Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Reviews

Updated August 28, 2015
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3.9
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Bill Goldstein
29 Ratings

Pros
  • The work-life balance is quite good (in 28 reviews)

  • There are a lot of super smart people here that you can work with (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 Pros and Cons

184 Employee Reviews

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  1. Featured Review

    Helpful (12)

    Great place to build a career

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Computer Scientist in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Computer Scientist in Livermore, CA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

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

    Pros

    I came hare first as a student, then I was a postdoc for a year, and I've been research staff at LLNL for 4 years now. The thing I love most about working here is the people. I work with incredibly smart, motivated people on a daily basis, both in my field (computer science) and out (physicists, chemists, and other scientists). I get to work on some of the largest supercomputers in the world, and I get to have an impact on the design of parallel applications that run on thousands or millions of processors at once. There just aren't that many places you can do that, and there are fewer where the experts in the field are right around the corner. The problems LLNL tackles are not only interesting, they're important to national security, which makes them more fulfilling in a lot of ways. Saving the world from asteroid attacks? People here are working on that. Exploring new states of matter and new ways to build predictive simulations for it? That too. Working in High Performance Computing will expose you to new fields and directions you just don't get out of a typical CS degree, and you'll gain valuable experience by working on projects like these. If you're not as interested in mission-driven science, LLNL supports lots of basic science research, too. If you are planning to build a career here, you should know that LLNL is a great place for entrepreneurial scientists. If you are interested in building something, and if you have the drive and motivation to stick with it, you can come here, start your own project, and build a team to pursue your vision. As an example: many labs do not allow postdocs to apply for their own funding, but at LLNL it is encouraged. Postdocs can apply for internal Lab-Directed Research and Development funding (LDRD), and once you're staff, you can pursue a number of external competitive proposal calls from the DOE Office of Science. There are also opportunities to get long-term programmatic funding for your project, if it turns out to be successful.

    Cons

    It can be difficult to figure out exactly how the lab works. If you're the type of person who comes in, talks to people, and asks a lot of questions, you'll quickly learn by word of mouth. As far as documentation for new employees, or a road map for your career, well, the lab's not so good at that. It's up to you -- the lab rewards initiative, but if you don't have a lot of it, you may quickly find yourself lost. The lab is working on this with efforts like a recent "Lab 101" course for early career employees. They take you through the funding landscape and the national priorities that drive the lab. Everyone at LLNL is busy, and hiring is slow. It's often hard to staff a new project if you get it funded, but the lab is working hard to change this, with more pipeline hires and fewer administrative hurdles to jump through.

    Advice to Management

    The "Lab 101" course should be mandatory material for new staff and postdocs. Hiring should be accelerated to staff new projects and to reduce the often slow spin-up time. New employees should be made aware of all the opportunities in front of them -- I think a lot of people come to LLNL and miss out.

    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Response

    Feb 10, 2015

    It’s great to hear the perspective of someone who has worked here as a student, postdoc and staff researcher. Thank you for sharing. It’s also good to hear you’ve benefitted from the Lab 101 course ... More


  2. Work at the lab

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Assurance Manager in Danville, CA
    Current Employee - Assurance Manager in Danville, CA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (More than 8 years)

    Pros

    Good work environment with work life balance.

    Cons

    Opportunities for career advancement are limited.


  3. work on the lab mission

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Principal Investigator in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Principal Investigator in Livermore, CA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (More than 8 years)

    Pros

    intellectual freedom, technical colleagues, intellectual challenge, flexibility with schedule

    Cons

    constantly having to fight for funding and facilities, funding is bleak unless you are working on the "lab mission", high overheards make it difficult to compete with other agencies

    Advice to Management

    make the lab better for the people who work hard to bring external funding


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  5. Helpful (1)

    Mechanical Design - Q/DOD Clearance

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Lead Designer in Tracy, CA
    Former Employee - Lead Designer in Tracy, CA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (More than 10 years)

    Pros

    Great employer to work for in supporting of government with state of the art research and development.

    Cons

    Nothing....as I retired there 3 years ago to take on a new job with a company (Sierra Photonics Inc) in Free Space Optical Communications. Sierra Photonics was acquired by Google last year.


  6. Helpful (1)

    Administrator

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Administrator
    Former Employee - Administrator
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    Pros

    Amazing place to work with unbelievable resources and benefits.

    Cons

    Dealing with the continuing resolution and budget issues yearly can be stressful.

    Advice to Management

    Listen to your employees; not the top 75, but those that are the "workers". Listen to their concerns.


  7. Helpful (1)

    Computer Scientist 3

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Computer Scientist III in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Computer Scientist III in Livermore, CA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    Great place to learn and grow your skill sets. Excellent assistant to get higher degrees.

    Cons

    Management is still not very connected to their employees. Culture is pretty slow.


  8. Staff Scientist

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Staff Scientist in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Staff Scientist in Livermore, CA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook

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

    Pros

    multidisciplinary research and development, training opportunities, national security mission

    Cons

    bureaucratic, leadership lacks long-term vision,


  9. Research Scientist

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Livermore, CA
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (More than a year)

    Pros

    Freedom to work on any project. The diversity of work there. Interesting research. Lots of smart people.

    Cons

    Lots of bureaucracy. Some red tape. Paperwork. Some underperformers.


  10. Helpful (1)

    Awesome place to do good, interesting work

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Postdoctoral Researcher
    Current Employee - Postdoctoral Researcher
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time

    Pros

    Smart people, tough problems, and you can and are encouraged to work on the tough problems with smart people. Plus you get to actually pursue your own ideas. If you play it right, you can do research like being a professor, but without the teaching and administrative duties (though you will lack the unending cheap graduate student labor), but of course you need to find your own funding. Alternatively, you can do more directly programmatic work, and have constant steady work by trading away autonomy. You get the best of both worlds, AND can switch between the two! (Talk to your manager first though) PLUS you get 33% of the royalties from patents! Director BIll Goldstein is cool. He's a real scientist who keeps it real, and doesn't B.S. when it comes to admitting real problems.

    Cons

    Red tape -- but once you understand that the purpose of the red tape is not only to obey a plethora of federal laws, but also to increase the security (physical and information -- something lacking in many companies these days), then it's possible to accept it (or at least wade through it efficiently). Being tied to the fiscal year (Oct-Sep): money is saved up until the end of the fiscal year (in case Washington does something nuts like a shutdown), which means that you get underfunded, and at the end of the year suddenly a lot of money is up for grabs. Would be fine, but you not only have to spend it before the end of the year, but all items you purchase *MUST ARRIVE* before end of September. Makes buying big ticket items with long lead times hard, so spend big early! Benefits are seriously lacking. Cafeteria is terrible and overpriced. Gym is expensive and bare. But don't blame LLNL, blame Washington for under-investing in science.

    Advice to Management

    Continue to encourage more small, high-risk projects, especially those with the potential for commercialization. LLNL wins with royalties (you do too!), companies win with new technologies, USA wins with competitiveness.


  11. Helpful (1)

    Technical excellence/programmatic immaturity

    Former Employee - Research Specialist in Livermore, CA
    Former Employee - Research Specialist in Livermore, CA

    Pros

    LLNL offers the ability to work in many technologies, but not just working with those technologies: working at the forefront of scientific and technical knowledge.

    Cons

    It's kind of like a sandbox. The two separate organizations I was part of both were developing systems that no one else could build, but they didn't do that good a job outlining requirements. If you came straight from grad school, everything was peachy, but, coming from an outside engineering organization, I was a little taken aback by their unwillingness to talk resources and requirements — especially as that was the foundation for every well-executed engineering program I had ever been a part of. Having said that, it's a big organization, and in my five years I worked for only two small groups.

    Advice to Management

    Again, from my relatively limited exposure to the organization as a whole, I saw managers being selected in one of two ways: 1) Technical excellence. 2) Ability to schmooze. Although both those skills are important, they are not the primary skills required to manage a technical program well.



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