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3 people found this helpful  

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness...

  • Comp & Benefits
  • Work/Life Balance
  • Senior Management
  • Culture & Values
  • Career Opportunities
Current Employee - Vice President  in  Dulles, VA
Current Employee - Vice President in Dulles, VA

I have been working at AOL full-time

Pros

Work/life balance. You're expected to work your tail off while here and accomplish more than should be humanly possible. And man does that feel good when you do. If you do, you're generally allowed flexible working time/location. The vacation/sick/family sick days are generous, even if you don't get to use them all. Time your vacations for good solid stretches/breaks between major deliverables and you can likely make use of it.

There are big challenges ahead for AOL to grow two new business while the cash cow slowly dies, so there always a chance to learn and find success somewhere in the company.

Embracing new technologies is encouraged where they provide the right technical solution to a problem. Learning how to deal with mountains of technical debt while adding to the pile of debt is also a learning challenge, but since upper-upper management doesn't care about really investing in paying that debt down, you might as well see how big of a funereal pyre you can make by adding some more things on top. At least you get to learn the technology as you heave it on top.

While the constant change is mostly a negative, frankly if you can handle the change (or learn to) it will make you an extremely nimble person that is invaluable for your ability react quickly and appropriately and not spend time wondering who and where your cheese moved to. If you don't like change and a fast paced environment or can't understand why this is a valuable skill to obtain, then this clearly this is not a pro.

Cons

While change and the ability to react quickly is vital for a companies success, unreasoned change based on the cool new thing upper-upper management just read or heard about can be a recipe for doom. Not enough time is given to find success. Instead new mantras are chased on a regular basis without reasoning or fact. Then the next mantra comes along and a lot of work is abandoned. It is discouraging to everyone working on things, and while it teaches people how to react quickly, there is no other perceived benefit to the constant change.

For a company where change is so very important to, there is an old guard (especially in technology) that refuses to change. They are a definite minority at this point, but there are enough of them that it hinders forward movement when we actually are given enough of a timeline to find success. That sabotaging is very unfortunate, as there is enough of pressure from the constant change management style from above, that we shouldn't fail when given the time needed to do the right thing due to "well that never worked for AIM".

Advice to ManagementAdvice

Understand you cannot cut your way to success. You MUST invest and try to win, continuing cutting cost gives no capacity to ever have a chance of winning beyond luck. Stay focused for a good 3-6 months on something. Stop changing direction weekly based on the latest thing that was read/heard or talked about in the elevator. Rah-rah works for sales people (and probably designers), it does nothing but demotivate logical people whether in editorial, product, legal, finance, or tech.

Doesn't Recommend
Negative Outlook
Disapproves of CEO

Other Reviews for AOL

  1.  

    Great People but not so interesting products!

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

    I worked at AOL

    Pros

    Productive work environment.Great mentorship from senior management. Good internship experience. Open to new ideas and thinking.

    Cons

    Declining products and constant layoffs. Most products have legacy code that makes it difficult to maintain and introduce new features. Pay is moderate.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Improve transparency and collaboration across the company

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  2. 8 people found this helpful  

    Don't think about going to AOL. It survives by layoffs, and top management is clueless

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

    I have been working at AOL full-time for more than 10 years

    Pros

    The coffee is good, and we just got free Patagoia vests with an AOL logo on them. The food in the cafeteria is so-so, and we get corporate bling.

    Cons

    Where to begin?

    First, don't plan on a long tenure. The company is surviving by decreasing labor costs, which translates into layoffs once a quarter. It doesn't matter what your performance rating was, or what your skill set it. Layoffs are just a matter of life as an AOL employee.

    Second, expect no coherent direction. Senior management changes directions quite frequently, so you may find yourself working on a high priority one day only to find (usually through the grapevine) that your project isn't very important at all. Priorities change so frequently that it's difficult to keep track, and despite Tim's claims to the contrary, senior management doesn't bother to communicate.

    Third, don't expect career advancement. While friends of the senior management team tend to advance rapidly, others do not. In my 10+ years at AOL I saw only 3 people get promoted.

    Fourth, don't expect great raises. While Tim and his team bring home huge salaries, the staff receive paltry 1-2% raises. The idea of "share the wealth" does not exist at AOL.

    Fifth, do not expect brilliance at senior levels. While I found that the skills at the worker levels were extremely high -- there are some truly brilliant people working at AOL -- the same is not true of senior managers. Moreover, they tend to avoid trying to understand complex issues, preferring instead to reduce matters to simple PowerPoint decks. Senior managers are prone to rather stupid comments (remember Tim's "distressed babies") in staff meetings. The quarterly all-hands meetings were touted as a mechanism to make sure that everyone understood how the company was doing and that we were all focused on the right priorities, but instead were nothing more than rah-rah pep rallies to let the VPs talk about how great they were doing.

    Sixth, do not expect communications. While the team management team tries to convey goals and priorities to the staff, divisional and sub-divisional managers rarely provide any clues as to what is important, which projects we should be heading in what direction, or even how we're doing. It's a classic case of the staff working in a vacuum.

    Seventh, do not expect brilliance and innovation. The staff frequently comes up with ideas that rival some of the best on the net, but the product management team is intent on keeping their "not invented here" mentality. While we're encouraged to think outside the box, in reality new ideas are discouraged, to the point where money-making products are being shut down.

    Eighth, do not expect what you work on to ever go live. The halls of AOL are littered with products that were conceived, approved, developed, tested, and then killed without ever being released. Many of these products pre-dated competing products on the net, and some of those became quite successful. Staff layoffs and changing management priorities are killing innovation.

    Ninth, expect that mail is the sole and dominant priority. It is true that the majority of AOL visitors come from mail, but the emphasis on mail by senior management is preventing development of new products. They have not realized that mail has become a commodity on the net.

    Tenth, expect long hours and a high stress environment. While most managers tend to be flexible for work / life issues, the constant changing priorities, long hours expected, and constant layoffs combine to create a work environment that is anything but collaborative or productive. On any given day you may come into work to find that your project is dead and you are out of a job.

    There are more cautions to provide, but by now I hope the reader has an idea. Avoid AOL at all costs.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Senior management is overpaid and clueless. Advice to the board: replace senior management. Advice to management: pick a priority and stick with it. Stop the constant layoffs and give the staff some security. Stop walking away from deals that leave money on the table. Develop a way to encourage innovation, and staff with product managers and divisional managers who are not locked into the status quo.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
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