Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc.
3.7 of 5 77 reviews
www.selinc.com Pullman, WA 1000 to 5000 Employees

Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc. Reviews

Updated May 24, 2014

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3.7 77 reviews

                             

85% Approve of the CEO

Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc. President Edmund O Schweitzer III

Edmund O Schweitzer III

(66 ratings)

80% of employees recommend this company to a friend
6 Employee Reviews Back to all reviews
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    Stable position at a stable company but at below average pay rates.

    Engineer (Current Employee)
    Pullman, WA

    Pros-Stable company: Leader in electrical power systems technology.
    -Lot of good, loyal, hardworking folks work here.
    -Good for power engineers starting their careers.
    -Solid customer focus.

    Cons-Salary: Sub-standard pay rates when compared to other companies. At the annual performance review, if you meet expectations you get a 1% pay hike! If you exceed expectations you get a 2% increase! This does not even cover the year over year inflation rate. I have seen so many of my co-workers leave to other companies because of this reason.
    -Employee Development: There is a lack of employee development in the company. Primarily because the company is located close to two colleges, there are plenty of new grads who can be hired for dirt cheap and every two years there is a turnover.
    -HR: Does a brilliant job of brainwashing people into the "company culture". They do a good job of maintaining the company's image in the employee's mind and thereby in the community.
    -Travel: Only power systems engineers or managers get to travel outside the company to meet customers or attend conferences.
    -Small town: Small college town living. Suitable for families but there is not much to do if you are single.

    Advice to Senior ManagementTo truly motivate your employees, please stop doing gimmicks like meet-the-execs and filling up employees with HR sunshine. Instead focus on better compensation and employee development. This will lead to lower attrition rates, more innovations and better products.

    No, I would not recommend this company to a friend – I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company

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    5 people found this helpful  

    Great Products, Poor Work/Life Balance & Micro-Managed

    Professional (Former Employee)

    ProsProbably the best equipment and service in the industry where the company competes- cool technology and a great warranty.

    Some of the best, smart, hard working and dedicated people in the world who are willing to sacrifice a great deal of work-life balance to get the job done.

    Company does some cool things to help people during tragedy's (Both Customers and Employees).

    Tuition Reimbursement program & on-site gym in Pullman

    ConsBe prepared to work in an environment that is underfunded and understaffed. Even with talented people working smart and doing significant amounts of extended overtime, we often do not meet our artificial deadlines. There is a very negative fear-based blaming culture and good employees are let go regularly. Sometimes it seems like the project deadlines are set not based on sound reason, but to build on the sel industry legacy at break neck speed.

    It appears that so many sel people are overworked that they get stuck telling new employee candidates that the company is a better place to work than it actually is. But if the hiring manager tells the candidate how much overtime will be required of them, they may lose the candidate and then their department continues to stress in extended overtime and far too many projects in play.

    The company is still run very much like it was from the beginning with the founder very involved with just about everything. It is hard for professionals to develop in an environment of intense micro management. When we add the fear based management approach to the micro-management, it really makes it a difficult place to work and stifles creativity and personal-professional development.

    Housing in Pullman is very expensive and sel's wages are very low within the industry. If you do decide to move to Pullman to work for sel, ensure you rent for at least the first few years. You need that long to determine if it is worth staying.

    sel is a company that has an esop retirement plan tied to their competitive success, but SEL is run/dominated by the founder and his family. The board is far to narrow and does not have the expertise or objective influence to help the company grow in a healthy way.

    Advice to Senior ManagementAdd full voting representatives to the Board from an open election from within the company. Add full voting representatives to the Board from other industries and society who can bring a fuller perspective and can mentor and hold the sel Senior Leadership accountable for both successes and breakdowns.

    Encourage all employees to exercise their right to access and read the annual company and esop reports to study them, ask questions and even challenge decisions and expenditures where appropriate.

    Treating our customer's like gold is the right thing to do, now please add treating the employees like gold to this effort. We have heard senior leaders say for years that we should "Do what our mothers would want us to do." For the most part, we do that for our customers, but we miss the boat on employee's. Build the real sel legacy, Invest in your people, bring some reasonable solution to work/life balance and start backing away from the intense micro management.

    Believe in supporting your employees using their vacation time with their friends and family. Protect them while they are on vacation from having to work so much. Yes it is 2013, but burning out the employees does not bode well for having healthy, creative long-term employees.

    Don't settle for good, be great!

    No, I would not recommend this company to a friend

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    2 people found this helpful  

    Doesn't fully live up to proposed values, but provides a decent pay check for the area.

    Software Engineer (Current Employee)
    Pullman, WA

    ProsSchweitzer Engineering Laboratories provides a unique environment where Price, Performance, and Efficiency are key in all products.
    Provided with complex problems to solve and keep your brain busy.
    Access to newer technologies in the fields of manufacturing and engineering.

    ConsExpect to work 50+ hours per week, and at least 3 weekends per year.
    Requires negotiation on salary or you may fall below average.
    Does not always live up to the motto of "safer, more reliable, and more economical".
    Management receives little training and "home-grown" managers can be abrasive.

    Advice to Senior ManagementKeep track on your managers - They leak e-mails like, "Let's see how we can make people work more overtime, but not pay them more."

    No, I would not recommend this company to a friend

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    Glass Ceiling

    Field Services Engineering Technician (Former Employee)
    Pullman, WA

    ProsIt was a very technical job. You learn a lot and it is a great stepping block to better things.

    ConsThe location is a small rural college town, the food sucks and it is a party town. The pay is below the industry average especially for a town with inflated rents. The opportunities for advancement are all connected to who you know and not what you know.

    Advice to Senior ManagementCreate a better ladder to advancement. Document processes you expect employees to follow. Show appreciation for the employees who go a step above with overtime, training other employees, doing harder projects and documenting all the undocumented knowledge.

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend

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    2 people found this helpful  

    I was a worker bee

    Assembler (Former Employee)
    Pullman, WA

    ProsDecent benefits. Sometimes corporate hands out random bonuses. Free lunch on Friday, though it isn't always 'up to par' as far as food goes. Employee stock ownership (but to say employees actually own the company is a faux pas). They usually can work with you if you have some kind of special schedule need.

    ConsLow pay. If they can afford 4 corporate jets and offices around the world, they can afford to pay the people on the floor more than $10 an hour.
    An 'at will employer'. Basically they can fire anyone they don't like, but you can quit anytime as well. I knew 2 people who were fired because their supervisor would complain about them to HR and 'document' the 'problems', put them on an 'improvement plan', and then the first slip-up, they were gone. Another colleague was not allowed to switch shifts because of a perceived 'quality issue'. Things like this are just completely asinine and show the level of ineptitude in bottom and mid-level supervisors/managers.
    A huge gap between salaried and hourly employees. When I say gap, I mean both in pay and general respect. "Oh you work in manufacturing" = you are automatically seen as an outcast compared to others. No cell phones on the floor for worker bees, but anyone else is not questioned about it.
    The only reason this company made it on to the Best 100 companies is because of all the non-manufacturing, salaried employees that do nothing but push pencils across a desk and get paid for it. Of course they will think it is a great company.

    Advice to Senior ManagementLower the gap between salaried and hourly employees. If you look at statistics on the "Best 100" website, the average pay for an hourly employee is something like $26,000; a salaried employee makes about $99,000. That is just ridiculous. We are human beings, too. If you give higher pay to those on the floor, those doing all the actual work for the company, morale will greatly improve.
    Stop growing. It seems you have outgrown your britches. If anything it needs to be downsized. You'd think with all the relays and things that are shipped everyday, there would be enough of these to cover the world by now. At some point in the future there will be no need for this companies products. What will happen then? In that same vein, the price of products should be slightly increased, and these funds should go directly to employees.
    I tried to get the VP of manufacturing to endorse a 4-day work week in order for employees to have more time off (3 day weekends), and his reply to me was something to the effect of 'A company growing this fast just can't handle a big change like that'. That is complete hogwash; there is some underlying political reasoning behind it.

    No, I would not recommend this company to a friend

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    6 people found this helpful  

    SEL stands behind its values as a media promotion strategy, but in my experience did not live them

    Hardware Engineering Intern (Former Employee)
    Pullman, WA

    Pros* 2nd biggest employer in tiny town of Pullman, WA, after Washington State University and one of few engineering companies with in-house manufacturing

    * Work can include "core" electronic engineering of hardware and software - work increasingly hard to find in the US

    * Physical plant is nice, and generally above standards of other employers in the Pullman area

    * First manufacturing and assembly plant is local, in addition to outsourced operations in Mexico

    * Scenic view of wheat fields from most work locations

    * Employees are all generally intelligent and easy to get along with, competent in their fields of endeavor

    Cons* CEO appears genuinely concerned about employees, but allows that instinct to be overridden by advice of executive staff, who maintain little contact with employees and are concerned more with the company's bottom line

    * Employees were overworked to make up for scope creep in projects that were not executed to plan - late nights with lots of non-optional overtime

    * As many companies grow, SEL included, management has become more separated from needs of employees and more focused on traditional business drivers (cost, schedule, delivery). The company has not successfully maintained its originally integrated focus on both.

    * Company exercises an overly zealous restriction on unapproved communication for the protection of its image, but does not define standards for that communication. This has the effect of hampering a sense of pride amongst diligent workers who otherwise would like to share its merits

    Advice to Senior ManagementMy experience was that at one time, SEL was more a family than a job. I liked the people and I loved the work. I was more than happy to contribute above and beyond. I admired the CEO for his creativity and perseverance in creating a model company and hoped that one day I too could find the drive and path to emulate a similar strategy for a company of my own.

    My advice is: Creativity and a wanting to share the excitement about that creativity go hand in hand. Look deeper to give your people the benefit of the doubt when it's unclear whether employee's motives concerning communication are self-serving or company-serving. They likely were both, if viewed from the standpoint that most employees, when given the chance, would stand up for this company and are motivated to live its values. This requires, however, that you put trust in them and first assume that they are doing the right thing, and that you take time to examine their intentions before reacting to what may appear to be negative actions. This can be difficult in our litigious society, where risk is given a higher weighting than positive values like creativity, wanting to be a part of the team or or even entrepreneurship (one of the company's original, and now strangely missing values). But doing the right thing sometimes means taking a risk on your people. Don't succumb to the easy way of management - taking no risks on people for what appears the total protection of the company - or you risk corroding the goodwill and honest intent of your people.

    Overall, I believe SEL has grown to the point where the sense of community that once existed is starting to fade away behind the shadow of big buildings and a CEO who has become too constrained to stand up for the original values the company once espoused to from within that little garage in Pullman where it got its start, now instead crippled by an overriding concern with risk management.

    No, I would not recommend this company to a friend

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