Cycorp Reviews | Glassdoor

Cycorp Reviews

Updated April 8, 2017
12 reviews

Filter

Filter

Full-time Part-time

3.2
Star Star Star Star Star
Rating Trends Rating Trends
Recommend to a friend
Approve of CEO
(no image)
Douglas Lenat
10 Ratings

12 Employee Reviews

Sort: Popular Rating Date

  1. "Amazing Company"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • 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
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

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

    Pros

    Actually trying to engineer a real AI that understands and reasons, not just statistically finds patterns, in order to make everyone smarter and thereby make the world a better place.
    Dozens of the nicest and most brilliant people I've ever met.
    Drama-free work environment in which everyone is treated professionally and fairly (despite what a few disgruntled trolls have said here in their reviews.)

    Cons

    Sometimes working on a project insulates me a bit from keeping up on some of the other projects going on.

    Advice to Management

    Keep up the good work! Recruiting world class talent is seen as job#1, and it should be, and retaining that talent and helping it grow is also their job#1.


  2. Helpful (6)

    "Meta-review"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Member of the Technical Staff in Austin, TX
    Former Employee - Member of the Technical Staff in Austin, TX
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Cycorp full-time

    Pros

    I haven't worked here for a while, but I do still occasionally follow the reviews of Cycorp. I imagine it must be confusing how the reviews kind of split into two groups that seem to describe two very different places. Maybe I can elucidate, at least from my perspective.

    Essentially, I don't think there's anything in any of the reviews on here that isn't *true*. As far as pros go, the work *is* very often challenging, invigorating, and rewarding, and there *is* a core group of employees who have been there for years, sometimes decades, none of whom are going anywhere else anytime soon, and they *are* all brilliant, no doubt some of the smartest people you are likely to come across in your career. If you're thinking about working here, it might be worth trying it just to come into contact with these people, if nothing else.

    Cons

    But. Then there is management. (Honestly, I'm thinking of one person in particular, who is an executive so I could name that person by name according to Glassdoor policy if I wanted to, but the company's so small that I'm just not comfortable going that small additional step. Let's just keep saying "management.")

    You might note for the most part none of the positive reviews address the comments about management that all the negative reviews share. May I submit that that silence should speak volumes to you.

    (A couple of exceptions exist, of course: one says something about "strong personalities." ...yeah, "strong" is not the word I would use. "Personality", yes, and it's very tempting to throw another word or two in there, but I'm not a psychologist. Then there's that other thing about being "overwhelmed by the requirements of excellence", which, in this context, is blame-the-victim rhetoric and borderline offensive.)

    Advice to Management

    I don't really have any advice. I've dealt with people like this before. (Again, I will stress that I am not a psychologist, but I call these people "narcissists.") They won't ever listen and they won't ever believe that they're doing anything wrong or that anything is their fault. Honestly I wouldn't have even bothered writing this if not for Glassdoor's 20 word minimum.


  3. Helpful (1)

    "Unemotional review of working at Cycorp"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • 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
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

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

    Pros

    Brilliant technical staff as co-workers, with varied backgrounds in Philosophy, Linguistics, Computer Science. Like med school in that it is hard to get in there but, if they hire you, they will work hard to help you succeed. Management takes policies seriously and is fair and open minded, and has a very frank how-the-company-is-doing monthly meeting with all the staff. Very stable and conservative fiscally, not like your typical startup. Almost no hierarchy, everyone is just a member of the technical staff, period.

    Cons

    Sometimes I got pigeonholed and had to ask to move to a new project. They expect you to either know your stuff going in, in particular first order logic, or learn it. This goes to some extent for programmers, too, not just people doing ontology work.

    Advice to Management

    Meet more one on one with each individual employee. Make the annual review process less time consuming. Lighten up a little on the security procedures, I know that security of intellectual property matters but sometimes this can be a drag, like having to log in again if I walk away from my desk for 15 minutes.


  4. Is this helpful? The community relies on everyone sharing – Add Anonymous Review


  5. Helpful (7)

    "Micromanagement + a Culture of Blame = Terrible Workplace"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Member of Technical Staff in Austin, TX
    Former Employee - Member of Technical Staff in Austin, TX
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

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

    Pros

    -Some of the most brilliant employees around, you can always learn from them
    -a noble goal, though the vision is marred by the necessities of keeping the company afloat

    Cons

    Extreme micromanagement - more so than any other job I have ever worked in - to the point of Management staring at your screen, trying (and failing) to tell how to do your job.

    A culture of blame. I have never been degraded to this extent, after having worked long hours and over weekends. Being told that I was to blame for past failures even though I had only joined a couple of months ago. Employees who remain, are broken beyond repair. Those who leave, end up in therapy.

    Abusive management, low pay, lots of unpaid overtime and secrecy rule the place. It is outrageous, until you leave, look back and see how ridiculous it was.

    Advice to Management

    Retire! If what you have set in motion is worthwhile, you won't be needed for its advancement - if not - let it die. No goal in life, including your self promotion, is worth destroying the creativity and lives of so many bright people.


  6. Helpful (2)

    "Participating in Realizing the Dream of a True AI"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Senior Systems Analyst in Austin, TX
    Former Employee - Senior Systems Analyst in Austin, TX
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at Cycorp full-time (More than 10 years)

    Pros

    After reading about the company's work in a computer magazine article, I joined the company in the Fall of 1998 and stayed there until the summer of 2013.
    Every piece of software I had written up to that point contained a little expert system of common sense in disguise (leap years, anyone?), and here was finally someone who was going to pull it out, make it declarative, and solve the reasoning problem once and for all.
    It was the only place I wanted to work at then and it still is.
    The place is chock full of smart people who are true to their word and who pull their own weight. Most people have been there for a decade or more.
    Management and the development staff are committed to making a dent in the AI problem, and they are willing to use every tool and trick in the book.
    During my fourteen years there, I got to use almost every piece of knowledge I learned in my CS undergrad days. In the last eighteen months before I left the company, I worked with many technologies considered "hip" these days, ranging from parallel frameworks (Hadoop, Akka, Gpars) to cloud computing (AWS, VMWare) to nonSQL (SimpleDB, Cassandra, Cloudbase). If it will make a true AI work, they will at least try to use it.
    (Disclaimer: I am still consulting for Cycorp.)

    Cons

    Because the company as a small number of people, everyone needs to be able to do a little bit of everything. That can sometimes distract from the work one likes to do (a bit like having to clean your room or wash the dishes).
    There are deadlines, and people will get anxious during those times.

    Advice to Management

    Hire more folks so that people can focus on what they are good at over what needs to be done.


  7. Helpful (6)

    "Most employees are great, company as a whole is often dysfunctional"

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

    I worked at Cycorp full-time

    Pros

    * Brilliiant, highly-educated colleagues
    * HR is very helpful and sympathetic
    * "Big Data" before Big Data was cool
    * If you like logic, this is one of the only places you'll use it on the job
    * I do believe the original big idea behind the Cyc project is still sound
    * They've been around for 19 years so they must be doing something right
    * Many of the employees have been there for more than a decade

    Cons

    * Upper management is unpleasant; it's usually only when they're upset about something and have only harsh criticism to offer that they interact with most employees. Personally, I got to the point where I would leave my desk to go to the bathroom or something if I heard them coming.

    * Working there often reminded me of the dynamic one sees in a family where one of the parents is an alcoholic or an unmedicated bipolar; there's a lot of walking on eggshells, denial, going privately to the latest victim of upper management's tirades to make sure they're OK, etc.

    * Ultimately, with management: in life one runs into people who are brilliant, driven, willing to destroy anything and anyone in their path towards their goals, and are generally complete hell to have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. You've probably met a few. Some people think it's worth putting up with people like that to learn from their ideas and share in their accomplishments. Other people think life is too short to be miserable. I'm the latter. I can only assume all the people who have been happy working there for a decade are the former.

    * Technology: It's very difficult to reconcile a project which is 30 years old, with a codebase that probably still has some original 30-year-old code in it, with the needs of modern software consumers, especially with a staff that has been doing things the same way for 10 years.


  8. Helpful (8)

    "Strange, awkward, and unpleasant."

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Software Engineer in Austin, TX
    Former Employee - Software Engineer in Austin, TX
    Doesn't Recommend

    Pros

    Austin, Texas is a wonderful place to live. Nice restaurants are nearby. The name of the corporation sounds great. That's about it.

    Cons

    Management is mean. Mobbing in the workplace. The technology is outdated and of little use. The pay is low. Few rewards for hard work.

    Advice to Management

    I would recommend selling your company to someone who knows something about Artificial Intelligence, has integrity, and shows respect for their workers.


  9. Helpful (3)

    "Intellectually Rewarding and Challenging Job"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • 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 Cycorp full-time (More than 10 years)

    Pros

    I work at Cycorp primarily as an ontologist, which means I get to represent facts and theories in a logical language (CycL) and put those theories to use in the form of query-driven, inference-engine-backed programs we develop for customers. Because Cyc is a general-purpose AI program, we are virtually unconstrained as to the kinds of projects and problems we take on. As a result, with each new project, I have the opportunity to learn about and gain a moderate level of expertise in a new subject-area, almost like being in graduate school, but without the tests and papers. Because the CycL language is so expressive, I never feel over-constrained or limited by the tools at my disposal when representing theories or crafting inference paths. The work can be difficult, and requires focus, intellectual curiosity, and the ability to think both logically and creatively. These requirements make for an environment that is both challenging and rewarding, intellectually.

    Cons

    Cycorp is a small company, and everyone on the technical staff is on relatively equal footing with respect to responsibilities, so there is little opportunity to "climb the ladder" here (which is why I only give Cycorp a 3-star rating for "Career Opportunities").
    Cycorp executes its projects with extreme agility, so tasks and milestones can be dropped, extended, or added at what might seem like a moment's notice. This way of doing things isn't for everybody - certainly not for those with a pure nine-to-five mindset.


  10. Helpful (5)

    "Bad Practices, Good People."

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

    Pros

    Take the following cons below with a grain of salt. My perspective is a bit skewed for reasons unrelated to the job.
    Pros
    * Cycorp's staff and leadership are all good people. They are amazing, bright, and willing to help each other out.
    * Cycorp's compensation and work environment are top notch.
    * Cycorp is a great place if you want to take initiative and create software that *you* know will bring value to the organization. This can make it an oddly good fit for someone looking to build their resume with added responsibilities and projects, but not so much for someone just beginning a development career and looking for mentorship.
    * Cycorp will give you time for professional development. (Though they might not understand why you may choose to read, say, a "pragmatic programming" book rather than a book on formal logic in AI development written in the early 1980s.)
    * Cycorp is trying to improve on all the cons I list below.

    Cons

    * Cycorp does not use software development best practices, such as:
      * There is no software development methodology. No Agile, Not even Waterfall. Project development is ad-hoc and specifications are nebulous, not written down, and in short, are subject to whims of change, as the "urgent feature" requested one day might be the "ugly bug" needing immediate removal on the next.
      * Scores low on the Joel Test, and passes some only by technicality:
        ** Uses outdated SVN source control. Better than no version control, but does not enable rapid iteration.
        ** While components have nightly builds, final products do not.
        ** New features are requested often before old bugs have been fixed.
        ** Developers have little control over the tools they use and their work environments, to the point that Linux users do not have sudo. <-- improving, though.
        ** Most projects are created without a specification or schedule. <-- improving, though.
        ** New candidates are not necessarily asked to code during interview. <-- improving, though.
    * Cycorp tends to have developers work solo. While this does give programmers a chance to get work done in silence, it also means that development is primarily done by individuals, not by teams.
    * Not a lot of opportunity for mentorship, as stated above.
    * For non-developers, upper management really doesn't understand how to get the best out of talented people, assigning crucial non-technical staff technical assignments. This (hopefully) will change very soon.
    * Until recently, there has been no marketing department whatsoever, which means that products were conceived and years of development spent on them without trying to figure out if there's even room for the product in the marketplace. Some products are so badly designed that their flaws are obvious, but because there have been years of development spent on them, the project continues.

    Advice to Management

    The company needs leadership that can force the company to adopt best practices, it needs leadership that understands the value of product design and development, and most of all, the management needs to understand that they are not an expert in all things and to listen to experts.


  11. Helpful (7)

    "horrible place to work"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • 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 Cycorp full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    There is nothing good about this place. NOT working there is the best pro you have. I wish I never accepted the offer. Beware the reviews on this place are real.

    Cons

    They will treat you like a child and blame you for everything that is wrong. He will also talk about you behind your back. Could have some head problems he needs to deal with.

    Advice to Management

    Take the time to welcome new staff. Be more open and friendly.


Showing 12 of 12 reviews
Reset Filters