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I worked at Harris full-time (More than 10 years)RecommendsNeutral OutlookNo opinion of CEORecommendsNeutral OutlookNo opinion of CEO
(Exelis has been purchased by Harris – this review is cross-posted at Harris. This review is specific to the Geospatial Systems business in Rochester, NY.)
Opportunity to work with excellent co-workers, and on interesting technology. Business is busy right now, better than it has been in quite some time. Hopefully the new Harris management is an improvement over the Exelis management.
Exelis management has been incapable of long-term planning, leading to constant hiring / layoff cycles. For example, there were big layoffs in May 2014, and now business is very busy and they are trying to hire people. It would have made much more sense to keep the people we had, but that would require management that can plan out further than 6 months.
There have been so many layoffs, it is difficult to retain the excellent co-workers mentioned above. Young people in particular (under 55 is 'young') don't stay, and some, bizarrely, have been laid off!
Years of bad management is now catching up. They are TRYING to hire right now, but it is difficult. Exelis has a reputation in Rochester as a poor employer, with no stability. There are people that we could really use here, but they aren't interested. I think they tried to get back one of the young people previously laid off, but he declined. I can't blame him, since job stability is probably a high priority. Perhaps getting rid of the Exelis name will help in this respect.
While business is currently very busy, I have never, over the years of Kodak/ITT/Exelis/Harris, been more pessimistic on the long-term future of this business. Many people will be retiring soon, and Exelis/Harris is not making plans to replace them. (Indeed, they have actually laid off the should-be leaders of tomorrow!) Lots of knowledge will be walking out the door. It's hard to see the future here as the bulk of the workforce retires over the next 5 or so years.
Advice to Management
To the Harris Geospatial Systems management: Yes, things are very busy now, but do not get cocky or complacent. It has never been a more dangerous time for the company. You have put the future of GS in jeopardy.
First, stop with the cycle of layoffs! Instead of layoffs, how about R&D investment in new products? Yes, customer programs can be erratic; that is why you need products separate from the big programs, to smooth out our business.
Second, bring back the youth! I really cannot emphasize this enough; you will soon have a shortage of qualified, knowledgeable people. A few new graduates have been hired, which is a good start. But you are missing people in between, with 10 - 20 years of experience.
Here is an example. May 2014, there was a big layoff in my department – an over-reaction to a short-term (3 – 6 month) slowdown in business. Lots of people were laid off, and many were hired back when business predictably got busy again. One employee who was laid off is (I am guessing) in his mid-30’s, with around 10 years’ experience at Exelis. This is someone who knows our product, our customer, our project management style, has experience on multiple projects and proposals. It was stupid to lay him off; it is ludicrous that he has not been brought back!
You NEED people like this to be your senior engineers, supervisors and project managers 10-20 years from now, and you NEED to start developing these future leaders NOW. A lot of people are near retirement; who will replace them?
This is just one example. You are busy and hiring - especially try to find the people who have left (or been laid off), people who know your business. Time is running short before you run out of a critical mass of people who know your specialized work. Knowledge needs to be passed to the next generation, or there is no future!