At VMware, we promote a dynamic environment where people can grow, enjoy the employee community and feel the comforts of home while working to enable companies through software virtualization. Culture and fun are just as important as our vision. We connected with Jeff Goodall, Workplace Supervisor at VMware Palo Alto to get his behind the scenes take on how the official (unofficially) VMware turtle pond at our Palo Alto headquarters came to be. Let’s just say it all started with a quick trip for lunch and a little red-eared slider turtle named Rosie…

In the early days of the site build at Promontory, the famed pond didn’t start with turtles. Originally we had hoped to put koi fish in the VMware Palo Alto Promontory pond, but we couldn’t get the test fish to live. We tried filtering the water, treating it, but nothing worked unless we let the pond cloud with algae; which wasn’t an option. We wanted to have clear water so our employees could view the river rocks on the bottom of the pond. If we let the algae grow, we would only be able to see the lips of the koi fish when they came to the pond surface to eat. So the pond sat empty for quite sometime.

Then employees moved into the buildings, which got our new site up and running! Even with all the excitement, the pond still remained empty. I wanted something in the pond; something besides plants, something that we could all enjoy.

One day in the summer of 2007, I went to an early lunch at Rosati’s in Portola Valley. I had a craving for a burger and fries and “Zots” was the place I wanted to go. I cruised up to Portola Valley’s famous burger joint, parked in the lot and walked in. The weather was perfect.

The owner behind the counter kept going on about something she didn’t know what do to with, something she didn’t know how to take care of…

She came over to me and asked, “Do you know anybody that wants a turtle?”

“A turtle?”

“Yes – I have a turtle in a tank here and I don’ know what to do with it.”

I said, “Well I might be interested, just a minute.”

I went outside and called my then boss. “Hey Mr. H, are there any chemicals or toxins in the pond right now; anything that might be dangerous to wildlife?”

His response, “What are you up to, Goodall?”

“Nothing, nothing at all…anything dangerous to life in the pond?” I replied.

“No, nothing dangerous, unless you have gills. The pond is treated with a natural chemical to keep the water clear, why?”

“No reason, thanks – see you in a bit *click*.”

I hung-up and walked back inside. I told the restaurant owner, “I’ll take it!’ I was now the new owner of a red-eared slider turtle.

I went back to work with this small turtle in a cooler riding next to me in my jeep, heading back to its new home and got back to campus just in time for a stack of help tickets to work on. What started out as a manageable morning turned into a chaotic afternoon. I took the turtle with me as I drove around campus in one of our golf carts, answering help tickets. For four hours straight, this terrapin and I cruised around our site installing keyboard trays, covering windows to block out sunlight, solving plumbing issues, delivering file cabinet keys, etc. From noon until 4:00 p.m. the turtle sat in a cooler, in a golf cart, riding from building to building with me; it was crazy.

At 4:05 p.m., I named the turtle Rosie after my fortuitous happening at Rosati’s and discovering that “it” was female! It was splashdown time. I grabbed the turtle, held her behind my back, and snuck her through Prom D (one of our buildings onsite). We walked through the building and out the adjacent door. The turtle was flailing uncontrollably. I walked up to the edge of the pond, looked around to see if anyone was looking, and set her into the water.

She sunk like a rock. I thought I had killed her!

“Move, move,” was all I thought for what seemed like an eternity. Then, slowly I saw a head poke out, then a leg and then she swam off. Whew!

For the next couple of days, I fed her leftover lettuce, sliced carrots, whatever I had leftover from lunch in the Prom C café. She was eating!

One day, an email went out on the fun-list (an internal email list for general fun news). It asked everyone if they knew we had a turtle in the pond. I thought, “Here we go. This will go one of two ways.”

The first reply by another employee to this email was, “Yes, I saw that – how very cool, but it needs a friend!”

The rest is, as they say, history. We now have seven turtles living in the pond. And, it all started with “Rosie”.



-Jeff Goodall, Workplace Supervisor, VMware




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