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Current Employee – been working at Esri
Pros – ESRI is a great place to work for people who are extremely risk adverse or who do not feel the need to push themselves. This is not to say that nothing innovative interesting happening at the company, but that an employee does not have to push the bleeding edge to stay relevant. Many employees have been doing the same job for over a decade and have no interesting in changing (nor does management have any interest in them changing). There's little drive to change the status quo and so it is up to the individual employee how much "change" they want to expose themselves to.
There's also very little risk to trying new things or experimenting with new technologies. No one is fired for failing a project or not meeting a customer deliverable. Many employees who choose to take on new or different work are free to do so without risk of losing their job or being penalized for trying to innovate a little.
The benefits package is competitive and relatively cheap for the employee. The same can be said about the salary for those who come with substantial experience and a willingness to negotiate. The profit sharing and 401k plan is also quite generous, especially during the current recession.
There is little turn over and the company has never done any mass layoffs. There are rumors that they've let some contract staff go on occasion and a few employees have been fired for stealing from the company. However, for the most part, the company's finances are strong enough that everyone's job is secure.
Overall, ESRI is a good place to finish out your career.
Cons – First, ESRI is collection of 4 or 5 "companies" flying the same banner. There is a division that develops commercial products usually called "Core". There is a "Professional Services" division that does contract work or "work for hire" projects. Education services provides training. There are a few other divisions. Each division operates independently of each other, but ultimately reporting to the owner of the company. This means that divisions often compete or conflict with each other, sometimes even sabotaging each others' goals. There's limited cooperation between divisions and often limited to 1-on-1 interactions or informal agreements between groups.
As far as risk... The flip side of their being very little risk is that there is no consequence to failing to do your job. Employees who fail to deliver on a project due to incompetence or poor work ethic continue to be put in positions of responsibility. Managers who make bad decisions or are not qualified to hold their position are never called and forced to face the consequences of their actions. Rank-and-file employees are allowed to do whatever they want with no risk to losing their job. Incompetent employees openly walk around socializing with other non-productive employees without any consequences.
There is some informal penalties for failure or incompetence such as being transferred to less important projects or groups if a high level manager (Director/VP level) is angered or made to look bad by the failures. Otherwise, there is almost no real consequence when compared to other organizations. And for many folks, this is no consequence at all. Few people have ever been fired for incompetence or consistent failures to deliver. People who are directly responsible for critical technical failures or mismanaging major contracts into the ground still have their jobs. In most cases, they are again put into positions where they can wreak the same path of destruction.
The majority of people believe they are above average performers with excellent technical skills, when in reality they would be unable to get a job at any other technology company. Many employees don't have relevant education or job experience, nor do they have any concept of how other software development companies function. The company hypes up their software processes trying to convince customers they are one of the "big boys" in software companies. However, the practical application of those processes leaves something to be desired in all divisions. Concepts such as testing harnesses or having a QA team are relatively new innovations at the company and hence are very ineffective.
The company is also very "cheap". They hate spending money on anything. There are pervasive stories of the owners of the company scrutinizing minor expenditures and micromanaging the finance department. Assistant directors have to approve purchases as little as $50 and are encouraged to deny purchases even at the expense of productivity. They also try to defer as many expenses as possible. Simple, but important things like getting a light bulb replaced in your office can take weeks. They scrutinize travel expenses for "waste", sometimes for amounts as small as a few dollars.
To be fair, this attitude varies from department-to-department and expenditure-to-expenditure. Overtime is given freely to most developers with the only caveat that non-Core staff must be on a contract to get overtime. Timecards are not scrutinized and an employee can work nearly unlimited overtime, even if they are bad at their job (or simply doing nothing productive).
IT resources are hit-or-miss. Certain divisions are allowed to have as many machines as they want with little regard for cost and can get them refreshed every year or two. Other divisions are given outdated machines and must get deputy director level approval for a second machine or update to their existing equipment. Equipment like hard drives, extra memory, or an extra AC Adapter may be denied even if it may negatively impact a project.
The company thrives on highly talents people who mistakenly believe that it's worse everywhere else. Sure, ESRI is actually a decent place to work in many regards... but it is not above average by most measures. Most of the employees I have encountered have only worked at one or two other companies or came right out of college to ESRI. All of their friends work at ESRI or are not in the software industry. Hence, they don't have anything to compare to ESRI other than a few anecdotal stories from people who fled terrible companies to come to ESRI. People who leave ESRI are either fools, unappreciative of what they have, or simply malcontents. So anything negative they have to say cannot be trusted.
ESRI is an ok place to work. There are pockets of talented people that can make technology that literaly changes the world. On the other hand, there are far more people that do absolutely nothing and collect a nice paycheck.
Advice to Senior Management – Scrap the good-old-boy network and bring in some outside talent. ESRI is no longer the little GIS-company-who-writes-software being run out of Jack's trailer anymore. To be a billion dollar enterprise software company, you need better managers who understand how to run a software company (who happens to produce GIS software).
Get rid of the yes-men, start listening to your staff who are on the ground, working with and taking fire from the users. Your software is not as great as you think it is and a lot of big-name companies are starting to take interest in your space. LBS, mapping, 3D globes, GPS's, and navigation aren't just some fringe technologies the amateurs are using. At some point, those companies are going to take over those fringes are starting moving into th "professional" GIS space.
And please, start behaving like a billion dollar company. Stop focusing on pennies and start focusing on productivity.
No, I would not recommend this company to a friend
2010-06-16 22:39 PDT
Esri is the world leader in geographic information system (GIS) software development. Our passion for improving quality of life through geography is at the heart of everything we do. Esri’s GIS technology enables… — Full Overview
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