National Instruments Reviews

Updated June 30, 2015
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National Instruments Chairman, President, and CEO James J. Truchard
James J. Truchard
352 Ratings

Pros
  • Work/life balance is encouraged (in 97 reviews)

  • The people are generally brilliant and the work environment is healthy (in 69 reviews)

Cons
  • Work-life balance can be tough depending on what area you work in (in 14 reviews)

  • Organizational structure and consensus culture are huge roadblocks in the decision making process (in 17 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

441 Employee Reviews

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  1. Great company culture!

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Austin, TX
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Austin, TX

    I worked at National Instruments

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    Fun company culture for interns and full-timers. A great company campus (volleyball court, basketball court, gym, grills, natural surroundings). My favorite piece of advice from my manager was to change up my work environment from time to time, so I would sometimes work outside on the patio for an hour or two or work outside my cube in one of the lounging areas.

    Cons

    In my 3 months as an intern, I only really saw the good side of the company. I really enjoyed my internship with NI and highly recommend students to apply!


  2. Good but Slow

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Intern - Technical Writer Intern in Austin, TX
    Former Intern - Technical Writer Intern in Austin, TX

    I worked at National Instruments as an intern (Less than a year)

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook

    Pros

    You get to work on real products and are encouraged to work as an actual member of the team. Most of your co-workers will be eager to accept you as one of their own if you demonstrate maturity and confidence.

    Cons

    The work can be a little slow and boring. Once your work is up for review there's a three day waiting period where you need to make minor fixes in the documentation program... necessary but tedious.

    Advice to Management

    Make time to talk to your interns and if one is trying to connect, make sure that you don't just put forth a "yes" but that you try and make time for them in your busy schedule.


  3. Helpful (2)

    Principal Engineer

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

    I have been working at National Instruments full-time (More than 10 years)

    Recommends
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
    Recommends
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    Pros

    Stable work environment, highly technical work. Great place to start your career.

    Cons

    Little growth in career opportunities, poor work life balance in spite of what is claimed.

    Advice to Management

    Promote people who have been successful with the company and have accomplished goals instead of promoting based on personal friendships. We claim to be a company who celebrates accomplishments but this isn't how you get promoted at NI. The lack of promoting success has lead to low growth in revenue do to the products that were recently released. Our basic benefits need to be improved to be competitive with the rest of the industry


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  5. Helpful (9)

    Just enough profit/growth to inhibit the changes that need to happen.

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Engineer/Manager in Austin, TX
    Former Employee - Engineer/Manager in Austin, TX

    I worked at National Instruments full-time (More than 3 years)

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    If you are the type to sit in your cube, look like you are working hard, and are not prone to rocking-the-boat, then this company is for you! You will have a job with a great work-life balance, with little accountability, with slightly below average pay, for the rest of your life.

    Cons

    - First of all, NI is a marketing / self-promoting / recruiting....MACHINE. They know exactly what to say, how to say it, and to whom to say it to when they want to win you over. We can't completely fault NI for being this way; it's partly due to the corporate culture we all live in. However, NI knows how to turn this up to 11 when needed.

    - NI is desperately trying to become a "performance-based" work environment. Management openly references a slide deck from a very popular internet flix streaming company that praises a performance-based culture. Unfortunately, NI management fails to also see in the same slide deck that this company also pays its employees very well. Hmmm....two sides of the same coin? Could performance be closely tied to compensation? NI doesn't think so. They pass this minor technicality off with a slight-of-hand gesture as if to say..."These are not the metrics we are looking for"

    -- The consensus-based culture might have worked well 15 or 20 years ago when the company and their product offering was much smaller. Now, it just stifles productivity, creative / unique thought, and individual accountability and responsibility. If you are a creative thinker, NI is not for you.

    -- As mentioned above, NI pays slightly-below average in spite of being known as the "Cadillac" of hardware and software in the industry. Their gross profit per employee is among the lowest among their competitors. Until they start generating A LOT more revenue and/or start laying-off the poorest performers, salaries (and bonuses) will continue to be average at best.

    -- There's a well-known formula upper management uses when determining how much of a bonus should be payed out when it posts a profit. This is great...we all love openness and transparency when if comes to these things. On the flip side, how they determine how much of a dividend should be paid to stockholders is a well guarded secret. Smells fishy.

    - HR and middle management have been forced to start giving "stay interviews" to immediate reports. Company's shouldn't have to be doing this. And if they are....there is something terribly wrong. Again, NI fails to see the significance of this.

    Advice to Management

    Unfortunately, NI will continue to have mediocre growth; just enough to keep from being motivated to make the changes everyone else knows you need to make.


  6. Helpful (2)

    Still happy to work here, but YMMV

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

    I have been working at National Instruments full-time (More than 5 years)

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    As with any review, note that my experiences are but one anecdote of many. Job satisfaction is a complicated thing that is defined differently for everyone, but for me personally the biggest factor is whether I feel like I have the opportunity to learn new things and apply that learning to something meaningful, and that success will be rewarded with new opportunities to lead and learn in the future.

    After my first several years here I felt my career stagnating and found myself on LinkedIn and Glassdoor casually looking at what else was out there, something I hadn't really done since I started working. Many of these alternatives paid more but most lacked the kind of culture or worthwhile products that I appreciate about NI. I finally discussed with my manager that I needed some new challenges, and was pleased to find he was on board and I'm now in a much better place, enjoying what I'm doing, learning a lot, and feeling more confident and valuable.

    All this is to say, don't underestimate the value of enjoying what you're doing day-to-day, as that can make up for a lot of shortcomings (which I'll list in the cons). That said, I don't find NI to have that many shortcomings. It's a large company getting larger, and that will come with some tradeoffs and growing pains, and we're not in a super high-growth, high-margin or high-volume industry like some other companies. Generally, I have appreciated the stability that NI's conservative leadership fosters, even if it means we're not aggressive with things like pay increases.

    Things that I still really appreciate about NI and would miss elsewhere:
    - Work-life balance. I mostly work 40 hours a week, and when I work more I understand the reasons why.
    - Smart, friendly coworkers.
    - Beautiful campus. I love taking walks on the trails when I just need a break from my desk.
    - On-campus clinic is a huge time-saver.
    - Employee Stock Purchase Plan is a nice financial bonus that isn't factored into salary.
    - Management (at least in R&D) doesn't strike me as very political and seems to take a rational approach to most decisions. Not everyone is equally competent, but I do think most everyone does their best and tries to be up-front with their staff.
    - Great products. I'm proud of what we make and how our customers use our products.

    Cons

    Nothing too significant, but some areas that could use work:
    - It's no secret that most talented NI employees could probably make more elsewhere, and I'm sure that's responsible for the loss of some valuable talent. That said, I don't think I'm paid unfairly and have been fortunate to receive fairly regular raises, though I realize this isn't everyone's experience. There's a range of salaries for any given promotion level, and where you fall on that has a lot to do with your performance and perceived value to management (some of which is in your control, some of which isn't).
    - Vacation is a bit disappointing. I have friends at other tech companies that earn quite a bit more vacation and paternity leave, some of whom get additional month-long furloughs after certain career milestones (which would be amazing). This is mitigated somewhat by NI's flexible policy on working from home.
    - Medical premiums have risen steadily, though I realize that's not exactly management's fault.

    Advice to Management

    Don't skimp on giving raises to those who deserve it. Keep being open with employees and addressing concerns, but be sure to follow up with tangible actions (the return of Six Flags as an outing this year is a great start). Reduce waste and miscommunication by encouraging more cross-team coordination on common needs.


  7. Helpful (6)

    Not what it used to be, even 5 years ago.

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

    I have been working at National Instruments full-time (More than 5 years)

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    Pros

    Interesting work and truly brilliant people (for the moment). NI allows you to discover where you can be good. Work life balance is reasonable but not what it used to be.

    Cons

    Salary is a joke. Think getting a promotion will help? Think again. Even with promotions you have to wait until the pay cadence comes around. If you are promoted with the same group plan on doing both your old job and your new one; both for that tiny increase. Back-fill for that old position? Again, keep dreaming.

    One of the big problems with no back-fill is that the work-life balance becomes a thing of the past. When a co-worker leaves, you can count on having to do their work since your manager will not be allow to hire.

    Advice to Management

    Without your best employees, The Street will not like you any better. Your best and brightest are already leaving as fast as they can. If you want a staff of average or lowest common denominators keep doing what you're doing.


  8. Helpful (16)

    Significant problems, and slow to address them

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Staff Software Engineer in Austin, TX
    Former Employee - Staff Software Engineer in Austin, TX

    I worked at National Instruments full-time (More than a year)

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    Pros

    - Coworkers are generally nice, smart, skilled, and willing to share their knowledge.
    - Depending on the team you’re on, there’s the chance to work on cool technologies that can really improve your skills.
    - They invest in employee development — the yearly NITech conference, etc.
    - They’re getting better about dealing with their fear of not-invented-here solutions and doing things in more standard ways.
    - Good work-life balance.
    - Good direct-level management, depending on the team.
    - All things considered, a good first job for someone straight out of school.

    Cons

    - The compensation is extremely poor. They claim that they offer industry-average compensation based on survey data for equivalent positions, but a quick look around Glassdoor will show you that’s not the case. As the cost of living in Austin has steadily risen, they haven’t kept up. Salary planning happens twice a year, and if you get a promotion, you have to wait until the next salary planning cycle to get a pay raise (and don’t expect a big one). Finally, the bonuses are terrible — they’re based entirely on company growth, not profit, and the growth target is unchanged from what it was in the ‘90s when NI was a fast-growing small company, meaning there’s no way they’ll ever come close to the target now.

    - The culture is not what it was. What’s left of it is friendly coworkers, a flexible work schedule, no dress code, and beer on Fridays (which the employees bring in). The previous feeling that “NI takes good care of its people” has evaporated, and little perks that the company used to provide to the employees, like a yearly family trip to Six Flags, are long since gone. As a result of the low compensation, it’s not really a high-performance culture any more. A lot of smart people work on pet projects, or just aren’t that motivated, because they’ve realized that if they work really hard toward the company goals, they’ll get a pat on the back or a token bonus. Management is reluctant to push because they don’t want people to leave. All this has led to pretty poor morale around the office.

    - Vacation is poor compared to what other companies offer. As a new hire, you start with 10 days of paid vacation, regardless of the experience you bring in. Over the last couple of years, vacation rollover between years was eliminated and then capped.

    - Benefits used to be very good, but they’ve been steadily cut back, and now they’re about average for the industry. Specifically, the vaunted health insurance plan (formerly a big selling point) was cut back, and many people have moved to the high-deductible plan.

    - NI devotes lots of effort to internal messaging. You’ll see banners all the time stating that “your work has a purpose” and “look at all these awesome things NI is enabling”. After each quarter, you’ll hear “we did great, another record quarter”, and then come time for salary planning, somehow things weren’t so good after all — it was a challenging market, the dollar was valued too high, or somebody stubbed their toe — so yet another low raise and bonus.

    - NI fell off the Fortune 100 Best Places to Work after 15 years on the list, and rather than addressing the issues head-on, employees got an email from Dr. T that upper management was listening to and considering the survey results, followed by more internal messaging that the percentage of people who said NI was a great place to work would have been enough to make the list in the past. Then, in the quarterly business presentation, they said they were putting together a working group to study the issues. Lots of listening and studying, not much acting and improving.

    - They’re seeing an uptick in attrition. Their response? Initially, message out that the level of attrition is normal given the improving economy, and institute a quarterly goal to “retain key employees”. (Well, who’s that?) Also, push harder on college recruiting. However, since college recruiting isn’t a dedicated team — employees take time away from their regular duties to go recruit on campus — the people who are getting stiffed on compensation are also the people tasked with recruiting more people to alleviate the pressure on compensation. In addition, NI talks about hiring the best and brightest, but their compensation and reputation is no longer enough for them to actually attract and retain these people.

    Advice to Management

    You’re in a challenging spot, and so far, you haven’t risen to the challenge. You’re stuck between a rock (rising costs in Austin) and a hard place (a stagnant market in your core test and measurement sector). Your new focus on growth hasn’t been enough to keep up with the salary growth in Austin, let alone to narrow the pay gap you’ve accumulated. Now is the time for committed action, tough decisions, and innovative thinking. I can think of several ideas right off the bat:

    - Consider a smaller, more efficient, better-compensated workforce, even if you have to let some people go.
    - Spend a higher percentage of revenue on R&D, Wall Street analysts be damned.
    - Open up an NI office in a place with a lower cost of living. (Everyone seems to want to move to San Marcos these days…)

    But whatever you decide to do, do it soon, do it transparently, and do it to completion — don’t just study the issue, juke in the right direction, and then go back to the way you’ve always done it. Every month you keep on doing like you’ve been doing, you lose more skilled people to other opportunities, and you do more damage to the reputation you’ve worked for decades to attain.


  9. Helpful (5)

    Good place for starting a career

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Staff Software Engineer in Austin, TX
    Former Employee - Staff Software Engineer in Austin, TX

    I worked at National Instruments full-time

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    Pros

    I was a software engineer in R&D this may not apply to other titles.
    Good work life balance, challenging and varying work and good mentorship that help ground a career.

    Cons

    Pay starts at average and quickly falls behind competition you should keep looking at the market or this will creep up on you.
    Promotions to Senior Engineer and beyond are opaque. I have often heard managers say that you get promoted "well after everyone thinks you already have that title".

    Advice to Management

    I left because I got an offer with a compensation package I could not refuse. That is unsustainable for you as a company trying to retain innovative engineers.
    You are loosing a lot of talent at 5-7 years. While you have historically retained some good engineers at 15+ years even they are starting to leave. Many of those still around are honestly business-critical because of their institutional knowledge of work done during your lost generation. Given the hiring MO of recruiting mostly out of college and promoting from within, this talent drain is going to cause serious problems.


  10. Helpful (4)

    Good place to learn but not a place to stay

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

    I have been working at National Instruments full-time

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    Pros

    Most of your coworkers are great and become like family. You learn a lot up to a certain point. Fantastic benefits.

    Cons

    It is nearly impossible to innovate. There is definitely a herd mentality, and anyone who strays is frowned upon. All the transparency that used to make the company great is gone. Every communication sounds like it was crafted by legal and PR. All the exciting opportunities are scooped up by managers who should be managing and not working as individual contributors. The pay? Ridiculous.

    Advice to Management

    Bring back the transparency. Don't be afraid to answer the tough questions - all of them and not just the ones that make you look good. Select managers based on their strengths and not seniority. Let managers be people managers instead of having them split their time between managing and being individual contributors.


  11. Marketing

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Marketing in Austin, TX
    Current Employee - Marketing in Austin, TX

    I have been working at National Instruments full-time (More than 8 years)

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook

    Pros

    Open communication from management
    Broad customer base across many applications and industries

    Cons

    Too many things going on
    Need harder decision making and prioritization

    Advice to Management

    Focus



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