Acumen Reviews

Updated September 28, 2014
Updated September 28, 2014
42 Reviews
3.2
42 Reviews
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Thomas MaCurdy
19 Ratings

Employee Reviews

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  1. 3 people found this helpful  

    Cool People -- Cool Projects!

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Data and Policy Analyst  in  Burlingame, CA
    Current Employee - Data and Policy Analyst in Burlingame, CA

    I have been working at Acumen full-time for less than a year

    Pros

    I just attended our all-employee meeting and it was great. There were lots of different project teams presenting what they work on and the impact of their work. Happy hour afterward was great too!

    Cons

    I wish I could have attended more of the presentations! I have been here for 4 months and this was the first opportunity to learn about what other groups work on, I wish this event had happened sooner.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Keep encouraging group collaboration and providing opportunities to learn about what other groups work on.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Acumen Response

    Sep 19, 2014Senior Recruiting Coordinator

    We are happy to hear you enjoyed the AcuSPHERE Annual. Thanks for taking the time to write this review.

  2.  

    A good place for resume experience but not a long-term career

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee  in  Burlingame, CA
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Burlingame, CA

    I worked at Acumen as an intern for less than a year

    Pros

    This is a company with a great brain trust, my coworkers were from Waterloo, Stanford, Harvard, MIT, etc. They work closely with many aspects of government work including Medicare/Medicaid and the Department of Justice, and with a short startup time someone can make an impact on these projects as a junior employee.

    Cons

    Work/life balance is broken (or at least it was 1+ years ago). Time sheets for all employees, and although sometimes projects run long and you can do a 90 hour week, it's vitally important you have all your minimum hours the next week.

    I can only judge from my offer, but pay is shockingly low for the area. With a graduate STEM degree I was offered $60k, which is barely enough to live in SF with a roommate. A long drive from East Bay.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Every young company in the bay area caters to employee happiness, doing the same might help get your average retention rate up.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  3. 1 person found this helpful  

    good

    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at Acumen

    Pros

    pros: very flexible working hours

    Cons

    cons: can be more organized

    Acumen Response

    Sep 19, 2014Senior Recruiting Coordinator

    Thanks for the review. The flexible working hours really are great!

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  5. 2 people found this helpful  

    Awesome co-workers; challenging Medicare projects

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Data and Policy Analyst  in  Burlingame, CA
    Current Employee - Data and Policy Analyst in Burlingame, CA

    I have been working at Acumen full-time for more than a year

    Pros

    I have been at Acumen for a year and a half, but I have really enjoyed my time here. The SAS training program was helpful (though could be improved), but the real action was working in SAS daily with my team. I truly enjoy working with my team on Medicare payment policy as they are considerate, smart and helpful. I interviewed with the team, asked to be assigned to their project, and was quite excited when I was assigned to work with them. I feel fortunate to be able to come to work with such great friends.

    The project responsibility I have been given is more than I would have gotten anywhere else given my background. And, my pay has increased three times in my time here with two promotions. I am naturally outgoing, so had no problem speaking up when I needed more work, and they came through immediately with more interesting/challenging tasks.

    The perks are fine, definitely not as good as start-ups, though I am excited to go the company sponsored Giants game later this summer!

    Cons

    My manager is only a couple years older than I am and struggles with being a manager (though is extremely knowledgeable about Medicare data). But, she is receptive to my ideas when I bring them up and I have autonomy to identify/fix problems when they arise. One thing that would be useful is a formal management training program so that some of the softer issues I have noticed could be ironed out.

    I do not have firsthand experience with other teams, but some things I have heard are less than stellar. Creating a system for employees to move across teams would help incentivize better management and better structure.

    I am on a project that the CEO pays direct attention to, but my manager shields me from those meetings, so I do not have experience with the cons written about in other reviews about him.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    In general, most people I work with/talk to like working at Acumen. They enjoy the projects, atmosphere, and colleagues. There are things that need improvement , but I can readily notice the difference between when I started 18 months ago and now. If you continue to empower employees, things will continue to get better.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Acumen Response

    Sep 19, 2014Senior Recruiting Coordinator

    Thank you for taking the time to write this review. Thanks for pointing out that you have noticed an improvement in the last 18 months. Acumen has been taking all comments into consideration and ... More

  6. 1 person found this helpful  

    A Dubious Company and Even More Dubious HR

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Quantitative Research Analyst - Policy Writer  in  Burlingame, CA
    Former Employee - Quantitative Research Analyst - Policy Writer in Burlingame, CA

    I worked at Acumen full-time for less than a year

    Pros

    Some interesting research projects.

    Cons

    So soon out of college and with mounting student debts to pay off, I was desperate for a job--any job. So I went to work for Acumen. I was there for a couple of months before leaving for Goldman Sachs. I had the worst time ever. I had to deal with terrible HR people, who were engaged in very dubious practice. We were told to go on glassdoor and write positive reviews about the company. Say what? A year ago, the company had a rating of 2.8; now it's 3.2. This kind of artificially pumping up your company ratings is very questionable from an ethical point of view. I would treat recent 5-star reviews with a very, VERY large grain of salt.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    HR need better training.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  7. 2 people found this helpful  

    Sharp people working together on interesting healthcare problems

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at Acumen full-time

    Pros

    The work is challenging/important and primarily focused on addressing issues in Medicare and Medicaid. The people are top notch and passionate about the work they do, while the atmosphere is collaborative. The data access and computing capacity are pretty sweet. The hours are manageable, though more than 9-5. The perks are improving with a tuition assistance program and a new professional development program. Reviews happen twice per year, with large % pay increases available for top performers.

    Cons

    There is a range in quality of manager, though recent training programs are aimed at improving this. The CEO is too hands on, which causes disruptions. The employee's are young and learn a lot on the job about how to be a professional in the work environment.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Stay the course. Acumen has dramatically changed for the better over the last few years, but still has room to improve. Keep at it!

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Acumen Response

    Sep 19, 2014Senior Recruiting Coordinator

    Thank you for taking the time to write this review. The perks have been improving and will only continue.

  8. 7 people found this helpful  

    Great Place to Work on Health Policy Projects in the Bay Area

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at Acumen full-time for more than a year

    Pros

    Acumen is a great place to work if you're looking for a job in the public sector side of health policy in the Bay Area; there are few other employers around that offer similar types of opportunities, especially for graduates right out of college. Unlike similar research firms (e.g., Mathematica Policy Research), there's less value/emphasis placed on graduate degrees here; merit/ability goes a long way (there isn't a "cap" to what you can achieve at a particular education level, which is much appreciated). Good talent is definitely recognized both in terms of responsibility and compensation. You will do well here as a motivated self-starter, good communicator, and solid analytical thinker. As another reviewer said, it's possible to be managing people and/or projects within 1-2 years of joining.

    The research in the firm touches on many aspects of Medicare and Medicaid policy (especially payment policy). The projects are quantitatively-oriented, but not in an unmanageable way if you didn't graduate from a mathematics or economics program as an undergraduate; varied backgrounds are valued, especially for writer/coordinator positions. As long as you're able to think logically and analytically, have an appreciation for numbers, and have never uttered the phrase "I'm just not a math person" when you were in school, you will be just fine.

    Unlike a more hierarchical research firm, there's a ton of peer-to-peer interaction in the research group, since the company is largely composed of 20-35 year olds. This promotes a strong team-driven, often fun atmosphere, in which there are tons of opportunities to learn how to effectively communicate your thoughts/ideas to others internally and to clients externally. However, there are some drawbacks: the culture can be a bit unprofessional at times, there are holes in knowledge/expertise, and there's a lack of attention paid to professional development and mentorship.

    Cons

    Acumen seems to have slowly been finding its sea legs over the last several years as it's become less of a start-up and more of an established firm. It is evident that senior management has turned significant attention to longstanding problems of retention, work/life balance, transparency, performance recognition, and management training, but still has a good way to go. It is possible for analysts in the research group to be either (1) completely swamped all the time, working crazy hours, or (2) completely understaffed and underutilized, barely working an 8-hour day. This is a troubling disparity that needs to be addressed by the company's leadership.

    The structure of staffing in the research groups means that a new analyst is likely to be put on a specific research team (serving one client) and stay there. It can be the luck of the draw in terms of how well-functioning and well-managed your assigned team is. As Acumen works to improve managers' management skills and project management standards across the board, hopefully there will be less variability in peoples' experiences. Along similar lines, it can be very difficult to get any kind of mentorship from managers or other leadership in the firm, since managers are definitely busy and many don't commit time to regular one-on-one conversations to give feedback, never mind to discuss professional development or other concerns.

    The CEO is quite involved in certain projects and can be challenging to work with. However, the challenges can be well-managed by consistently, proactively, and effectively communicating with him about projects (rather than only in close proximity to a project deadline or in the midst of a crisis). This can require a learning curve, but it's certainly not impossible to do.

    There is a strong emphasis on "learning the data" that Acumen works with (Medicare and Medicaid claims) as one of the requirements for advancement, but there are very poor resources/tools for non-programmers and programmers alike to do so. Much of the knowledge sharing has historically been informal "so-and-so says x" and "this person says to do y" type of arrangement (i.e., it depends on who you know/what knowledge you have been privy to) rather than a repository of formal, well-maintained, written resources that allow for equal opportunity in learning. The latter arrangement is self-serving to those who have been at the company for some time, and strongly disadvantages newer hires, even if they have relevant work experience.

    The location of the company is very poor given that the vast majority of employees are between the age of 20-35. Its distance from the city of San Francisco basically guarantees that an employee residing in a city neighborhood will have a 25-45 minute driving commute each way. This issue is a major factor for many in considering whether to stay at the company long-term.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    1) Consider how to re-evaluate staffing needs such that certain people in the company aren't consistently swamped while others are starved for work. Perhaps develop a list of internal development projects that can be assigned to people who are identified by their managers as having free time, etc, and contemplate how to flag and assist those who are swamped (to prevent burn-out).
    2) Come up with a formal check-in policy and/or a mentorship program so that there's more direct attention paid to professional development. The absence of this promotes an impersonal environment in which staff feel disposable.
    3) Strategically think about the company's location in Burlingame and its reliance on young graduates who are more inclined to live in urban areas like San Francisco or Oakland. Develop better support for commuting via public transit (e.g., a direct shuttle from the Caltrain/BART rather than a meandering public shuttle that adds 15-20 minutes of commute time).

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Acumen Response

    Sep 19, 2014Senior Recruiting Coordinator

    We appreciate you taking the time to write this feedback. We take all feedback into consideration and make changes accordingly.

  9. 4 people found this helpful  

    Fine for a post-undergrad fling, but not long-term relationship material

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at Acumen full-time

    Pros

    Acumen hires most staff straight out of undergrad, so younger employees have the opportunity to make more substantial contributions and salaries here than they might be able to do elsewhere. Depending on what project you’re placed with, the work itself can be quite interesting and impactful. The SAS training program is really great and will set you up for life as long as you put it to use, which you’ll get a chance to do regardless of which project you end up on. Work-life balance has improved a lot over the years, and more recently they’ve been able to provide perks such as annual bonuses, free lunches once a month, and free bagels every Friday.

    Cons

    If you’re applying here expecting to do the labor or social policy work advertised on the company’s website, don’t bother because those projects are long gone. There’s not a whole lot of mobility between teams/departments—except if you’re underperforming and the company won’t fire you so they just make you someone else’s problem—so you’ll likely be stuck working on the same thing the entire time you stay. Even if the project is interesting, it will undoubtedly get old after a while.

    Career growth for Acumen’s longer term employees, or those that come in with some work experience or an advanced degree under their belts, is non-existent. The company seems to assume at this point that most people will stay for one to two years max and move on, which has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you do end up staying longer than that, best of luck to you, as inertia can be a mighty powerful thing (see note about about salaries). They don't really think about what they're going to do with people before they hire them, so a lot of PhDs end up doing the same work as those with just a bachelors, just on marginally more interesting projects. These people rarely stay very long either.

    HR and the "directors" or "group leads" or whatever they're calling them this week (seriously, these titles are what they decide to spend time on?) are, with a few exceptions, pretty out of touch with what happens on a day-to-day basis around the company and what employees really care about and need to be and stay happy. There is a lot of gossiping and secret keeping that goes on, particularly surrounding merit increases and promotions. Nearly all company wide announcements tout continued efforts to "increase transparency" after a company wide survey revealed that everyone had caught on to the shadiness that was going on, but they're selectively transparent about things that don't really matter (like shuttle times and vending machine options). People are generally quick to jump to conclusions about employees' competencies and performance based on hearsay, and rarely, if ever, take the time to do their research before making decisions.

    The CEO, while clearly brilliant, likes to involve himself in projects when he finds out that they're running just fine without him, and typically ends up doing more harm than good - alienating the clients, berating employees, and creating unnecessary work for already stretched resources.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Figure out who your truly valuable employees are, and start caring more about what’s best for them and less about what’s best for yourselves. Stop buying into the rumor mill and learn to keep things confidential. Plan for employees to stay more than a year or two, and maybe they actually will.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    Acumen Response

    Sep 19, 2014Senior Recruiting Coordinator

    We appreciate you taking the time to write this feedback. We take all feedback into consideration and make changes accordingly.

  10. 1 person found this helpful  

    Decent

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at Acumen

    Pros

    The company does great work.

    Cons

    There isn't a lot of communication between groups.

    Doesn't Recommend
    No opinion of CEO

    Acumen Response

    Sep 19, 2014Senior Recruiting Coordinator

    Thanks for the review. We take all feedback into consideration and make changes accordingly.

  11. 8 people found this helpful  

    Learn a lot, Tons of Responsibility, Smart People

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at Acumen full-time for more than 3 years

    Pros

    Most projects at Acumen are really very interesting and have an impact on public policy. You work directly with people who are deciding policy and regulating healthcare in the United States, and more often than not, your data analysis and suggestions to clients are received well and are highly valued.

    As a whole, the people who work here are really very smart. Bunch of Stanford/Cal/UCLA/Ivy League grads who care about the job and would rather work on fascinating projects instead of writing code for a startup trying to sell more ads online. The workforce is very young (lot of people out of undergrad/masters programs) and it's very common for coworkers to hang out with each other outside of work.

    If you are someone who is quantitatively capable, a solid communicator, and are good at creative problem-solving in a team environment, then you should expect to be given a good deal of responsibility fairly quickly. These employees advance quickly in terms of position/salary, and it is possible to be managing projects after a year or two of working at the company.

    Cons

    There are still some areas of the firm where the culture is such that it encourages long hours, but this has markedly improved over the last several years and continues to get better.

    If you happen to be on a project run by the CEO, it can be grueling and not have much direction or shifting goals. The projects are usually very interesting, but they often run right up against deadlines and are not very effectively managed.

    You are not going to get the traditional Silicon Valley perks of free organic lunch and dinner and free dry-cleaning etc. that has become pervasive in the area. However, that is more a comment on the spoiled nature of the tech scene and less a con about Acumen. Nevertheless, that is the competition.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Continue the improvements you're making to company culture. There needs to be manager training that's catered to the needs of the company's challenges and not solely generalized to managers as a whole.

    The company needs to set internal deadlines for company initiatives and stick to them. Often times there are people working on many different things, one of which has to do with, for example, employee survey results, and it can take months for action items to be sent out to the company.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    Acumen Response

    Mar 10, 2014Senior Recruiting Coordinator

    Thanks for the feedback. As we continue to improve company culture, we appreciate you acknowledging the improvements already made.

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