National Instruments Reviews

Updated August 13, 2015
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National Instruments Chairman, President, and CEO James J. Truchard
James J. Truchard
35 Ratings

Pros
  • Work/life balance is encouraged (in 97 reviews)

  • The people are generally brilliant and the work environment is healthy (in 69 reviews)

Cons
  • Work-life balance can be tough depending on what area you work in (in 14 reviews)

  • Organizational structure and consensus culture are huge roadblocks in the decision making process (in 17 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

59 Employee Reviews

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  1. Boring, very corporate, lack of innovation, mixed expectations

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Intern - R&D Software Engineering in Austin, TX
    Former Intern - R&D Software Engineering in Austin, TX
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at National Instruments as an intern (Less than a year)

    Pros

    -Food was good at cafes -Very documented -People are very helpful if you ask questions (normally) -Yearly fun events -NIweek is kinda cool

    Cons

    -Their products are so boring and going to work was never enjoyable. You're never going to work on an actual consumer product. -Seemed way more "corporate" than a tech company usually is -They defend Labview like it is the Bible, yet it looks like something from 1997. It is seriously an eyesore that they think is awesome the way it is. -Many full timers will have Twitch or YouTube on the side while they code, but if an intern does it they get chastised. Full timers will also talk about some weird things, but if an intern talks about the same thing they get chastised. They say they have the same expectations for interns and full timers, but they don't.

    Advice to Management

    When you say you expect the same from interns as full timers, actually mean it.


  2. Helpful (7)

    Easy transition from college grad to professional, but no longer much upside beyond that

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Product Support Engineer in Austin, TX
    Current Employee - Product Support Engineer in Austin, TX
    Neutral Outlook

    I have been working at National Instruments full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    // Great people. Colleagues and mentors are technically gifted and generally very willing to invest in the career development of new hires. Most employees are genuinely motivated to develop/market/sell/support quality products that will promote customer success in industry. // Wonderful day-to-day work culture. Direct management tends to be hands-off, allowing sufficient professional autonomy where appropriate. Most teams work well together (see 'Great people'), and there's a huge social aspect to the culture (pretty common in Austin, where tech workforces are largely made up of young professionals and recent grads). Weekly happy hours in the workplace are encouraged, and programs exist for intramural sports, after-hours gaming, maker/hobbyist projects, etc. Networking around common interests both inside and outside of work is super easy. Dress code is nonexistent, except when interfacing directly with customers. // Decent investment benefits. 401k matching is better than any of my friends/family have ever had. Employee stock purchase plan provides a significant discount on company shares. // Awesome campus. Large undeveloped/natural space with trails, volleyball and basketball courts, and a large deck/courtyard with a grill. Modern buildings with quality facilities are well-decorated and decently furnished. // Exciting location. Living in Austin is an amazing experience for just about anyone.

    Cons

    // Salaries are generally disappointing. Performance bonuses have become increasingly rare. Profit sharing varies (naturally), but the deposit has hardly been worth the trip to the bank, the past few years. // Insurance benefits are also on the decline, especially under the convenient cover of healthcare policy changes. // Upper management is disconnected from the ground floor. (Read literally, I actually run into them all the time on the elevator or in the cafeteria -- which is kind of cool -- but it's not as if they're typically interested in having a serious conversation with a grunt like me, regardless of how long or short.) All focus is now on the bottom line and shareholder success. Employee satisfaction is measured by results of corporate surveys given annually to a random collection of execs, directors, managers, engineers, technicians, and admins or by exec-led 'initiatives' that result in more useless internal surveys and endless 'data collection'. Very weak response to poor survey results has left me further disappointed in upper management's interest in employee success or happiness. The same feedback regarding salary and benefits is given over and over again, through avenues like those 'initiatives', communication with direct management during performance reviews, and Glassdoor reviews, yet the response is always free t-shirts, an extra beer on the house during a company happy hour, or renting out an amusement park 100 miles out of town on a Sunday (which apparently used to be an annual tradition that fell off a few years ago). Personally, I'd much rather do away with all this nonsense in favor of having a couple of deserving colleagues get a legitimate raise. // Work-life balance varies from department to department and from team to team, but across the board, groups are being asked to do more with less. Rising attrition rates are resulting in lost knowledge/expertise, which isn't helping. Not all of those positions left open are being filled, in efforts to cut costs, so workloads are generally increasing, and deadlines/schedules/expectations are not adjusting accordingly. Direct management understands and empathizes but has no authority to effect change -- only to respond with empty praise and patronizing positivity. // Even though the people are great (see 'Great people' under Pros), their frequent grumbling/venting is the staple of our very poor morale. It's not easy to get motivated in an atmosphere so jaded. // Sometimes, the elevators take forever. (Could be a Pro, I suppose, if you're health-conscious and willing to take the stairs.)

    Advice to Management

    // Hello management, please read Pros and Cons, above.


  3. Helpful (21)

    Doing Fewer Things Better

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Software Engineer in Austin, TX
    Current Employee - Software Engineer in Austin, TX
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at National Instruments full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    - Friendly coworkers - Mentorship for new grads - R&D management have technical backgrounds - Low-pressure work environment (YMMV, as there have been teams in the past that were forced to work weekends to meet deadlines) - Annual tech conference where employees get to share new tech and ideas with each other. Shout out to the guy who ran python in the boot loader.

    Cons

    - Compensation and benefits are lackluster and don't seem to be improving. From the sound of it, NI has always lacked competitive compensation but Austin's recent growth is making this worse. - Lack of faith in upper management. NI has a bit of an attrition problem. Management first tried to write this off as due to the economy improving. But no one leaves because the economy gets better, they leave because there's something wrong. In May, management acknowledged that attrition was a problem and said they were going to address it. They formed a committee of employees (all VPs or Directors) and will propose ideas to Dr. T sometime in August. Compensation has been a know problem for years. Does management really need 3 months to figure that out? It seems like they're just buying time. Upper management is either incompetent or dishonest, I don't know which is worse. - Attrition. We're losing plenty of employees that have worked here 5, 10, even 15+ years. NI's compensation seems to be driving people away. Management thinks they can fix this by hiring new grads or overseas. Not only do we lose a lot of NI-specific expertise, but it's a blow to morale. NI is basically sending the message, "You are replaceable". Just ask our manufacturing division in Austin. - The amount of buzzwords. I really want to enjoy Weird Al's Mission Statement, but it's just too depressing.

    Advice to Management

    You still have some of the kindest, smartest people I've ever worked with left. God knows why they're still here. You claim you're a great employer, but you have tons of employees walking out the door. Either pay them what they're worth, or admit that you're just not that invested in being a good employer. Dr. T. you seem like a good person, but I haven't seen you addressing these issues. When you sent last year's email about the 0.3% annual bonus, it seemed like you were saying, "Sorry guys, but there's nothing I can do about." If anyone has the power to change things it's you, right? I'm beginning to think you're either losing control or you just don't care.


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  5. Helpful (15)

    Low salary, management issues

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Austin, TX
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Austin, TX
    Doesn't Recommend
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at National Instruments full-time (More than 10 years)

    Pros

    Advancement was only made by changing departments, 4 departments in 11 years. Some managers were good, some not so good. Proudly didn't have layoffs until ~2014., other than 'clearing deadwood'.

    Cons

    Laid-off from professional position after 11 years, by a manager who was forced out himself. Company lets known bad managers drive morale down and shape departments without doing objective evaluation. Older employees who are not engineers seem to be 'laid-off' in a higher percentage.


  6. Helpful (23)

    Significant problems, and slow to address them

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Staff Software Engineer in Austin, TX
    Former Employee - Staff Software Engineer in Austin, TX
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at National Instruments full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    - Coworkers are generally nice, smart, skilled, and willing to share their knowledge. - Depending on the team you’re on, there’s the chance to work on cool technologies that can really improve your skills. - They invest in employee development — the yearly NITech conference, etc. - They’re getting better about dealing with their fear of not-invented-here solutions and doing things in more standard ways. - Good work-life balance. - Good direct-level management, depending on the team. - All things considered, a good first job for someone straight out of school.

    Cons

    - The compensation is extremely poor. They claim that they offer industry-average compensation based on survey data for equivalent positions, but a quick look around Glassdoor will show you that’s not the case. As the cost of living in Austin has steadily risen, they haven’t kept up. Salary planning happens twice a year, and if you get a promotion, you have to wait until the next salary planning cycle to get a pay raise (and don’t expect a big one). Finally, the bonuses are terrible — they’re based entirely on company growth, not profit, and the growth target is unchanged from what it was in the ‘90s when NI was a fast-growing small company, meaning there’s no way they’ll ever come close to the target now. - The culture is not what it was. What’s left of it is friendly coworkers, a flexible work schedule, no dress code, and beer on Fridays (which the employees bring in). The previous feeling that “NI takes good care of its people” has evaporated, and little perks that the company used to provide to the employees, like a yearly family trip to Six Flags, are long since gone. As a result of the low compensation, it’s not really a high-performance culture any more. A lot of smart people work on pet projects, or just aren’t that motivated, because they’ve realized that if they work really hard toward the company goals, they’ll get a pat on the back or a token bonus. Management is reluctant to push because they don’t want people to leave. All this has led to pretty poor morale around the office. - Vacation is poor compared to what other companies offer. As a new hire, you start with 10 days of paid vacation, regardless of the experience you bring in. Over the last couple of years, vacation rollover between years was eliminated and then capped. - Benefits used to be very good, but they’ve been steadily cut back, and now they’re about average for the industry. Specifically, the vaunted health insurance plan (formerly a big selling point) was cut back, and many people have moved to the high-deductible plan. - NI devotes lots of effort to internal messaging. You’ll see banners all the time stating that “your work has a purpose” and “look at all these awesome things NI is enabling”. After each quarter, you’ll hear “we did great, another record quarter”, and then come time for salary planning, somehow things weren’t so good after all — it was a challenging market, the dollar was valued too high, or somebody stubbed their toe — so yet another low raise and bonus. - NI fell off the Fortune 100 Best Places to Work after 15 years on the list, and rather than addressing the issues head-on, employees got an email from Dr. T that upper management was listening to and considering the survey results, followed by more internal messaging that the percentage of people who said NI was a great place to work would have been enough to make the list in the past. Then, in the quarterly business presentation, they said they were putting together a working group to study the issues. Lots of listening and studying, not much acting and improving. - They’re seeing an uptick in attrition. Their response? Initially, message out that the level of attrition is normal given the improving economy, and institute a quarterly goal to “retain key employees”. (Well, who’s that?) Also, push harder on college recruiting. However, since college recruiting isn’t a dedicated team — employees take time away from their regular duties to go recruit on campus — the people who are getting stiffed on compensation are also the people tasked with recruiting more people to alleviate the pressure on compensation. In addition, NI talks about hiring the best and brightest, but their compensation and reputation is no longer enough for them to actually attract and retain these people.

    Advice to Management

    You’re in a challenging spot, and so far, you haven’t risen to the challenge. You’re stuck between a rock (rising costs in Austin) and a hard place (a stagnant market in your core test and measurement sector). Your new focus on growth hasn’t been enough to keep up with the salary growth in Austin, let alone to narrow the pay gap you’ve accumulated. Now is the time for committed action, tough decisions, and innovative thinking. I can think of several ideas right off the bat: - Consider a smaller, more efficient, better-compensated workforce, even if you have to let some people go. - Spend a higher percentage of revenue on R&D, Wall Street analysts be damned. - Open up an NI office in a place with a lower cost of living. (Everyone seems to want to move to San Marcos these days…) But whatever you decide to do, do it soon, do it transparently, and do it to completion — don’t just study the issue, juke in the right direction, and then go back to the way you’ve always done it. Every month you keep on doing like you’ve been doing, you lose more skilled people to other opportunities, and you do more damage to the reputation you’ve worked for decades to attain.


  7. Helpful (14)

    Just enough profit/growth to inhibit the changes that need to happen.

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Engineer/Manager in Austin, TX
    Former Employee - Engineer/Manager in Austin, TX
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at National Instruments full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    If you are the type to sit in your cube, look like you are working hard, and are not prone to rocking-the-boat, then this company is for you! You will have a job with a great work-life balance, with little accountability, with slightly below average pay, for the rest of your life.

    Cons

    - First of all, NI is a marketing / self-promoting / recruiting....MACHINE. They know exactly what to say, how to say it, and to whom to say it to when they want to win you over. We can't completely fault NI for being this way; it's partly due to the corporate culture we all live in. However, NI knows how to turn this up to 11 when needed. - NI is desperately trying to become a "performance-based" work environment. Management openly references a slide deck from a very popular internet flix streaming company that praises a performance-based culture. Unfortunately, NI management fails to also see in the same slide deck that this company also pays its employees very well. Hmmm....two sides of the same coin? Could performance be closely tied to compensation? NI doesn't think so. They pass this minor technicality off with a slight-of-hand gesture as if to say..."These are not the metrics we are looking for" -- The consensus-based culture might have worked well 15 or 20 years ago when the company and their product offering was much smaller. Now, it just stifles productivity, creative / unique thought, and individual accountability and responsibility. If you are a creative thinker, NI is not for you. -- As mentioned above, NI pays slightly-below average in spite of being known as the "Cadillac" of hardware and software in the industry. Their gross profit per employee is among the lowest among their competitors. Until they start generating A LOT more revenue and/or start laying-off the poorest performers, salaries (and bonuses) will continue to be average at best. -- There's a well-known formula upper management uses when determining how much of a bonus should be payed out when it posts a profit. This is great...we all love openness and transparency when if comes to these things. On the flip side, how they determine how much of a dividend should be paid to stockholders is a well guarded secret. Smells fishy. - HR and middle management have been forced to start giving "stay interviews" to immediate reports. Company's shouldn't have to be doing this. And if they are....there is something terribly wrong. Again, NI fails to see the significance of this.

    Advice to Management

    Unfortunately, NI will continue to have mediocre growth; just enough to keep from being motivated to make the changes everyone else knows you need to make.


  8. Helpful (8)

    Not what it used to be, even 5 years ago.

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Austin, TX
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Austin, TX
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at National Instruments full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    Interesting work and truly brilliant people (for the moment). NI allows you to discover where you can be good. Work life balance is reasonable but not what it used to be.

    Cons

    Salary is a joke. Think getting a promotion will help? Think again. Even with promotions you have to wait until the pay cadence comes around. If you are promoted with the same group plan on doing both your old job and your new one; both for that tiny increase. Back-fill for that old position? Again, keep dreaming. One of the big problems with no back-fill is that the work-life balance becomes a thing of the past. When a co-worker leaves, you can count on having to do their work since your manager will not be allow to hire.

    Advice to Management

    Without your best employees, The Street will not like you any better. Your best and brightest are already leaving as fast as they can. If you want a staff of average or lowest common denominators keep doing what you're doing.


  9. Helpful (12)

    All Vision, no Heart

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Engineer in Austin, TX
    Former Employee - Engineer in Austin, TX
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at National Instruments full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    Work-Life Balance 0-5 year training and experience The career the first five years can prepare you for once you leave

    Cons

    The company does not care about sharing business success with the employees who design and build the products that drive profit. Every decision at NI is made to allow an increase in the dividend or to secure Dr. Truchard's legacy/vision. Engineers, Manufacturing, every employee in the company is a fungible cog in the NI machine (with an MTBF of 5 years), turning in order to achieve these goals with a heavy amount of grease provided by internal marketing to try and keep things running smoothly. The company will say absolutely anything (or conveniently not say anything at all - such as when dividends increase while salaries don't or when promotions are "frozen" due to poor company growth) to convince employees that decisions to support those two goals are in their best interests. Times are ALWAYS tough at National Instruments - "Cautiously Optimistic" is the best you can hope for. We're just about to break through to record, sustained 20% growth - but you still aren't getting a raise until we do! Every single employee compensation metric (Salaries, RSUs, Bonus, even promotions!) relies solely on (organic) revenue growth. The issue is that senior leadership does not know how to grow revenue anymore - Test and Measurement is a terrible business for innovation leading to growth and it may simply not be possible to hit 20% given the current size/market share of the company. NI is great at increasing profitability and margins (not so tough when you never give raises or hire more people) and the employees see absolutely no benefit from this increased profitability. The shareholders sure do though, as the recent (Q4 2014) 15c to 19c/quarter dividend bump represents an increase of $20.5 Million per year (a roughly $2.5 Million per year raise for Dr. Truchard although his $1 per year salary is trumpeted as a noble sacrifice) during a year where many employees didn't get even a cost of living increase. Growth companies don't do this, they invest to increase growth when they know how to. However, the only measured metrics and accountability at the senior leadership level in NI tie back to increasing either profitability or efficiency.

    Advice to Management

    Allow employees to benefit from the main focus of the company - increased profitability/efficiency. NI is transforming from a growth to a value company and employees simply don't share in the success of the business anymore. Increase employee compensation at least to match inflation/cost of living (in Austin!) to help them forge their own legacy rather than continue to make sacrifices for the legacy of Dr. Truchard. Respect employees enough to follow through on the open communication you hold on a pedestal - openly discuss the dividend increases when they're made and why the shareholders are entitled to a large raise when employees are not. Openly discuss compensation (don't just say "we aim to be average with our magical market surveys", you hire smart people who understand data - share it). Make retention of employees with tenure > 5 years a metric. "Key employee retention" means nothing when there is no definition of a key employee nor acknowledgement of how many exist. These are the people who have stuck with the company and helped execute on the plans to keep it relevant in the future, but all the effort is in wooing interns and new hires with offer increases and literal jars full of candy.


  10. Helpful (4)

    Disappointed

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Austin, TX
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Austin, TX
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at National Instruments (Less than a year)

    Pros

    There is an on site doctor and gym. Great campus, it is very serene. There are some very smart people that work here.

    Cons

    I was shocked at the number of employees that were not tech savvy. I expected a tech company to employ people who were not only tech literate, but also embraced it & thought in innovative terms. Diversity is lacking & the company is very much a good old boys club.

    Advice to Management

    Most of your struggles are because leadership is lacking, innovation is not a focus & technology is not embraced.


  11. NI

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Group Manager in Austin, TX
    Current Employee - Group Manager in Austin, TX

    I have been working at National Instruments full-time

    Pros

    Good culture, but only sometimes

    Cons

    Bad culture, but only sometimes



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