Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

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Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Reviews

Updated September 11, 2014
Updated September 11, 2014
160 Reviews
3.7
160 Reviews
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Bill Goldstein
20 Ratings

Review Highlights

Pros
  • interesting colleagues, important work, good work life balance, great location in Northern California (in 16 reviews)

  • get to work with cutting edge technologies, very intelligent people (in 11 reviews)


Cons
  • Sometimes you have to deal with a whole lot of red tape and infrastructure (in 8 reviews)

  • Slow to change because of older employee base but they are changing (in 4 reviews)

More Highlights

Employee Reviews

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  1. 4 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 for 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

  2. 3 people found this helpful  

    Fast-paced, shifting priority interesting job with national significance

    • 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 for more than 10 years

    Pros

    The people here are scary smart. We have good opportunity for career growth and development. The work-life balance is quite good. The culture here values team work.

    Cons

    Scientists change their minds a lot -- drives engineers a little nuts. There's lots of bureaucracy. The job security and benefits aren't as good as they used to be.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Decide if this is government or a business and act accordingly.

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

    No better place to do high performance scientific computing in the world.

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

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

    Pros

    For a scientist who wants to do research involving parallel simulation, the Lab is an amazing place to be. Some of the best computer scientists in the world work in Livermore Computing, and will help you write or optimize your codes to run efficiently on the biggest supercomputers using the latest technology. Very strong scientific culture, with frequent seminars from both local researchers and invited guests. The salaries are quite good, with much better job security than you'll find in industry. (Not absolute, but far less uncertainty.)

    The Lab also encourages work/life balance far more than almost any other comparable job. People exercise, leave at a reasonable hour to spend time with their families and have generous vacation and sick leave (including family sick leave) benefits.

    Cons

    The bureaucracy can be annoying at times, particularly surrounding travel. There's less academic freedom than at a university, as most research has to tie in to the Lab's mission in some way.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    The funding structure and high overhead rates impose what I view as unnecessary limitations on collaboration and innovation. If I discover that someone in another organization has expertise that can significantly contribute to my project, getting a significant fraction of their time to work with me can be difficult or impossible, due to the high effort cost and long time frame of most funding opportunities. It would be great if we had some freedom to pursue useful and interesting research across the Lab with 10-20% of our time.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
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  5. 1 person 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 for 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
  6.  

    Good bridge between industry and academic culture

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - High Energy Density Physics Intern  in  Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - High Energy Density Physics Intern in Livermore, CA

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as an intern for less than a year

    Pros

    - Lots of smart co-workers. Seriously, everyone really knows there stuff
    - Does a fairly good job of not letting national security related red tape impede daily work
    - Constant stream of seminars and talks if you're interested in such things
    - All of the long-time employees spoke of great job security

    Cons

    - It is a government facility, so you have to get used to the red tape
    - Semi-university feel could be a con for some people. There are definitely some "starry-eyed" academics around
    - Similarly, semi-business feel could be a con for academics. LLNL has all of the budgets and deadlines of industry

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Continue/expand programs that promote a "researchy" feel. LLNL's biggest strength is the ability to inspire employee's with exciting work that THEY feel responsible for.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  7.  

    Interesting work, incredibly smart colleagues, but a little unguided for an internship

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Summer Student Scholar
    Former Employee - Summer Student Scholar

    I worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as an intern for less than a year

    Pros

    I was a "summer student scholar," an intern at the lab.

    Everyone at the lab is expert in what they do, and it provided a great way to connect with, get help from and collaborate with, and to get career help and recommendations from very qualified and important people in your field. Additionally, interns are well compensated and the large scale of the internship program was matched with an equally grand effort by HR to set up tours, events, resources (like housing and carpooling help) and other perks that made the experience that much easier and more rewarding.

    Cons

    Because of the large amount of sensitive work that goes on at the lab, information security is tight, and this slows down the pace of cross-department collaboration, presentation/publishing, and just the work in general noticeably. Additionally, everyone seems to be juggling a large number of projects and responsibilities, and sometimes the interns can fall through the cracks. Still, it was a great experience and a little training in working independently can be a good thing.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  8.  

    Great place for research and development

    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

    Pros

    technical knowledge, team environment, work-life balance

    Cons

    budget uncertainty are a serious challenge for planning and execution

  9.  

    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 for 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.  

    Mechanical Engineer

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

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time for more than 8 years

    Pros

    Work-life balance is very good, there are a lot of opportunities fro personal growth, Livermore is a great place to live!

    Cons

    Inconsistent work schedules across departments.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    I would like to stress to management that the one lab approach would be better than the current way of doing business. Right now there is not a consistent work schedule, i.e. some departments are on a 9/80 work schedules and some are not.

    Recommends
  11.  

    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 for less than a 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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