Underwriters Laboratories
3.1 of 5 129 reviews
www.ul.com Northbrook, IL 5000+ Employees

Underwriters Laboratories Reviews

Updated Apr 15, 2014
Underwriters Laboratories – Suzhou – “lab test area”

All Employees Current Employees Only

3.1 129 reviews

                             

79% Approve of the CEO

Underwriters Laboratories President and CEO Keith E. Williams

Keith E. Williams

(91 ratings)

59% of employees recommend this company to a friend
129 Employee Reviews
Relevance Date Rating
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Review Highlights

Pros:
  • "Additionally this company allows for a great work life balance"
    in 23 reviews
  • "A company that works to improve public safety"
    in 11 reviews
Cons:
  • "Senior management seems to not understand the core process (although this is getting better now)"
    in 9 reviews
  • "Constantly changing direction, underpaid employees, no clear path for career advancement"
    in 8 reviews
  • Show more review highlights

Reviews

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  • Approves of CEO

 

Intern (Administrative Specialist)

Administrative Assistant (Former Employee)
Melville, NY

I worked at Underwriters Laboratories as an intern for less than a year

ProsUL is a great company to work for because of how fast you can learn in such a short period of time. A lot of the higher ups were very encouraging and full of gratitude for summer help.

ConsYou work as a team but there is little opportunity to get recognized or advance beyond the tasks you are being given.

Advice to Senior ManagementBe more flexible and willing to let interns learn things outside their domain, and do not underestimate how fast or quick we are able to learn and grow from it. Also, a little less nepotism would be appreciated when it comes to the hiring process.

Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend – I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company

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Nice and stable place to work, not latest technology

Senior Project Engineer (Former Employee)
San Jose, CA

I worked at Underwriters Laboratories full-time for more than 10 years

Pros1. Good coworkers. Not a lot of jerks.
2. Good work balance with reasonable hours.
3. Mostly stable company.

Cons1. Not cutting edge tech.
2. Below average salary but not by a lot.
3. Don't get to learn a lot of new things.

Advice to Senior ManagementCross train employees to give them a more exciting job.

Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend

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Bureaucratic Company Having Trouble Adapting to a Changing Marketplace. Still Mostly Stable.

Project Engineer (Current Employee)
San Jose, CA

I have been working at Underwriters Laboratories full-time for more than 5 years

ProsPeople are at UL for the job security and predictable work day (out at 5, bye!), though this might change, depending on what industry you're in. Generally, though, layoffs are not frequent. Colleagues are genial. Pay and benefits are comparable to other sectors for certain types of engineers (say, electrical engineers in construction), and much lower for other types (say, electrical engineers in the SV semiconductor industry). Work isn't technical at all, but does teach you much about project management and customer service, which is valuable in the engineering industry.

UL does recognize it needs to change to survive, so that's a good thing. The hard part is figuring out how to do it. Certification and sustainable business growth are tough things to mix together -- hence our constantly failing acquisitions, losing our core businesses to lower-priced, just-good-enough competitors, inability to figure out how to remove certification steps to reduce costs, etc.

ConsTL;DR -- Very bureaucratic, not enough managements skills to figure out how to make good money in the certification business (if it's at all possible), boring work. Also, too many acronyms.

Long version - This is a very bureaucratic, one-time monopolistic company, and thus filled with everything that comes with such a company -- average management with limited power to change things, departmental silos, boring technical work, avalanches of paperwork, limited promotion opportunities. If you're an engineer doing certification reports, be prepared to do it for the next 30-40 years.

The middle managers have come up through the ranks and worked nowhere else, so they're mostly unimaginative, and thus always latching onto the latest process improvement techniques for production lines without really understanding it. (Hint -- doesn't really work for certification work.) It's like that old game of telephone, with the Harvard Business School blog at one end and UL at the other -- it's almost funny how ineptly we end up applying the latest business concepts, or more accurately, applying new business jargon to the same thing we've always done. C-level management folks usually do say the right things, but the implementation is sorely lacking. Not anyone's fault -- everyone is beholden to one process or another.

In the end, it's certification work reviewed by outside auditors, so it's very risk averse, and UL generally rewards plodding types who can follow processes and rules without question, and who can work up -- if not a love, but a resigned acceptance -- of their TPS reports. I realize that sounds overly harsh, but I don't really mean it that way -- just that they're the types that can generally survive here, because there's much more documentation than engineering going on. Other personality types might be seen as cutting corners and risking safety. We are told to change things we can control, and not to worry about the things we can't, but it's a somewhat deflating thought to realize you don't control much beyond the angle of your seat back.

UL is mostly filled with either engineers who didn't get job offers from other companies out of school, or those who made a mistake by joining after working somewhere else and now can't get job offers from other companies, or those that have been here 40 years and can't remember how they got the job in the first place. (Now this isn't quantified, obviously, and said in jest, obviously, too, but it's my general impression talking to a good amount of engineers over the years.) UL engineers are generally not recruited for much beyond certification positions, and only in certain industries, even though I do believe many are very accomplished project managers and generalist engineers.

One last thing -- we rival the military with our capacity to come up with inane acronyms. Sometimes we have the same acronym refer to about 3-4 different things. Good luck figuring that out.

Advice to Senior ManagementNot sure. Like I've said, the certification business is tough to make money in. We're a service business, but one that many clients see as a necessary evil. We do generally meet our deadlines and have reasonable quotes, but for some reason not all clients see it that way. We should probably focus more on the 80/20 rule, and cut unprofitable services, which I think we do regularly.

We can also probably improve by having more objective metrics for performance evaluations (too much seems to be based on subjective criteria and the rigid opinions of senior engineers), less massaging of month-to-month numbers to meet goals so we have a more realistic idea of revenue, a renewed, sustainable focus on standardizing requirements, and thus, costs (these initiatives almost seem to die out), a company-wide understanding that every added test to a project costs money, as well as that most steps which are added will be of no value, and perhaps outside consultants to review our SOPs to eliminate those non-value added steps.

Also, coffee -- quit making people buy their own coffee. It engenders an unhealthy workplace when people who don't buy the coffee drink the coffee bought by someone else, and then that someone else gets angry. Just something I observed -- I don't drink coffee. So pay for the coffee, UL! But then again, maybe they did a detailed cost-benefit analysis and figured out the lost morale and productivity and increase in ill will was worth it.

No, I would not recommend this company to a friend

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Senior Management plays numbers games to push people....right out the door.

Lab Assistant II (Current Employee)
Canton, MA

I have been working at Underwriters Laboratories full-time for more than 5 years

ProsGreat Co-Workers, Honestly it's close to home for me...

ConsLow Pay
2014 Benefits costing more and LESS coverage (Health and Dental)
No raises until 2015

Advice to Senior ManagementTreat people fairly. Don't tell them at a holiday Christmas Party that "you should be glad to have a job"!!!!!!

No, I would not recommend this company to a friend

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Good Mission, Old Fashion Management

Senior Project Engineer (Current Employee)
San Jose, CA

I have been working at Underwriters Laboratories full-time for more than 10 years

ProsCo-workers are really nice and they really care about making the world a safer place. Benefits are OK but they have been cut significantly in the last 10 years.

ConsOld management style, too many layers. They think that all the problems related to meeting budget are related to people working the front lines.
Too many lay-offs and when there's an increase in customer orders they don't have the trained staff to full fill those orders.
T

Advice to Senior ManagementThey need to listen to their customers and invest on tools that will make the engineers/sales work easier and faster. The need to stop concentrating on acquiring new businesses and start improving what they already have.

Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend – I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company

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Mixed feelings

Anonymous Employee (Current Employee)

I have been working at Underwriters Laboratories full-time for more than 3 years

ProsGreat benefits as far as retirement and healthcare. Depending on what business unit you work in, coworkers are wonderful. For the most part the company is stable (despite some layoffs). One could potentially.. maybe... stay with this company until retirement. I still recommend it as a starting point for anyone's career despite any complaints I may have.

ConsI don't know that management is competent. I question their decisions buying company after company, some of whom are taking a nose dive, but then stressing how the company is missing its revenue goals and then laying people off. Well... duh. Management seems pretty tight, very old school and that's not good. Opinions and thoughts of the "little worker bees" do not seem to matter.

Advice to Senior ManagementI suggest a slight change in management. Shake things up, even in the newly acquired companies that are now nose-diving. Some new energy, thinking outside the box. More modern... UL is stuck in a time warp in many, many ways.

Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend – I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company

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Why did you do it THAT WAY?

Anonymous Employee (Current Employee)
Camas, WA

I have been working at Underwriters Laboratories full-time for more than 5 years

ProsNon-management personnel are terrific, and there are very few people I don't respect. The pay is ok, benefits are good. I have a great supervisor, but it wasn't always like that. I love to interact with customers and build solid business relationships with them.

ConsToo many layers of middle-management chair warmers without people skills, particularly in customer service and support packaging. They keep track of every millisecond you are away from your desk, even if you are in the bathroom.

Advice to Senior ManagementWith the exception of the sales organization, UL does not need group leads, team leads, support/packaging leads, or customer service leads. Use their salaries to pay the people who actually do the work. The "do it my way or the high way" mentality doesn't work anymore.

No, I would not recommend this company to a friend – I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company

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Great work environment, employes and location for me.

Laboratory Technician (Former Employee)
Melville, NY

I worked at Underwriters Laboratories full-time for more than 5 years

ProsAll co-workers are easy to get along with. Company provides training, schooling and safety classes.

ConsThe list for promotion and career advancement was very long.

Advice to Senior ManagementFor working at UL who had to be versatile, well-rounded in electricity, collaborative and eager to learn.

Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend – I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company

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No support from management

Customer Service (Former Employee)
Northbrook, IL

I worked at Underwriters Laboratories full-time for more than 5 years

ProsGreat co-workers
Scheduled activities for employees outside of work

ConsHard to advance in your career
Manager not supportive

No, I would not recommend this company to a friend

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Project Engineer

Anonymous Employee (Former Employee)

I worked at Underwriters Laboratories full-time

ProsStable company, professional atmosphere, congenial environment

ConsLimited advancement opportunities past mid-level, sometimes a pressure cooker, over-demanding work requirements

Advice to Senior Managementbe realistic in your expectations of quantity vs. quality of work performed.

No, I would not recommend this company to a friend – I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company

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