CarMax

  www.carmax.com
  www.carmax.com
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Buyer in Training

  • Comp & Benefits
  • Work/Life Balance
  • Senior Management
  • Culture & Values
  • Career Opportunities
Former Employee - Buyer In Training in East Haven, CT
Former Employee - Buyer In Training in East Haven, CT

I worked at CarMax full-time (more than an year)

Pros

Very challenging mentally and physically. A lot of time outdoors and a lot of pressure to spend the company's money with complete accuracy.

Cons

Winter months or hot summers can be as challenging as the really bad stinky cars.

Advice to ManagementAdvice

Keep the team environment alive and healthy - it makes coming to work more like making money with friends.

Positive Outlook
Approves of CEO

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  1. 11 people found this helpful  

    Great Company; Backwards, Blind Information Technology Group

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Programmer in Richmond, VA
    Former Employee - Programmer in Richmond, VA

    I worked at CarMax full-time (more than an year)

    Pros

    Company culture and values are excellent - people routinely go out of their way to make the customer happy.

    When I was able to do my job, the problems we were solving were genuinely interesting.

    Laid back, casual environment at the Home Office.

    Perks like team builders and associate car purchase discount.

    The associates in the other departments (e.g. accounting, HR, strategy/marketing, etc.) at the Home Office seemed genuinely happy.

    I made a lot of good friends at CarMax.

    Cons

    (These are all related to IT. As I said in the 'pros', the other CarMax departments outside IT seem to be genuinely fantastic, and I would recommend anyone to apply to positions in accounting, marketing/strategy, HR, etc.)

    IT management is top-down, and managers seem to have little grasp of the technologies being used.

    The management bureaucracy is multilayered - most teams have two Team Leads, a Manager, a Director, a Vice President, and ultimately the CIO. Although the IT group is around 250 people (small for a Fortune 500), 50 of those people are in management. This is a recipe for complete stagnation, which is what I observed.

    Management demonstrates little understanding of sunk costs. Senior managers frequently requested that our team use outdated, inefficient technology because "we spent a lot of money on it."

    IT has a self-imposed budgeting system that makes project management extremely rigid and brittle. Management rejects so many elegant, efficient, and even money-saving solutions because they're "not in the budget." If you don't think of a good idea between October and February, you have to wait a while till the next budgeting season starts. I observed managers budgeting expenses as low as $2000. I guess management does not understand opportunity cost, either.

    Managers rarely make decisions quickly. Instead, they will schedule months of meetings to discuss usually two or three alternative solutions to some business problem, most involving CarMax spending between $100K and $1M. The contract negotiations take so long that the solution is usually obsolete by the time it's implemented. Further, developers and administrators are given almost no input during the early design process, but are forced into very arbitrary project timelines to finish projects.

    No one in management does anything technical; managers who do so receive disciplinary action. Let that sink in. The people who have long meetings to buy millions of dollars of technology infrastructure are disciplined for touching a server, command line, database query, or line of code. Instead of doing technical things, managers are supposed to focus on "associate development," even when the associates they manage are technical.

    Managers are first-class citizens, while the technical staff (developers, administrators, support staff) are commodities. While I was there, over half of the promotions involved managers being promoted to higher management positions, even while their projects continued to exceed budgets and deadlines.

    Most of the developers who had been there for more than 5 years had let their technical skills atrophy to the point of uselessness. Worse, many of these developers were convinced that their 1990s era solutions (most involving putting everything possible, including logic, into a database) were still relevant and optimal in 2013. One of the few good goals from management was to implement a Service Oriented Architecture, but the lacking developers' skills led to significant internal resistance. Management, for their part, frowns upon sending technical staff to paid training courses; instead, they prefer "lunch 'n' learns."

    The software development methodology was very poor. The methodology document actually lists "coding" as an optional step in software development. The rest of it is very waterfall-ish, with extra bureaucratic tedium for good measure. "Agile" projects aren't truly Agile, and they are treated as a reward for good developers rather than an approach that results in better software for the customer.

    The work-life balance in IT is significantly oversold. IT associates are absolutely forbidden from working from home, even though everyone has the technical capability to remote in. Further, all IT associates are required to participate in an on-call rotation. Because the systems are so rife with technical debt, on-call is a very onerous responsibility. Phone calls or urgent tickets between 2 and 5 AM were not uncommon.

    Similarly, the "Time Away policy," which theoretically allows associates as much time off as they need, is a mirage. IT managers are very explicit that associates can take off 15 days per year, plus six paid holidays (New Years Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day). Typically, the company is closed on Christmas Eve, but we were expected to report bright and early the day after Thanksgiving. In practice, the Time Away policy puts your leave into your manager's hands, and you don't get to bank it year to year or cash it in when you leave the company.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Include your technical employees in technical decision making, especially if a vendor is asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Reduce the layers of management bureaucracy to improve communication between the workers and senior management. Perhaps go as far as eliminating permanent teams, and form teams around individual projects with project managers.

    Accountability is very important. Reward and praise managers and associates for good work, and punish them for bad work. If your developers and administrators lack modern skills, train them to the levels you require. Don't be afraid to fire really poor performers.

    Use the best tools to solve the problem at hand. If you're not sure which tools to use, get some technical experts together to decide. Most of the time, a cheap or free tool is good to get started with. Scrap tools that are no longer serving you, even if they were very expensive.

    Everyone is trying to solve the same problem, so encourage better collaboration by tearing down the silos and barriers. Developers should not be at war with administrators; on-call duties should not result in wars over which team is responsible for a given ticket. The effort expended during these disputes is completely wasted and benefits no one in the long run.

    Actually follow the time away policy, and allow people to work from home. Give a day off to the person who just spent 65 hours doing on call, and don't make it "count against" his time away. The current implementation of the time away policy is extremely cynical, and results in significant cynicism from the workers. Also, trust your workers to work from home. If they aren't meeting deadlines, curtail the privilege for the worker in question and take remedial action.

    Scrap the budget or make it work for you instead of against you. Follow a more Agile approach by iteratively examining your resource allocation throughout the year. Get the business on board with this at all costs.

    Impose deadlines on decision-making, and allow technical staff to design adequate solutions iteratively. Take the time to build it right; don't waste time building it twice.

    Roadmaps to goals are only effective if they document an actual, concrete process, and someone follows the roadmap. Every slide deck specifying a five-year goal should have a slide about the steps that specific people will take in the following six months to achieve that goal.

    Embrace technology. You cannot possibly develop technical associates unless you keep your technical skills up to date. Managers and Leads should look at code, tickets, or administration tools from time to time. Directors and above should understand the architecture and the constraints imposed by the current architecture.

    Really sell the business on the benefits of good technology. Come up with a few jaw-dropping demos to give to business users that will give them the insight into what's possible. I have no doubt you could improve the efficiency of many processes if only the users could see the potential within IT.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  2.  

    Great place to work but salaries and hourly wages are low for the job requirements

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

    I have been working at CarMax

    Pros

    They really seem to care about employees; Difficult to get fired; Great benefits

    Cons

    Low wages for the work expected; Difficult to get into management; Growth in management requires ability to relocate; Too much focus on associate development is talked about but very little applied or necessary; Training in most departments is not structured and rarely completed leaving many associates to struggle in their position. Many associates leave the company for better paying jobs that pay more.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Worry less about associate development, giving feedback in non English termonology (SBIR) and cutting every corner to save $1 per car.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
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