Safety National – Saint Louis, MO
Safety National offers a range of alternative risk funding products for workers' compensation through independent insurance agents and brokers. Since… TheLadders.com
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I worked at Safety National as a contractor (less than an year)Pros
Safety National as a whole is a great company. It has an interesting business model, is raking in money hand over fist and does its best to create a fair and comfortable working environment for their employees as long as you are not in the inappropriately name IS department. They have great benefits (if you can manage it get hired full time and not as a contractor, getting hired can take more than a year) and a beautiful campus. Though you may not believe it after reading the cons, I truly do wish the best for most Safety National employees and the company as a whole.Cons
If nothing else, at least read the last paragraph of this review...
I am an 8 year veteran in the UI/UX design and development field in the St Louis area and have consulted with many large companies around the St Louis area and nationally as well. My portfolio has companies like Toyota, Mc Donalds, AT&T, Wells Fargo, etc in it and I have never had an unhappy customer. That is, until I went to Safety National.
Safety National's software development process is, soup to nuts, completely broken Safety National has an old Java product called IMS that they are trying to update due to the many complaints it has received over the years. Instead of taking a fresh look at the business models these users are interacting with, they are basically forcing everyone to re-create the IMS software with a new look using new technologies with old development patterns.
So there are four main categories to what made Safety National such a horrendously bad environment for software:
1. The CTO
The CTO is an extreme micromanager and he is very wrapped up in the look and feel of the software. Nearly every pixel on each design has his fingerprint on it leaving no room for any designer to have a say on what should or shouldn't be done. He is self admittedly color blind and I believe his design sense to be antiquated. He gives vague feedback like, "Try again." and "How about a different look," forcing you to iterate on a pre-established design structures that are circa 2005.
If you DO, get a chance to create something new expect a very poor attitude during the presentation. The CTO does not like it when other people in the department excel higher than what he himself came up with. When I suggested that we take some of the issues he had to the user to get their opinion on it, I was fired within 24 hours for questioning him.
Lastly, after interacting with the staff during my time at Safety National, I discovered that all of the staff is constantly afraid, as the CTO will fire people on a whim or just publicly berate them in front of everyone for what at times seems like no real reason at all. After a few weeks of working at Safety National, I noticed a phenomenon that I started calling the Safety National eye-role. This would happen when you would speak with someone and they would ask, "I really liked... What happened to it?" to which someone would answer, "Well, upper management said..." and enter the eye-role. This eye-role was usually followed by a passive aggressive joke about upper management and the Safety National management style.
2. The UI/UX Position
The company has no idea what a UI/UX designer is and how they work. At Safety National, in part because every usability decision must go through the CTO, you as a UX professional are not allowed to interact with the user. The CTO asks that in all cases, everyone consider him to be the final authority on the user and will block you from interacting with the actual users.
Only BA's, who have little to no background in UX or usability testing, are allowed to speak to the users and only during first two weeks of a project where the BA is responsible for documenting all the software requirements (did someone say waterfall?), get all the possible context they can into the users daily lives and make wireframes which you will be required to strictly follow as a designer making your job as a UI/UX Designer (production artist) an impossible tug of war between making a paint by numbers design based on the wireframes and the CTO, who at anytime in the process can and will change EVERYTHING and then say, "Hey, we are agile," which is not what that term means.
At the end of the development cycle, software is provided to the users for review, and nearly every time they get a look, they point out how wrong and useless it is. Instead of fixing the software, the upper management of the company uses the requirements document (made in the first two weeks of a the software lifecycle) in front of the users telling them that the software is what they signed off on in the beginning...again...waterfall.
3. The Development Process
Most of the development staff comes from poor offshore companies that upper management uses as leverage to get faster work out of the onshore developers. Every time an offshore team delivers something, the onshore team has to re-do all of the work because the offshore team doesn't follow any coding best practices (ie changing code in JS library files) and break more than they fix. The onshore developers spend most of their time lying to the rest of the department about what can and can't be done. They get away with it due to no one in the management structure having ever written a line of code themselves, and thus not knowing any better.
The developers do use Git, but they do not have any kind of branching strategy and literally just commit EVERYTHING onto master. Enough said right? But there is more. As you might imagine, without the use of any branching or at the very least some sort of automated testing, this leads to a HUGE number of bugs that make it out of the dev servers and into the live environment. Its actually kind of hilarious to watch the indignation of the BA's (who are mostly used as project managers) and users when they see all the bugs that were pushed live. But again, no one is smart enough to call the developers out, so they just make up some technical sounding stuff about why all the bugs aren't their fault, and the world moves on.
Anybody who has worked in an actual Agile environment will immediately notice, that the process is also NOT Agile, though they do use a few terms to describe parts of the waterfall process as Agile. For instance, they have daily stand ups, but instead of using the stand up to collect information from each other and see what everyone is working on or having issues with, they use the stand up as a place to harass everyone about deadlines (especially in the second week of the so called "Sprint"). No one really says anything important in these meetings due to the highly politically charged atmosphere and because most of the impediments they are facing are coming from the poor management style prevalent in the department. So we all just said stuff like, "I'm working on this today!" and moved on.
They do use a kanban board, but very poorly. It is basically just used as a project management tool for their waterfall system. Where cards (not user stories) are created and consist of vague things like, "make the app good." They do try and make them like user stories though, so they are sometimes written, "As a user, I want the app to be good." Obviously that is a bit of hyperbole, but you get the point.
This review is already longer than some books, and as I try and close it out, I keep thinking of more things you as a potential hire should know. Like all direct design managers have never designed anything in their life. Which I believe is very telling. But I guess this will have to do. Hopefully I have scared you off from working at Safety National. If not, good luck to you. I truly hope your experience there will be better than mine. So last two things, I promise.
As you can probably tell, I am not a fan of the CTO. My experience at Safety National was incredibly disappointing because, as a whole, it is a great place. I was enticed away from a job I was happy at based on empty promises of having a chance to be in a leadership role for the UI/UX department. There is no room for leadership at Safety National so long as the CTO continues to manage the department like he does today. As mentioned before, when I tried to take a leadership stance with the designers and advocate for what I truly believed to be best for the user, I was fired for it. I was dumped on my rear without a conversation or even a phone call to explain why the decision was made.
DO NOT BELIEVE THEIR EMPTY PROMISES - BAIT AND SWITCH
The CTO and his subordinate managers will tell you all sorts of things. In fact, if you bring up this review, they will likely denigrate me and tell you all sorts of lies. That is what they did when I asked about other negative reviews on this site. They openly insulted the people who they thought had made the reviews. In fact, I found out later after accepting the position, that the only positive reviews on here by the so called "Lead Developers" were very likely spoon fed to them by the company.
Best wishes to you the reader and all the Safety National family.Advice to ManagementAdvice
Safety National is gaining a seriously bad reputation in the area for its technical management style. Now that I am back on the market, I have had all kinds of people like recruiters, people on LinkedIn etc contacting me with their horror stories about the CTO and his micromanagement style. It is not too late to change and I truly believe that Safety National can become a regional and national leader in digital if you can get the right person to lead it.Doesn't RecommendPositive OutlookNo opinion of CEO