Wolfram Research

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Wolfram Research Reviews

Updated December 15, 2014
Updated December 15, 2014
68 Reviews
3.1
68 Reviews
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Wolfram Research President Stephen Wolfram
Stephen Wolfram
51 Ratings

Review Highlights

Pros
  • Good PTO and flexible work hours if you belong to the frat boy club (in 12 reviews)

  • There are a few really smart people in here which includes Stephen wolfram (in 6 reviews)


Cons
  • It's great for the experience, but it was hard to justify the low salary after a few years (in 7 reviews)

  • Lack of career growth, resulting in a revolving door with many employees leaving (in 3 reviews)

More Highlights

Employee Reviews

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  1.  

    Fast paced environment, wonderful people, incredible opportunity for career growth with endless learning opportunities.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Program Manager in Champaign, IL
    Current Employee - Program Manager in Champaign, IL

    I have been working at Wolfram Research full-time (more than an year)

    Pros

    Since the products being developed require diverse skill sets, Wolfram employs a wide variety of backgrounds and personalities. The headquarters is filled with intelligent, curious, and interesting people of all cultural backgrounds (There are a total of 57 languages spoken). If there is anything you want to learn, someone is always willing to lend their time to help you understand a new technology or process.

    I started at Wolfram as my first job out of school. Within my first weeks at the company I was able to contribute in meetings with employees at all levels of the company. Wolfram is a very flat organization, where you are able to have contact with the executive members (highest level besides CEO) on a regular basis. Being straight out of college, it was a fantastic learning experience for me to be able to sit in on discussions ranging from new product development to global strategy.

    In my role as program manager I was given a lot of autonomy and responsibility from the beginning. You are expected to ask a lot of questions to learn as much as you can but given the freedom to work in a manner that is efficient for you.

    The coolest thing about Wolfram is the passion that people have for what their work. The products are used world wide in a variety of different commercial, industrial, and academic fields. Seeing first hand how the products literally change the world is what keeps everyone inspired and excited to come to work each morning. Working on Mathematica products or Wolfram Alpha - you can see the direct ways in which we are changing what it means to program (using the wolfram language), and how people are relating to and integrating their data to understand their environment.

    Wolfram has a family atmosphere where you are encouraged to be yourself. Everyone has interesting quirks and a variety of nerdy interests. With about 600 people at the headquarters, there is someone who has similar interests or can show you a cool hobby (lots of astrology and comic book fans!) Some days are hectic while other are more calm but definitely never boring.

    Wolfram is continuously growing, there is plenty of room for upward movement. I was able to move positions to an area I found more suited to my personality and interests after about 1 year with full support from my manager.

    Cons

    Wolfram is an product / project oriented company. Work is fast paced where on Monday an idea is pitched and by Wednesday a team is assembled to begin to build it. Given the speed of development there can be a lack of organization. Some thrive in this "start-up" environment, some feel overwhelmed. Depending on your personality and your ability to juggle multiple projects will determine your success.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
  2. 1 person found this helpful  

    Company is successful in spite of itself

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

    I worked at Wolfram Research full-time

    Pros

    - Energetic and friendly work environment, many younger employees excited to start their careers
    - Laid back dress code
    - Flexible work hours, with caveats
    - Wolfram can be a fairly decent place to start a career but do not stay too long
    - You will likely make life-long friends and business connections
    - Health benefits are reasonable if you do not have dependents
    - I would only recommend this job someone starting their career, provided they look carefully at the cons

    Cons

    - Workers are young because the salary is not competitive. Working with smart, creative people while making dirt pay may be rewarding in your 20s, but by your 30s you're ready to be appropriately compensated for your efforts. Many of these plucky upstarts eventually catch on and move to more exciting opportunities with higher pay.
    - Work hours can be flexible. The trouble is there is often little accountability to coworkers if the truant employee's manager doesn't stay on top of their output. This makes it hard to receive timely responses to email, tickets, etc. Over time, "Working from home," often became code for, "I don't want to use my paid leave for x,y,z." If no one addresses the problem why wouldn't the undisciplined employees game the system?
    - Terrible business infrastructure. Junior developers are expected to help keep overloaded systems running with nothing more than some rushed scripting and a Hail Mary. If you want to work on new technology and you aren't a front end developer you should seriously consider looking elsewhere. And if you are a front end developer, be prepared for the business operations people to like your ideas but say they regretfully cannot implement them.
    - Depressing gender imbalance among some departments. There are few female managers, unless they are managing a majority female department. Also the project management department is overwhelmingly female, compared to the various development departments that are overwhelmingly male. This promotes a work culture that is a modern-day equivalent of the "Jane, will you bring me coffee?" trope that is used as a punchline in a bad sitcom. They often ask professional women to scurry around them, finding answers to questions that have already been answered if they would bother to properly manage their email, tickets, and calendars.
    - CEO exhibits bully-like behavior. I have read a lot of the negative reviews of the CEO and I concur. I have not personally been on the receiving end of his wrath but I have witnessed it on numerous occasions, often in front of large numbers of his staff. It is incredibly demoralizing to see a grown adult berate another human being, knowing there is nothing you can do about it because you need to keep your job. This poisonous leadership style has seeped into some of the other members of upper management, including a person very close to Stephen. Some people think this person is the "lesser of two evils," but when both of them are yelling does it really matter?
    - Ill-defined business outlook. Again, as stated in other reviews, the business plan is dependent upon the latest shiny distraction that catches Stephen's eye: whether it be a legitimate business opportunity or just a tiny reflection of himself in the mirror. People run from one smoking tire fire to another. Very little time is put into figuring out how projects will come together in a broader sense. The company is successful in spite of itself. This is entirely due to the hard-working believers who support one another and not because of some benevolent dictator. The emperor has no clothes.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    - Pay for critical business/systems upgrades
    - Pay people more
    - Observe company meetings and shut Stephen down when he uses unprofessional language or tone

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  3.  

    so many things are wrong about this company...

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

    I have been working at Wolfram Research full-time

    Pros

    I can't think of anything good to say about this company, but I'll try --
    1. you can accumulate PTO (at a rate of 1.7 days per month, which isn't really great)
    2. all you can drink espresso (but it tastes really gross and makes me feel nauseous)

    Cons

    - compensation is very low. at the interview, they will try to negotiate from below fair market salary.
    - the company disrespects people's time. rather than a standard 9-5 work day, the company boasts "flexibility" by letting you choose to work from 8-5 or 9-6, whatever works for you! i.e., add an extra hour to the work day because lunch isn't paid. add to that time required to get ready for work and commute back and forth. hooray, you've just committed to an 11 hour work day!
    - the company does things really stupidly. everything about the way it operates is just wrong. nobody knows what a unit test is. people implement database tables without unique keys and put them into production, making bad data a permanent commitment. hard codes everywhere. RESTful API? nah. continuous integration? dream on. computationally expensive bloat code and projects that don't integrate? yep.
    - communicating that the company is doing things stupidly falls on deaf ears. management doesn't want to hear it because they're terrified of the CEO. developers don't want to hear it because they're terrified of the scope.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    respect people's time. cut out that unpaid lunch stuff and maybe your attrition rate won't be so high

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
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  5.  

    Good work life balance

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Web Developer in Champaign, IL
    Current Employee - Web Developer in Champaign, IL

    I have been working at Wolfram Research part-time (less than an year)

    Pros

    Flexible hours, good workload, friendly employees, good coffee

    Cons

    a little bit slow on the technology side

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  6.  

    front end engineer

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Frontend Developer in Champaign, IL
    Former Employee - Frontend Developer in Champaign, IL

    I worked at Wolfram Research full-time (less than an year)

    Pros

    Smart people, flexible timings, and they have some perks

    Cons

    It's in the champaign, it gets really boring sometimes. The product is going stagnant

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

    An absolute nightmare.

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

    I worked at Wolfram Research full-time

    Pros

    - Fun people if you're in the right group.
     - Lots of gadgets, easy to get new equipment.
     - Some excruciatingly smart people work here.
     - Remote working is allowed to an almost ludicrous degree.

    Cons

    - In my opinion, the CEO is the rudest, most intolerant and spoiled individual I have ever worked with. He has a hair trigger and constantly wants everything delivered at a moment's notice, whether it's something trivial like a small spec, or something large like a multi-year cross-disciplinary project that will involve half of the company.

     - Stephen steamrolls the entire company constantly, yanking people off of projects without warning to throw them onto whatever is his HIGH PRIORITY of the day. This company is his personal toy box, and new ideas are stifled from the top down. Only his ideas are worthy of discussion. Concerns about headcount are ignored and if you push the matter you are angrily dismissed.

     - You will not advance here. You will be a cog in a machine that Stephen is constantly cranking, until you eventually wear down and quit.

     - A large portion of this company seems to have given up. Innovation has taken a complete backseat to trying to build whatever "brilliant" idea the CEO had, and challenging these ideas is tantamount to treason.

     - Morale is in the sewer.

     - The communication is simply awful. People ignore emails, they don't return phone calls, they don't come to meetings, then they complain about not being in the loop. This leads to tons of wasted time and effort.

     - There is no training. You are expected to absorb everything you should know. Junior developers right out of university are expected to fully understand all the technology immediately, often because we end up having to taking over major projects because the person above us quit suddenly from frustration. Imagine being three months out of school and suddenly being lead developer on a project when you don't even know about half of it.

     - The project management is a joke. Stephen micromanages every project himself, reducing the PMs to little more than babysitters. Most of them are very nice, but they have no ability to actually own and manage the teams. It's easier just to go directly to design or UX with questions. The task tracker is a mass of confusion from too many tickets that just sit there for months untouched.

     - The products are stale and the company refuses to adapt or entertain the idea that they are anything other than the pinnacle of software products.

     - Product plans change and nobody tells the people actually building the software, then later you get screamed at for not building the new version that no one told you about.

     - Decisions are constantly undone and rescinded and re-decided without warning. A project that was unimportant yesterday needs an emergency meeting today because IT HAS TO SHIP THIS MONTH OR WE'RE DEAD. Two days later everyone will be on that new project, then Stephen will lose his mind about whatever project they had to put on ice. There's just no winning.

     - Lots of egos in the senior developers.

     - Unreasonable timelines for us programmers to deliver. If it's going to take a year to build something the right way, don't demand it in 3 months, crush everyone with the new deadline, then get mad when it's buggy and rushed and almost none of the features are done.

     - The pay is severely below market rates. There are other companies in town where you will have half the work and double the pay. You are forbidden from discussing your salary with anyone.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    - Quit indulging the cult of personality around Stephen and start advocating for what is best for the products you are building.

     - Stop dismissing concerns and criticism from employees. When you say, "Well it's Stephen's company and he can do whatever he wants," you are dismissing and undermining the opinions of the very people you NEED to build your software. This attitude absolutely kills job satisfaction and morale of the people who want to contribute. Hiring brilliant people only to tell them to shut off their thinking caps and get on the assembly line is a huge disrespect, and you need to show your staff respect.

     - Actually provide career paths and advancement opportunities. Offer personal improvement. The turnover is what it is because there is so little individual respect for the hardworking people you've convinced to work here. Treat people as professionals and not assembly workers.

     - Have actual dedicated managers with real people skills managing and listening to employees, rather than arbitrarily bumping programmers up into supervisory positions they begrudgingly tolerate, to the complete disservice of the people they have to unwillingly manage. Managing requires a level of interpersonal skills that Wolfram does not value, and so many people have left because they felt ignored and unheard.

     - Quit trying to shove projects that need years to be built into a few months.

     - Stand up for your team more. When the CEO shouts that we're all a bunch of incompetent failures and our work is all <expletive>, and you say he's right for being mad, you set your team up to lose people.

     - Rethink strategy. You can't build niche software for 20 years then suddenly try to force the world to believe you're a swissarmy knife for software.

     - When key players on projects quit, don't act like everything is okay. Actually communicate what's happening and when people leave, and what the plan is. It's unbelievably frustrating to be waiting on an email from somebody then find out they quit a month earlier.

     - Don't blame people who leave and call them "quitters" behind their back. It puts a sour taste in the mouths of those of us who have stayed behind.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  8.  

    No comment

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

    I have been working at Wolfram Research full-time (more than 3 years)

    Pros

    Co-workers are nice. Great place to work for fresh college graduate.
    Great place to explore open source software

    Cons

    Bad management and direction. Pays far less than other companies

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  9.  

    Wolfram is a great company for building your technical and entrepreneurial skills.

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

    I have been working at Wolfram Research full-time

    Pros

    The emphasis at Wolfram is on doing interesting projects. Folks are hired more for their potential than for a specific position. There is a lot of opportunity to work on projects from various directions. This allows one to have a chance to really explore all aspects of what it takes to build a technology product. One also gets the opportunity to try out potential career paths which may have not been on one’s original trajectory.

    Cons

    The environment is not for the weak at heart although for many that is a plus. The work pace is high energy, intense and there are always more projects than resources. But, the trade off is that you build up more knowledge and skill than at most companies in a similar time frame.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Remember that employees come to Wolfram to work on interesting projects. Make sure to pay attention to their interests.

    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  10.  

    Work was great until the last year I was there. Senior Management dissolved.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Manager of Web Research and Development in Champaign, IL
    Former Employee - Manager of Web Research and Development in Champaign, IL

    I worked at Wolfram Research full-time (more than 5 years)

    Pros

    Interesting work.
    Challenging Problems.
    Great people.
    Good benefits.

    Cons

    Salaries
    CEO isn't insulated by Upper Management, developers interact with CEO.
    CEO likes to play witch hunt games during meetings and get other people to throw each other under the bus.
    CEO likes to yell during meetings for trivial problems.
    I know of people who were fired illegally.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Adjust salaries to be more competitive. Insulate people from the CEO. Don't fire people illegally.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  11. 1 person found this helpful  

    Not as horrid of a place to get some exposure

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

    I worked at Wolfram Research full-time (more than 3 years)

    Pros

    Some freedom to pick projects to work on. Then again this depends in what dept you have been put.
    Some marginal interaction between departments.

    Cons

    Technology is too hyped up. Mathematica is a toy programming language. Almost entirely useless once you change jobs OR once you get a REAL job at a REAL company.
    Be wary of the CEO and his mood swings and your job security.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    No real advice can be provided, they won't listen.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

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