University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

www.ucar.edu
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UCAR needs to institutionalize cross-divisional support

  • Comp & Benefits
  • Work/Life Balance
  • Senior Management
  • Career Opportunities
Current Employee - Software Engineer in Boulder, CO
Current Employee - Software Engineer in Boulder, CO

I have been working at University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

Pros

The employees are, in general, intelligent and dedicated. The work environment is (at least in my sector) relatively low in stress. The work is challenging and benefits humanity. Also, it's possible to become a master of all trades (at least in my sector) due to the amount of work that needs to be done and the paucity of bodies to do it.

Cons

Speaking as a software engineer, the organization has not institutionalized support for software engineering as much as it has for science (I suspect this is also true in other areas). For example, there are many instances of scientific "joint " (i.e., cross-divisional) appointments, which allow for cross-divisional communication and a concomitant increase in scientific productivity. Such institutionalized support is lacking in software engineering. To their credit, senior management is aware of this problem, but their attempts to fix it rely, for the most part, on extracurricular work by volunteers --- work that is neither compensated, nor, for the most part, valued by supervisors (with foreseeable results). As a result, there is little leveraging of software practices amongst the divisions, little synergy, and, consequently, lower productivity than what might otherwise occur.

In a similar vein, one's supervisor is, for the most part, expected to be one's mentor. This can work well for those fortunate enough to have a knowledgeable supervisor whom one respects. There are cases, however, where the person being supervised is more technically knowledgeable than the supervisor --- with foreseeable results.

Advice to ManagementAdvice

Look into institutionalizing orthogonal structures for the support of things like software engineering (and by "institutionalizing", I don't mean volunteer committees). Besides working for supervisors on one or more projects, one should also have a more experienced professional in one's domain whose institutional responsibility is to help one become as good as one can be. In some cases, this person could also be one's supervisor; in other cases, not. Yes, a person wearing another hat will have less time to devote to their "official" duties, but the entire organization will benefit due to synergy, leveraging, and mentoring with a payback in productivity that will more than compensate for the "lost" time.

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  1. National Center for Stewarding Ancient Technologies

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Software Engineer III in Boulder, CO
    Former Employee - Software Engineer III in Boulder, CO

    I worked at University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

    Pros

    The Mesa lab is absolutely spectacular, an architectural masterpiece nestled beneath the beauty of Green Mountain.
    The vacation time and 401k are exceptional.
    There are many interesting people to meet.

    Cons

    First, this place is the living definition of stale. The technologies refuse to advance. The institution shows brazen disregard for new computational technologies, and relies on an illogical defensive stance to justify its use of ancient technology. An entrenched workforce of technologists from the 1970's run the show, resulting in frustration for
    anyone who has worked anywhere else in the industry.
    Second, the place treats employees with very little respect. It is virtually impossible to secure anything other than a 1-3 year term position unless you are management, secretarial staff or food staff.
    Management arbitrarily freezes raises for the entire institution when the budget is tight, and raises are within very tight brackets, so that, effectively, the salary schedule is predetermined by your starting pay for the rest of your career. Attempts to reclassify or reinvent oneself is blocked by people who blatantly disregard common standards for privacy in internal hiring and who politic without regard for common ethic.
    Management has been recently bloated by expectations of growth, so now the management hierarchy is more fitting of a place with 10,000 employees, with layer after layer of hierarchy and hundreds of divisions with just a few employees each doing actual work.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Good luck with that one.

    Doesn't Recommend
    No opinion of CEO
  2. UCAR - Good for Scientists, Okay for Support Staff

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Computer Operator II in Boulder, CO
    Current Employee - Computer Operator II in Boulder, CO

    I have been working at University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

    Pros

    Location: Boulder, CO is known as the home for several scientific research facalities. NOAA, University of Colorado and National Institute of Standards and Technology (they have the atomic clock) to name a few. Boulder is also a beautiful area nestled at the base of the Colorado Front Range with bike paths and a good transportation system. Boulder is just 30 miles away from Denver where one can find fine cultural events. Benefits: UCAR provided each full time employee with a choice of 3 types of medical coverage. Dental coverage is included. A retirement package by TIAA/CREFF allows you to choose how to build your savings.

    Cons

    Support staff does not always get the recognition they deserve. Management ignores people problems.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    If you have a squeaky wheel, take time to listen and investigate the issues. Do not wait for more people to complain. Sometimes, only one person has the guts to say what is really going on.

    Recommends
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