Best Places spotlight: VMware encourages tech workers to explore ideas

For Grant Nowell, it's the people that make VMware a great employer. "I work with smart, passionate individuals who share a common vision," he says, adding that the camaraderie gives him and his colleagues "energy to work through complex problems."

The software company's 650 IT staffers can expand their skills through innovative projects that often use VMware's own products, says Nowell, a senior manager for IT application operations. Workers frequently get to share those experiences with the company's customers, he says. "That really helps with our overall skills and career development."

VMware's beautiful campus in Palo Alto, Calif., excellent amenities (including a soccer field) and fun events like Friday "beer bashes" also contribute to the great company culture, Nowell says.

All of that is by intention, says CIO Tony Scott. "No one feels like they're a cog in the wheel," he says. "Here there's a strong sense that we all have a chance to make a difference."

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