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No. 58: Genentech Inc.

Risk-taking and innovation are valued and encouraged

By Mary Brandel
June 26, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - When you're developing a cure for cancer, a sense of urgency is important. But combine that intense sense of mission with an informal, nonhierarchical workplace that offers plenty of perks, and you've got Genentech Inc.

"Cancer is the competition; that's who we're trying to beat," says Todd Pierce, vice president of corporate IT. It's just that the serious mission is being pursued at a place that also offers doggie day care, a shuttle bus throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and freshly made sushi at lunch.

The culture in IT at the 30-year-old biotech firm is very open to risk-taking, innovation and trying new approaches, Pierce says, especially when it comes to providing scientists and other employees with tools for mobility and collaboration.

For instance, Genentech will be one of the first pharmaceutical companies to roll out to its commercial business, and it plans to deploy 3,000 Apple iPhones to its employees. In the first week the iPhone was available, Pierce says, IT had seven applications for it already developed. It's also in the process of moving to Google's calendar and e-mail applications.

Ideas don't get hindered by hierarchy: Pierce has established a requirement that IT be made up of only 10% management. "We don't want an overmanaged workforce," he says. "In many organizations, the energy gets lost to bureaucracy."

Systems administrator Ben Zuffi agrees that the culture encourages innovation.

"You're not burdened with hoops to jump through," he says.

Read more about IT Careers in Computerworld's IT Careers Topic Center.

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