Coursera Reviews | Glassdoor

Coursera Reviews

Updated July 8, 2017
59 reviews

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3.8
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Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda
Jeff Maggioncalda
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59 Employee Reviews

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Pros
  • Coursera is a mission-driven organization (in 9 reviews)

  • There is an incredible density of smart people who are dedicated to making education available for free to everyone in the world (in 5 reviews)

Cons
  • Lots of incompetent middle managers (in 6 reviews)

  • The business model has been a struggling issue since the beginning of the company (in 5 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. Featured Review

    Helpful (1)

    "Best gig I've had so far"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Director in Mountain View, CA
    Current Employee - Director in Mountain View, CA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Coursera full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    I've worked at >5 companies in Silicon Valley including Google, and Coursera is my favorite by far. Here's why:

    1) Coursera is not too big and not too small. At ~300 people, the company is in the "goldilocks zone," size-wise. It's not so big that you feel insulated from the market and like a cog in a big machine. It's not so small that you have to wear lots of different functional hats and you lack the functional support that you need to do your primary role well. At Coursera, you have good cross-functional support, you know all/most of your colleagues, and you can stay close to customers, learners, etc.

    2) Coursera is a mission-driven organization. All/most people who are here wouldn't be here if they didn't have a strong sense of urgency about the transformative role that high quality, accessible education/learning can have for the world. This attitude manifests in objective discussions and debates that are focused on determine the right course of action to accomplish the mission vs. ego-driven discussions about people's subjective opinions. People do have opinions, but they take a back seat to facts and alignment around those facts.

    3) Coursera is a super inclusive organization. True openness to hearing everyone's ideas and taking them into consideration is somewhat rare in Silicon Valley. Executives often pay lip service to inclusivity regardless of level, quite often focusing on promoting their own agenda and perspectives. At Coursera, the executive team genuinely seeks employees' perspectives and opinions. Ultimately they can't make decisions that everyone is happy with, but they generally seek to understand diverse perspectives before making a final decision. Sometimes decisions get re-opened and re-examined in response to people's considerations, which I think is healthy but can be a little frustrating sometimes as well.

    Cons

    We are a 5 year old startup and we have multiple "startups within a startup" – as such we are learning as we go and it's not a smooth ride. Anyone who wants structure, consistency and predictability in their daily jobs may have a tough time here.

    If you don't feel SUPER EXCITED about the Coursera mission, don't bother applying – this isn't really a con per se but is important for potential applicants to understand.

    Part of being inclusive is valuing all functions equally. Often functions in companies have a clear hierarchy (e.g. at Google it's engineering über alles). At Coursera, There is no clear hierarchy which can make the strategic decision-making process messier. I personally love the fact that "everyone's voice counts," but some people may be frustrated by the duel-edged sword nature of an evenly balanced power structure.

    Advice to Management

    1) Keep your mission focus with financial sustainability as a means to the end, not vice-versa.
    2) Continue to emphasize diversity and inclusion both in hiring and in making key decisions.
    3) Don't let the "On My Mind" series lapse or become impersonal/inauthentic.


  2. Helpful (1)

    "Amazing co-workers but subpar management"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Software Engineer in Mountain View, CA
    Former Employee - Software Engineer in Mountain View, CA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

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

    Pros

    I love most of the people at Coursera. They're really quirky, fun, and wicked smart to work with. In the early days it's also really satisfying to work in a company that provides free education. The benefits are really great too. A small gym, free food, and proximity to Mountain View Castro makes it even better. The mission to provide education to the world is amazing, although it's a bit sad to see that it's not a non-profit, and leaning towards money money money these days.

    Cons

    The business model has been a struggling issue since the beginning of the company. This is mostly due to conflicting goals of providing free education and making tons of money. There is a strong clique of ivies so if you're not one of them, you're an outsider. Politics is rampant. Watch out for groups with huge turnover rates, just google search for "24 tech companies losing talent at an astonishing rate" and you'll see. Many original people left in disgust and left for other tier-1 companies nearby, which have more mature managers, much better compensations, and more interesting work.

    Advice to Management

    We've already burned through 2 co-founders and an outside CEO, and it's clear that academics do not make good managers. When people problems arise, these academics are reluctant to step in (e.g. "this is below my level" syndrome). Middle management is young, immature, incapable, and often times rude. They're promoted because they used to know the professors who founded Coursera. The best advice is to provide manager trainings, remove leaders who are there thanks to nepotism, and fire jerks ASAP.

    As they say, if you can't beat them, join them. Tons of wonderful people left, so maybe it's not a bad idea to cut your loses and leave too.

  3. Helpful (1)

    "Fun cultture"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    Mission Driven
    Fun loving
    Young
    Diverse
    Work life balance
    Kind culture
    Supportive
    Flexible

    Cons

    Not very innovative
    Slow paced
    Limited cross functional collaboration
    Salary and stock options lower


  4. Helpful (5)

    "Struggle with working here"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Mountain View, CA
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Mountain View, CA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Coursera full-time

    Pros

    Mission driven culture. Sometimes you come across great, thoughtful team members and Courserians. Learner stories are inspiring. Our ERG groups have a great community around them.

    Cons

    I'm pretty sure my salary is lower than the market rate after doing more research. Some teams are pitted against each other. Sometimes other people are downright rude... the way I've been talked to and berated by others here is not respectful, helpful, or okay. Lots of privileged employees who went to ivies and/or elite west coast colleges and think they're so special and important, even just a few years out of college or less. Too many hours are expected of us for the stage of company. New managers need more training.

    Advice to Management

    I'm excited to see what the new CEO brings. Don't tolerate a culture of jerks, entitlement, and us versus them. Invest in manager training and leadership training. Communicate more outside of All Hands.


  5. Helpful (1)

    "Great place to Work"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Mountain View, CA
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Mountain View, CA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    Talented and smart ppl all around. Core pillars truly reflect in day to day interactions.

    Cons

    Growth challenges, but guess there is a good attention to address issues.

    Advice to Management

    Continue to care of people.


  6. Helpful (2)

    "Zero accountability"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Engineering Manager
    Current Employee - Engineering Manager
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I have been working at Coursera full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    Glassdoor says I have to list some pros, but all of cons out weigh the pros.

    Cons

    * There is zero accountability for the success and failures of large cross-functional initiatives, because of this nothing changes and projects continue to fail.
    * Everything is being driven by the sales people while internal everyone scrambles to react to adhoc requests. There is nothing close to order, only chaos.
    * Lazy dead weight employees in engineering
    * No CTO. Engineering has to report to Product. Product managers have zero background in education, educational technology or even a software engineering background. Of all of the product managers, you'd think there would be one!
    * HR/People Org keeps writing fake reviews to bring up the ratings. The majority of people hate it here. Fix the problem instead of covering it up.

    Advice to Management

    Assign someone responsible for the success and failure of a particular product line


  7. Helpful (3)

    "Great company for engineers"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Coursera full-time

    Pros

    - Good cash compensation for low-mid level engineers
    - Large amounts of autonomy on how to solve problems
    - Lots of very smart engineers and interesting systems to learn from
    - Recent focus on profit means the company seems to be fairly successful at growing revenue
    - Very nice, very smart, very nerdy people

    I strongly recommend Coursera for engineers (especially new grads but it's good for all experience levels). It's not the same company it was a few years ago and you might be disappointed if you're driven by the mission of education for everyone, but it's a great place to learn.

    Cons

    - Poor compensation on everything else (stock, 401k, benefits)
    - Have lost a lot of the quirky culture over the past few years, and the company feels very corporate now. Still pay lip service to "mission-driven" but it doesn't feel authentic, and just overall feels less fun - much more safe and predictable.
    - many of the best engineers have left recently
    - Senior management changes strategies often and doesn't seem to have good justification for new strategies. Highly reactive without a strong inspiring vision
    - It's a small thing, but the food is pretty bad

    Advice to Management

    Choose a vision for the company and stick to it. Hold PMs and managers accountable.

  8. "Great start-up environment!"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Coursera full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    Ability to influence and make a difference in the company and via the mission

    Cons

    Nothing unexpected given its a start up on a bold mission

    Advice to Management

    Push your teams to be more innovative.


  9. Helpful (5)

    "The best place I have ever worked, hands down!"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Coursera full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    I honestly don't even know where to start. I don't say things like this lightly, but this is an amazing company filled with, by far, the best people I have ever had the privilege to work with. Prior to Coursera, I worked for a few startups of various sizes and stages and one large, well-known company. Those companies could only have dreamed of having a group of people as smart, driven, articulate, talented, collaborative, and happy as the people at Coursera.

    A few things:

    — They are creating career paths for those on the technical side. I have never seen so much effort, especially at a company of this size, put towards creating ways for employees to grow.

    — Cross-functional collaboration is HUGE and you can easily get access anyone in the company you need to talk to.

    — If you have an idea, some guts, and a good case, it's possible to make a big impact.

    — Minor in the grand scheme, but lunch and dinner are excellent. Also, we have no meeting Wednesday and many people work from home.

    — I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm very happy with compensation and benefits.

    — A+++++ work/life balance. I was shocked to find out people actually use their unlimited vacation.

    — In my experience, everyone I have encountered in management, including C-levels, are approachable and smart, yet humble. There's no ego here.

    I decided to post after I saw some previous reviews (that look like they were written by the same person). I don't doubt that person had a less than positive experience, but that is not even remotely close to the company I know.

    Cons

    My only complaint (and this is something of which many are aware) is that in such a collaborative environment, we have A LOT of meetings. The best way to handle it is to say no when you need to actually get stuff done. People understand.

    This can be seen as a pro or a con, but I believe people need to be self-directed and self-motivated to be successful at Coursera. Also, priorities can change pretty quickly. Although there is a clear product roadmap, sometimes things don't work as expected and you need to adjust. That's just the nature of technology companies.

    Again, this can go both ways, but we work with some amazing institutions. This shouldn't be surprising, but universities don't move as fast or as open to change as people at a Silicon Valley startup would like. I bet some of the comments of slower-than-ideal forward momentum are tied to that.

    Advice to Management

    Keep listening to what the users want.

    Continue focusing on building a great, collaborative culture.


  10. Helpful (7)

    "No room for growth; poor leadership"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

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

    Pros

    - Most employees are amazing people
    - Lunch and dinner daily
    - Free CalTrain pass

    Cons

    - No room for advancement. Salary consultants set salary bands too low and now many people are stuck in limbo unable to get raises, because they are now above their pay band.
    - People complained about incompetent management, so Coursera stopped giving opportunities to individual contributors to become managers. The bad ones are still there.
    - Lack of innovation. Changing the face of education is about more than just throwing courses online and experimenting with pricing. It's NOT working. Invest in your platform. Do something different.
    - Incredible rates of churn of employees. Many founding members have left the company and that says everything.
    - New head count is going to all of the wrong teams creating massive imbalance.

    Advice to Management

    - Wake up. Your people are leaving en masse. Pay people what they are worth. Help them grow in their career. Stop working them to the bone until they leave.
    - Distribute headcount strategically and efficiently.
    - Train the managers you have or bin them. Don't let a few bad apple spoil an amazing growth opportunity for your employees.
    - Make online education innovative again.
    - Fix your problems instead of resting on your laurels.


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