Exponent Reviews | Glassdoor

Exponent Reviews

Updated May 4, 2017
98 reviews

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Full-time Part-time

3.4
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Exponent President, CEO, and Director Paul R. Johnston
Paul R. Johnston
48 Ratings

98 Employee Reviews

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Pros
  • Interesting projects: the variety of projects that the company takes on is impressive, and exposes you to many new things (in 14 reviews)

  • It is possible to have "work life balance" at Exponent if you don't care that much about advancement (in 6 reviews)

Cons
  • No respect for work-life balance (in 9 reviews)

  • If upper management doesn't know you or doesn't like you for some reason, advancement can be very difficult (in 9 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. "Great work-life balance"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    Current Employee - Senior Associate in Oakland, CA
    Current Employee - Senior Associate in Oakland, CA

    Pros

    People are smart, fun and young, work-life balance, reasonable compensation, potential for growth, flexibility on work location, great office location (Oakland office),

    Cons

    It can be hard to figure out how to move up; business development is not well passed along to lower level employees

    Advice to Management

    Provide more business development work sessions


  2. Helpful (2)

    "A Fantastic Environment"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Senior Associate in Menlo Park, CA
    Former Employee - Senior Associate in Menlo Park, CA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

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

    Pros

    Surrounded by intelligence, At times I literally felt there was no problem that couldn't be solved. Exponent gives you all the tools you need to develop a successful consulting career and for those that have no experience when they begin the mentoring relationship that occurs once new associates are assigned to a manager is like an extension of graduate school. I highly recommend if you are highly technical but would like to expand into the business world.

    Cons

    The first raise could be higher. There are only five opportunities for promotion and the first one was a small adjustment.

    Advice to Management

    Continue to build a well rounded group of associates and try to minimize overlapping skillsets to create more of an atmosphere of collaboration. I believe it already is like that but more diversity could improve the team dynamic.


  3. "Tough, rewarding, and a huge variety of work"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Technician in Menlo Park, CA
    Current Employee - Technician in Menlo Park, CA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

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

    Pros

    Variety, projects with significance, lots of room to grow and learn more skills

    Cons

    Employee retention is poor in some groups, poor work life balance if you can't say "no" to more work, disconnect between upper management and consultants

    Advice to Management

    Work on employee retention, work-life-balance, guidance for growth, and remove the one way mirror between consultants and upper management


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  5. Helpful (1)

    "Senior Associate"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Menlo Park, CA
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Menlo Park, CA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at Exponent full-time

    Pros

    Great people across a variety of different disciplines. Great opportunity to gain expertise and pivot into areas you might not have considered. It's a great place to be if you genuinely want to be a technical consultant.

    Cons

    Random hours, utilization can be inconsistent. Comp was out of sync with what engineers in the Valley make. Very little company culture.

    Advice to Management

    There's fairly high turnover in talent. This is a necessary part of any professional services firm, but some of the most capable talent get lured away by the other opportunities in the area.


  6. "Sr. Associate"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Design Engineer/Test Engineer in Scottsdale, AZ
    Former Employee - Design Engineer/Test Engineer in Scottsdale, AZ
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at Exponent (More than 10 years)

    Pros

    Good Pay, great work environment. Best career path there is to be pro-active in getting work for future consultancy

    Cons

    Better have a PH.D or you are just a cog in the wheel. Having a P.E. is helpful

    Advice to Management

    Expand the mentoring program to help employees down the career path


  7. "great company to develop consulting skills"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Scientist in Los Angeles, CA
    Current Employee - Scientist in Los Angeles, CA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    Flexible hours: most people work normal hours, but if you need some time to do your own thing, that's fine.
    Intelligent co-workers: you're surrounding by PhD's that are good at what they do.
    Interesting projects: the variety of projects that the company takes on is impressive, and exposes you to many new things

    Cons

    Random deadlines: they can come up out of nowhere, and can sink your nights/weekends.
    Sporadic workflow: sometime's that just the nature of this business.

    Advice to Management

    If you're going to recruit employees straight out of college, it would help to provide benefits similar to those offered at start-up companies that would be more appealing to young professionals.


  8. Helpful (13)

    "First job after Engineering PhD. Left after 7 years."

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Managing Engineer in Menlo Park, CA
    Former Employee - Managing Engineer in Menlo Park, CA
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    Pros

    If I had to do it all over again, I would absolutely take the job; but I would come in to Exponent with a 3 to 6 year exit plan.

    -Worked with collection of the smartest and most driven scientists and engineers I've ever met. Some of them were very fun to work with.
    -Work was often exciting and relevant to big news stories.
    -Grew "soft skills" including writing, marketing, and client management.
    -In theory, hours could be flexible, as long as work got done.
    -Big name clients offered interesting full time employee options.
    -Solicited by head-hunters for interesting full time employment options.
    -Exponent paid for certification testing (e.g. P.E. license) and associated continuing education courses or materials.
    -Mentors were easy to find in the early days.

    Cons

    -Work required being on-call almost 24-7. In my experience this became more true as time went on.
    -Travel (flying with at least one overnight stay) with less than a week notice (sometimes same day) was very typical and occurred several times per year.
    -Was not uncommon for consulting staff to quit within a year.
    -Moral drops after the "novelty" of project work wears off.
    -No monetary incentive for mentors.
    -No training on how to be a "manager" associated with being promoted to "manager".
    -Mentors were harder to find and less useful after a few years.

    Advice to Management

    My advice: Be more transparent with how turn-over in the junior consulting staff can be a good thing for both Exponent and the junior staff. This job opens a lot of doors for full time positions at big-name client companies for the junior staff. When employees leave for those positions, it can strengthen the relationship between that client and Exponent. Rather than telling junior staff, "We want you to make Principal some day" (which I'm betting on the order of 1 in 100 or less actually do), tell the junior staff, "We want you to grow in your career path and maintain a positive relationship with Exponent." That's a more truthful and healthy mantra.


  9. "Excellent Company and Culture"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Manager in Oakland, CA
    Current Employee - Manager in Oakland, CA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

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

    Pros

    Flexible working hours, extremely intelligent and personable staff, good office location and lots of interesting work.

    Cons

    Sometimes you can be asked to do tasks that require you go above and beyond, but you are rewarded for that. Overall, no severe "Cons."

    Advice to Management

    The company culture could be beefed up a bit more, but beyond that, Great Work!


  10. Helpful (25)

    "white-collar slavery"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Managing Engineer in San Francisco, CA
    Former Employee - Managing Engineer in San Francisco, CA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook

    Pros

    - breadth of technical problems one is exposed to, at the "associate" through "senior engineer" level.
    - camaraderie of the staff.
    - management support to try new ideas, especially wrt business development.

    Cons

    - business development rules the day. Technical excellence is very secondary (pretty much taken for granted). With most projects spanning a period of one to two years, there's only so much technical depth that can be required anyway.
    - there's only one career path: associate-engineer-manager-principal. The key to growth is to find new clients. That's it. It was always a bit paradoxical to me why they shopped for new Ph.D. recruits at Stanford-MIT-Caltech, when the skill sets honed at those places really aren't needed at Exponent, and in fact the brainy-introvert type that goes there doesn't typically do particularly well at selling, or "ambulance-chasing" (get used to that ugly expression). Simple MBA's or marketing types (from anywhere), with an engineering BS/MS makes a lot more sense imho.
    - be prepared for soul crushing hours. Family-compromising situations, with lots of very last minute schedule changes that require you to stay there. Example:I recall receiving a call at 5pm on a quiet Friday, when nothing happened all day, and ended up having to spend an all-nighter at the office, and most of the weekend, despite having out-of-town guests at home. To be fair, Exponent tries to reward this (financially) the best they can (overtime pay at the lower levels; yearly bonuses beyond that), and I received a promotion partly based on my performance on that one project. But don't expect to get the next week off just because you worked 40 hours in three days. Saying 'no' just because you told your daughter you were going camping at the beach that weekend pretty much spells career death. To put it all in perspective, ten years later: that promotion/bonus didn't get me that far, and I still cringe at the thought that I blew off my family...
    - Company is arguably built as a 'pyramid scheme'. An entry-level associate will have a 'multiplier' (defined as your hourly billing rate to the client, divided by your hourly salary) of about 4-4.5. So if you make $50/hr the client gets billed $200/hr, or so. A principal will be at around 1.5-2.5. The remaining 3-hours hourly salary rate of the entry-level engineer go to 'pay for the lights' - or so they say. But someone has to subsidize the top echelon's hefty bonuses. You get the picture.
    - As with every company, it gets more and more financially rewarding as you go up (principal-level required), but it's exponential here in many ways (maybe where the name comes from? :) It becomes easier to attract and nurture new clients (e.g., if you're an office director, even in a small office, all new client calls go straight to you, no matter how the prospective client got the office number, so 'marketing' pretty much takes care of itself). Again, this is essential in this business. If you don't have your own portfolio of clients (soooo hard to establish, especially at the beginning when your multiplier is so high, that many never get anywhere with that.), you will feel that you serve at the pleasure of your immediate manager, who provides those clients and projects to you. There's no job security, no matter how long you've been there. If you cross him/her, watch out. I've seen heads roll from excellent technical engineers, who had been there for more than 5 years, for the stupidest of reasons. Conversely, I've seen dubiously competent ones, but with good marketing skills and a continuous stream of clients, get away with murder... And they're still there. Project this far into the future and who do you think will surround you?
    - lab and research facilities are only so-so. Nothing like a good university lab. Phoenix has the most extensive ones; others pretty much buy as they go, or rent others facilities.
    - making matters worse for the new entry-level folks managing their first few projects, some VPs have a habit of tacking a 'tax' on projects they brought in to their own practice. [The Materials and Corrosion Group VP's name is even sometime used to identify the tax!] Basically, adding a few hours here and there, with little to no value added to the project, so that their 'utilization' (fraction of hours worked, based on a 40 hour week, when they are 'billable', or billing to a project) looks good at the end of the year. [Get used to this word also, utilization, or 'UT' for short. UT is an essential metric at Exponent, at all levels. You'll be expected to maintain an average annual UT of 80%, or 32 hours a week of billable work. No, this is not possible while working only 40 hours consistently. Vacations/holidays get factored in as 0% UT, of course, and bring the average down.] So, putting aside the obvious ethical questions this brings up, it makes your projects that much more difficult to manage: you have to talk to the client at the end of the month and explain why he/she is getting billed $40k for that analysis! Enjoy.

    Advice to Management

    MANAGEMENT:
    Be honest with what you are looking for: people who can attract new business, and take care of it. The second part is easy (they can always pawn-off the actual work). The first part is really what you want the most. That's all you really want. Maybe at some point you'll get to where you need to hire purely technical staff and offer them a new career path, but that's a long way off.
    - if you want to keep hiring purely technical PhD engineers, at least highlight two productive career paths, for different types of candidates:
    > For fresh PhDs, burned-out on research: this may be better than a postdoc. Pay will be about 2-3 times higher than postdoc. Problems will be varied, and some will even be technically challenging, and the end will always be in sight. But set your calendar with a 2-year clock warning: time to bail! You can still go to academia after that and claim some industry experience, or go work in a number of industries with some very relevant experience. There's no point in staying longer than that if you are not the marketing type. Management: maybe come up with a marketing number that makes the threshold clear, e.g., "you must bring in $1M worth of projects, on your own". Don't let them stay if they don't reach it! Or everybody looses.
    > For late/mid career consultants joining the firm: this path may make some sense. Must come in at the Principal level, with a roster of established clients. Exponent will treat you well - you'll be at the top of the pyramid right away! - and will have access to many excellent young technical people to work on your projects with you, so this may be more relaxing that at an individual, small firm. Maybe you can even improve the corporate culture there...

    NEW HIRES:
    - If you are looking to start at the bottom and move up... Well... it's been done. And the company will be eager to list plenty of examples of it (meaning a few dozen individuals, all extremely successful and seemingly happy, at the Principal/VP level). But there's been thousands of people who went through these doors, all with credentials as good or better than yours. Many (most?) stayed too long and left miserable. You've been warned.


  11. Helpful (12)

    "Construction Practice - Revenue Matters More Than People"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Associate in Oakland, CA
    Former Employee - Associate in Oakland, CA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

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

    Pros

    The Construction Consulting practice has a diverse office, with a refreshingly large number of women in management positions. There is ample access to industry experts with opportunities for informal mentoring (Exponent's mentoring program only accepts employees with 2 years at the company).

    Depending on the contracts assigned, work schedules are fairly flexible, though this not always the case for entry-level employees. Working from home is acceptable, when approved beforehand.

    Good project experience for recent graduates, although the day-to-day tasks are dull and repetitive. Paid overtime, however management treats this as a "bonus", which it is not.

    Cons

    Since the company is publicly traded, management is primarily concerned with revenue, and treats all other aspects of business as extraneous. Junior employees are commanded to achieve unreasonably high billable hours / total hours (utilization), to the detriment of 'overhead' activities. These include professional (licenses/certifications, industry groups/society meetings and conferences, publications) and people development (mentoring/training, team building, career planning). These activities are expected to be addressed off of the clock, with minimal impact to the employee's utilization. This results in entry level employees being "nose to the grindstone" at all times, with little time to give to business development, recruiting, research opportunities, or even work with other practices. Meanwhile, senior management is allowed to have low utilization because of business development efforts, but since the organization is so top heavy, this affects the profit margin of the practice adversely, and directors admonish us to get utilization back up.

    Overtime is required at the Associate and Senior Associate level; lower level employees always work on multiple projects, but are also expected to support any random request that a manager sends along. This is not well communicated at the outset, but becomes integral to promotion and is used as the basis for raises and bonuses.

    The promotion cycle is strictly once a year, and is not a 360 review. Management does round tables to discuss lower level employees, and awards raises and bonuses based on the cumulative opinion of the worker. This a very subjective process that allows personal perception to outweigh technical performance.

    As long as utilization is high and the employee is seen by most managers as a team player, hard worker, and client pleaser, a small reward is given. Raises are not generous (1-3%), and bonuses are based off of revenue (~10% of base salary if you get one). Junior employees rarely get projects assigned to them, so little revenue is attributed to them, so bonuses are usually modest, too. Base compensation is not considered competitive by most employees in the practice, including managers. Negotiate salary before accepting; if your number is outside of their range for a position, they may offer you a higher level position if you have the requisite experience.

    The practice has very high turnover (12 people in 2 years). Reasons given that pertain to the company: dislike of the major client, little room for advancement, unsatisfactory management style, and dislike of daily duties.

    The Construction Consulting practice has an unhealthy work environment for junior employees, as they are treated as chattel to be traded among projects as needed. Due to the high turnover, these transitions occur frequently, and are usually too quick and not well communicated to the client. Associates are expected to onboard new hires and train new employees while continuing to manage their usual tasks, while also participating in recruiting efforts and addressing ad hoc requests. There is little respect given to schedule or current commitments.

    Feedback, when given directly rather than passed down the chain to a supervisor, is laced with inappropriate observations about personality and character disguised as career advice. Upper management is extremely absent, and fosters no relationship with lower level employees. Management laments the high turnover and low morale, but takes no action to improve the work environment or give space for employee feedback.

    Advice to Management

    Those at the top should be present in the office more than once every couple of weeks. They should schedule regular meetings with their staff to address issues, discuss satisfaction with the job, and plan career next steps. This is not solely the responsibility of managers, but should be done at the senior manager and director level, too; continuing to ignore your employees will result in continuing turnover problems.

    The review cycle should not be a set-in-stone annual affair. Employees should be recognized and rewarded as their accomplishments happen. Peer reviews should go both up and down, so management gets written feedback on their performance, too.

    Allow your employees a time/space to vent that isn't a bar. Happy hours don't make people happy, being listened to does.

    Implement 360 reviews, learn more about toxic elements in your management, and implement solid change measures to show your employees that you care about their happiness, opinion, and future at the company.


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