Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

  www.llnl.gov
  www.llnl.gov

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Reviews

Updated October 27, 2014
Updated October 27, 2014
166 Reviews
3.7
166 Reviews
Rating Trends

Recommend to a friend
Approve of CEO
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Bill Goldstein
21 Ratings

Review Highlights

Pros
  • The Lab also encourages work/life balance far more than almost any other comparable job (in 28 reviews)

  • There are a lot of smart people working there - lots of higher degrees (masters & Ph (in 15 reviews)


Cons
  • Beware: you will drown in red tape which comes first over science (in 13 reviews)

  • Slow to change because of older employee base but they are changing (in 5 reviews)

More Highlights

Employee Reviews

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  1. 3 people found this helpful  

    I really enjoy working at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories; the work is exciting and rewarding - I look forward to solving the new challenges I am sure to be faced with everyday.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Project Engineer in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Project Engineer in Livermore, CA

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (more than 10 years)

    Pros

    One of the great things about working here is getting to work on new science and technology. There is amazing diversity in the work that is conducted at the lab, which gives employees plenty of opportunity to try something or learn something new... All the while working with some of the smartest people you will ever meet. The atmosphere is more collaborative than competitive in most areas of the lab, which is essential to making some of the great things we do everyday possible. The culture at the lab is also very supportive of work life balance, which is important to myself and my family.

    Cons

    The lab has been around for a long time and there is a lot of tribal knowledge that can be hard to understand at first. We are also required to comply with many different mandates from many different organizations, which can fell like a lot of red tape at times (but a good understanding of the system and how it works can make this manageable).

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Walk the floors (on a regular basis) and talk to the individuals working there (some managers do this better than others)... You will learn a lot about employees moral, you will begin to understand their concerns, their questions, and what motivates them.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  2. 3 people found this helpful  

    Good job security job, interesting work, frustrating funding environment

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Research Engineer in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Research Engineer in Livermore, CA

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (more than 3 years)

    Pros

    LLNL has a lot of interesting and smart people working for it, and that makes for a fun and engaging environment. There's always another opportunity to go to a seminar about something you've never thought about before. The pay is also pretty good, and the benefits are great. Livermore the town is a lovely place, exactly what you would want from a wine country area.

    Cons

    It's a government lab, so there's a lot of red tape and oversight. Having the government provide the funding pipeline comes with lots of frustrations (being subject to the whims of Congress). And while there is money for great equipment, the buildings and facilities tend to be old and antiquated. The Lab doesn't strike me as agile, in a business sense.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Be attuned to the Lab's "image" problems, both inside and outside.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  3. 1 person found this helpful  

    Fantastic Internship Experience

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

    I worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as an intern (less than an year)

    Pros

    Work:
    Very interesting and meaningful work
    Mentors are very helpful, intelligent, and invested in you as an intern
    Relaxed dress code
    Your abilities are taken seriously - no "underemployment" feeling
    Great poster symposium

    Area:
    Beautiful weather
    Within an hour of San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose
    Newly renovated downtown

    Cons

    Pay isn't that great compared to similar work - then again, it is government and not private industry
    No help with housing

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
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  5. 7 people found this helpful  

    Five years in, still my dream job

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Computer Scientist in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Computer Scientist in Livermore, CA

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (more than 5 years)

    Pros

    I'm coming up on the second year after finishing my postdoc. My title is nothing fancier than "Computer Scientist". I have no stock options, no one drops by to give me an in-chair massage, and I have to pay for my own snacks.

    However, when I was talking to my director about how I'd be evaluated going forward, she had a simple answer: what was the impact I had, both on the wider field of computer science and the lab's mission.

    Within that remit, I've been given as much freedom as I can handle and significant, ongoing support in competing for resources. When I'm able to acquire resources (and that's not been a problem so far), I'm able to hire brilliant student interns and postdocs, buy equipment, and get significant time on some of the largest supercomputers in the world. I have access to research staff at Intel, AMD, IBM and Cray, as well as to the physicists who are trying to squeeze as much performance as they can out of our systems. I can attend the conferences I need to, whether foreign or domestic. And best of all, I can see the results of my research percolating back out into the community.

    If I were at a largish company in Silicon Valley, I expect my research would be far more practical (and much more aligned with corporate goals). If I was in academia, my work would necessarily be far more theoretical, as I wouldn't have ready access to the big machines. At the lab, I have the best of both worlds.

    On a more personal note: the people I work with are generally world-class researches in their area, and really nice. While there's the usual stress of competing for funding, we don't tend to compete against each other, so there's far more camaraderie than most academic departments. I'm finding out that the phrase "no one has tried that before" tends to follow me around, but I've never had a good idea dismissed out of hand.

    In short, I bump up against my own limitations much more than limitations imposed by the lab. As a scientist, I'm not sure I could ask for a better employer.

    Cons

    "Nimble" is not a word I would use to describe the lab. There is quite a bit of process in place, and trying novel approaches tends to run headlong into that process. I'm learning, though, that being persistent, friendly, persistent, responsive and persistent does eventually allow new science to be done, and subsequent ideas do tend to get implemented faster.

    The support staff we have tends to get cut first during downturns, as it's difficult to quantify how much time the scientific staff lose in dealing with budgets, travel, etc. That said, when I've asked for help, I've gotten it.

    I'm mostly supported by "soft money" and that's not going to change anytime soon. This does constrain how far out I can plan things like hiring, and it does focus my efforts more on winning the next grant rather than making software people will actually use.

    At a higher level, the Department of Energy is currently favoring fewer, larger projects over many smaller ones, which makes it difficult for younger scientists to get the experience they need to eventually run large projects.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Increasing the administrative staff would be a huge help.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Response

    Sep 15, 2014

    Thank you for offering up such a thoughtful review. It’s great to hear that you’re expected to make an impact, and given the freedom and support to make it happen. We will share your advice with ... More

  6. 1 person found this helpful  

    Bureaucracy over science

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

    I worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (more than 3 years)

    Pros

    Cutting edge facilities, smart people. Reasonable work hours when compared to academia; semi-autonomous structures similar to most academic institutions. Pay is generally better than academia.

    Cons

    The DOE labs are a mess of mis-management and years of knee-jerk reactions to safety and security issues. Management over-reaction and fears of regulatory and legal repercussions have resulted in a crazy patchwork of mindless and contradictory rules and requirements. Beware: you will drown in red tape which comes first over science.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Bring in young leaders to change the system.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  7. 3 people found this helpful  

    People and company are not nice to work with / for

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Worker Bee in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Worker Bee in Livermore, CA

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (more than 10 years)

    Pros

    Interesting scientific and national security related work

    Cons

    Poor leadership, slow in making changes, inefficient, process locked. Processes and oversight and US broken government are killing the interesting work. The management old boy network is unbelievablly strong, most of management is a bunch of yes people so the cluelessness continues with a strong surge. Many of the top rated people are so far away from top notch it is astounding.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    get rid of lots and lots of the management

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  8. 1 person found this helpful  

    Great Place to work

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Scientist in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Scientist in Livermore, CA

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (more than 5 years)

    Pros

    Lots of smart co-workers. Good interesting projects.

    Cons

    Funding cuts every few months. Some scientist have to look for a new position within the lab every few months.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  9. 3 people found this helpful  

    Great place to start a career, but no reason to stay too long

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Computer Scientist in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Computer Scientist in Livermore, CA

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (more than 3 years)

    Pros

    There are many smart people working here in many fields. Entry level pay and job stability and strong. The equipment you get to use, computers, science experiments is top notch. Benefits are overall very good with a high 401k match, good insurance options, twelve paid holidays and more sick time than most people can use. The problems to work on are hard and interesting and cutting edge in the field. Overall these are very strong plusses and are mostly the big things. Also, the funding situation is looking up right now with the lab not able to hire enough people quick enough (see cons) to fill open positions.

    Cons

    Many of the best people leave mid-career due to better pay, funding issues (erratic) or advancement opportunities elsewhere. While pay at the entry level is competitive the cost of living in Livermore is steep and flatter pay scale and slow salary adjustments for rising employees encourages this. While it used to make sense to stay if you had a pension now it is more worthwhile to spend 5 or so years learning a lot and moving on to greener pastures if you are really good. The result is while retention is good for mediocre or good people top talent gets poached. Many buildings are falling apart and maintenance of them is slow, compartmentalized and not always prioritized well. Vacation time is on the low end and takes a long time to increase, plus with older employees on the pension things feel very two tiered in terms of benefits. Then there is the issue with government running things so that you can be penalized for not spending all your money in a year, if something happens in Congress it ripples out etc. Also, HR and hiring are slow.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Fix up facilities. Figure out a way to have rapid advancement of technical workers including potentially paying some more than managers. Let employees float some of their holidays (we really do not need a day off in April) so they can have more discretionary vacation time. Shelter some of the government bureaucracy so that end of the year doesn't result in a race to spend money otherwise we will lose it. Streamline hiring and other HR tasks like performance reviews, which seem to be a lot of work for the little bit they impact pay.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  10. 2 people found this helpful  

    Good balance of interesting work and life

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Software Engineer in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Software Engineer in Livermore, CA

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (more than 5 years)

    Pros

    The work life balance is the best. The only time I have worked over 40 hours a week is when I wanted to. There will be times when people feel the need to work overtime but it is not the norm.
    The problems are interesting and feel important. Sure you can burn out on anything but there is a ton of interesting work at the lab.
    On that note, the lab has so many projects going on that if you need something new after a few years you can find something fresh to re-invigorate you.
    Finally the pay is pretty decent for the area. Yes you will get more money at the big companies further west, but the cost of living around the lab is way more in line with lab salaries than with other companies.
    Final advice, if you are a fresh grad and can grind for a bit, go to one of the big companies and make some serious dough. If you appreciate work life balance, want to spend time with your family, and want a decent quality of life, this is a great place.

    Cons

    When it comes to software engineering the lab hasn't quite figured out how to define career paths yet. They have a classification system worked out but it is only a few years new at this point and they are only just starting to define and coach employees on how one would get a promotion.
    Being a government funded facility, we are at the mercy of the federal budget. When stuff like the government shut down happens, or salaries are frozen for federal workers, it affects us.
    The frills and niceties of other companies are non-existent here. Here are some examples: when taking someone on a lunch interview, the lab will not do the courtesy of paying for your interviewees lunch, you have to pay out of your pocket; Many buildings have cramped hallways and not so nice bathrooms (not gas station bathrooms, but not nice bathrooms); Many buildings have only basic custodial services, i.e. you'll be cleaning the fridge out yourself.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  11. 2 people found this helpful  

    Great place to work with focus on work-life balance, security can be stifling at times.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Computer Scientist in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Computer Scientist in Livermore, CA

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (less than an year)

    Pros

    You can do work here that just isn't possible elsewhere. I work with literally the fastest computers on the planet on projects that just wouldn't be possible anywhere else. Furthermore, there is a heavy focus on work-life balance. For example, crunch time is virtually non-existent in my group and my work schedule is extremely flexible.

    The pay is also on par with tech companies in silicon valley, the benefits are great, and I've never seen a better 401(k) package. Livermore itself is a great city to live in.

    Cons

    Security can be stifling. When I started, it was a solid month and a half before I got the full access I needed in order to do my job unencumbered. The first 4 months of my assignment were spent in a different building from my team until my security clearance was processed. These are natural parts of working for a national lab, but it was frustrating at times, especially considering the non-classified nature of my project.

    A final issue is that upward mobility can be difficult depending on your group. The lab has an abnormally large number of employees who have worked here for decades, and they tend to be chosen first for promotion regardless of skill.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    For those of us starting out at the lab, it can be frustrating that the first increase in vacation doesn't come until after 10 years of service.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

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