I worked at Advanced Rotorcraft Technology full-time (More than 5 years)
Work is challenging and interesting. Management does a great job at letting engineers loose on a project once trust is gained. Few needless presentations and meetings. Work is varied and very technical. Lots of freedom in terms of solving problems, can quickly become the SME in any topic, but you do have take the initiative. Friendly co-workers, no office politics at all.
Work is never dull. A very unique blends of academia and industry. Get to know the rotorcraft industry very well. Will never feel like a cog in the machine
Once proven can be very flexible with schedule
Would be hard for someone that needs constant guidance, management are also engineers, they like to play too.
No real process to bring a fresh engineer up to speed.
A few subject matter experts but since the company is small, the pool is small and most if the current employees have never worked out in 'industry' so perspectives might be a bit limited. Opportunity to learn can be hampered by the above.
Cost of living/base pay. One of the most expensive places to live in the country, and base pay is not proportional. The established engineers that are not management have to drive from Fremont if they want to own/rent a home. Not even an option for less experienced engineers.
Base pay is 15 to 25 % below market rate. Seems to be a bias in pay, freshly minted phds will make more than non PhD engineers with 5-10 years experience. BUT bonuses do bring much closer to market rate.
Can't attribute lower pay to malice or greed, got the feeling ownership really did it's best to compensate good work, it's just to cost of living part of the equation that makes things a bit difficult.
Bonuses were nice but changes in base pay are not consistent, went 40 months before first pay raise. Then got 3 in about a 18 month period.
They did not budge an inch during intial negotiations, even though I had classmates with similar resumes getting higher offers in lower cost of living locations.
Advice to Management
Keep treating employees well.
Look for talent outside normal pathways ie not just recommendations from professors at Penn State and Georgia tech. Plenty of very good hands on engineers that may not have stellar gpas and went to a top 10 engineering school. Consider if a newly minted PhD contributes more than a veteran engineer.
Keep work challenging and interesting.
While management very well understands how niche their market is there are still tangential areas that can lead to some growth but it requires a bit of risk.
The first raise/review really does frame how an employee views the company's total compensation philosophy. Do not let 3.5 years go by before giving a raise in base pay.
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