Great Minds (DC) Reviews | Glassdoor

Great Minds (DC) Reviews

Updated November 7, 2018
22 reviews

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Great Minds (DC) CEO, President and Executive Director Lynne Munson
Lynne Munson
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  1. "Great Company, Great Co-Workers"

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

    I have been working at Great Minds (DC) full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    I enjoy going to work everyday, seeing my co-workers and what I do for the company. Its a fun environment and makes you want to work hard.

    Cons

    The commute can be tough

    Advice to Management

    keep it up


  2. Helpful (10)

    "Strong Product; Hard-working Employees; Out of Touch Execs"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook

    I worked at Great Minds (DC) full-time

    Pros

    Employees are intelligent and incredibly hard-working. I never ran across anyone who was lazy or willfully unhelpful.

    Strong product - intelligent curriculum that all employees are very proud of - rightfully so.

    Cons

    The maxim is that a coherent, thriving organizational culture is a direct result of great leadership (i.e., the CEO and compatible C-suite), which results in an engaged, productive workforce. In these environments of strong culture employees believe in the company's mission as well as how the company operates.

    Herein lies the gulf to "greatness" at Great Minds - the essential "great leadership" part of this equation.

    Ten years ago, the founder started something that was ahead of its time, and she took leaps and did things against the odds. Those times have passed, and the organization is quite behind the curve in many regards. However, top brass arrogance impedes progress to the detriment of the organization.

    Now, understandably, senior leadership should sing from the same song sheet, not having fractious arguments at every turn. But this top group barely entertains ideas that are different from their old-school way of thinking, despite courting professionals with recent proven successes.

    There are quite a few standard ways of operating in 2018 that Great Minds has started and then disassembled, which hurts progress. Firstly, by stopping and starting, and secondly, by not operating with current business procedures and practices in place.

    Overall, Great Minds is not soundly aware of competitors, where it stands in the marketplace, nor its strengths and weaknesses. There have been recent efforts to get better market intel, but many of these efforts were quite biased and weren't deeply interested in a honest assessment. In many ways, some of these efforts were an attempt to pat the organization on the back on where they are currently. Other companies do a better job of marketplace analysis and internalization of that information.

    In this vein, the top execs are immensely proud of being a curriculum that is created "by teachers for teachers," and there seems to be little awareness of how many products make that same claim. This is in fact not a differentiator - even if it's true. Potential customers hear this from everyone.

    Great Minds is technologically behind in two significant ways.

    The organization does not have a road map that keeps pace with society's wants and expectations of a digital classroom. Great Minds' offering is exactly where today's classrooms are today, but the product isn't evolving to the next generation of leaders' expectations. In this regard, they will have their lunch eaten by competitors.

    Secondly, internally, the company has a number of technological systems that are disparate or barely duct-taped together. Executives have wanted something done "quickly," and as a result thoroughness, thoughtfulness, care and consideration have not been part of the implementation.

    Great Minds' technical debt will catch up to it, and the company will falter by failing to meet market demands as well as failing customers.

    The organization moves at a glacial pace. Decision-making and even execution get mired down by all the cooks invited to the kitchen in addition to the constant rotation of employees and consultants weighing in and dropping out.

    Unfortunately, because quite a few people have come and gone in fairly short stints, the organization doesn't have the benefit of long-term vision and execution on all roads. Decisions are made about a particular direction. Employees come in, then leave, and new people join, and the road being paved is questioned, halted, abandoned.

    This leads to another matter -- there are a lot of people at this organization currently looking for another job. Sure, it's currently a good economy with lots of opportunities out there, but these searches are due to frustrations, not purely opportunistic.

    Great Minds is NOT customer-centric. Individual employees care a lot about individual customers, because the employees are good-hearted, caring people. But don't mistake good people for organizational DNA. Great Minds is not set up to help and enable customers. Successful customers help themselves and rely on help and enablement from other customers -- not Great Minds.

    HR reps are incredibly nice, but do not do much for employees are not wholly trusted by employees.

    A top exec in leadership said to me, "We are just not a metrics-driven company." Many at Great Minds might balk at this statement, like I did. (It is 2018 after all, who is not metrics-driven?) However, taking a moment to pause, this exec was, in fact, calling it as it is. When numbers and metrics support the way the very top sees things, then the numbers are used as support. But if the numbers and metrics do not support the vision and direction, then they are slanted, faddish or irrelevant and are ignored.

    What employees say and whisper in the halls is that revenue is coming in and at record numbers, but there is quiet concern about margin and making smart business decisions that are actually growing the business.

    It was alarming to be in an environment where compensation is not at all competitive, and yet there are areas where budgets were ignored, lots of consultants were hired (sometimes of overlapping requirements with disregard for leveraging agreements already in place).

    As stated at the beginning, the head of any organization steers the ship, and that steering trickles down to even the most junior employee trying to swim up-stream through the approvals of their managers and against the tumultuous waters.

  3. Helpful (5)

    "A very mixed bag, trending towards bad"

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

    I worked at Great Minds (DC) full-time

    Pros

    - Great experience for a young professional
    - Hard working, driven lower level employees
    - Great products
    - Location

    Great Minds has some of the most hard working, caring, and driven people that I have ever met. The company is held together largely by entry level employees and lower management and these employees do great work. Due to the amount of responsibility thrown on lower level management entry level employees, Great Minds is a good company for a young professional looking for an opportunity to grow quickly. The products that are created and sold are also good products that seem to have a positive impact on classrooms.

    Cons

    - Out of touch C-Suite
    - Terrible cross department communication
    - Bad pay
    - Insanely high turnover
    - Little work life balance
    - No company pride or culture

    Despite Great Minds having incredibly hard working lower level employees (including lower management), the company is plagued by an out of touch senior staff, a lack of structure at any level, and a complete absence of communication between departments. While the company has grown substantially in the last years, the lack of structure and communication cannot be excused and has been a burden on countless lower level employees.

    The messy upper levels of Great Minds aside, their is also a lack of care for the lower level employees. Pay at Great Minds is not good to start with, and often promotions come with more responsibilities and not a lot of monetary increases. These employees are often severely underpaid.

    Despite calling itself a "non-profit," there is almost no planning from upper management to do charity events. If any type of philanthropy comes from the company, it often comes from motivated individuals and not the company itself.

    Finally there is a lack of company culture at Great Minds. Despite being a fairly young company, the culture feels very old and out of date. While most companies throw employee events, happy hours, allow drinking in the office, casual dress, Great Minds doesn't practice any of that and leaves it on the employees to create any type of camaraderie. Due to all of this there is very little company pride.

    Advice to Management

    - Pay your employees fairly from the beginning, don't make them ask for raises.
    - Become a modern place to work with HR practices
    - Put structures in place to ensure that low level employees aren't carrying all of the work being done.
    - Figure out a way to get all department on the same page in terms of communication.
    - Turnover is too high, either vet new employees better or fire less people.


  4. "Great Minds - sales"

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

    I have been working at Great Minds (DC) full-time

    Pros

    I've been with the sales team for over a year and find that I love the curricula and love the culture of the team.

    Cons

    It can be a lot of hours during review season.


  5. Helpful (1)

    "Successful in spite of itself"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend

    I have been working at Great Minds (DC) full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    Flexible work environment, excellent product - the curriculum is really amazing, and colleagues are really dedicated to making changes for students.

    Cons

    Leadership is in flux, and there is a lack of decision-making.


  6. Helpful (3)

    "So much potential-lost"

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

    I worked at Great Minds (DC) full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    The work and mission of the organization is great!

    Cons

    Poor upper management. No work life balance.


  7. Helpful (12)

    "They Are Truly Number One"

    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

    I worked at Great Minds (DC) full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    Every now and then you come across a company that has had several negative reviews written about it, and you may wonder, "Is this company that awful to work for?" Let me answer that truthfully, and honestly.

    To start, the pay is not competitive for the tasks that you would be performing, especially on the Product Services team. You may think this is a reason to avoid working here altogether. However, let me be the first to tell you, this is actually to your benefit, as you will most likely be eligible for overtime, making far less than $47,576. Overtime, much like promotions, is not given based on merit or talent, unless you consider the ability to brown-nose a talent. If you share the same vision that I do, then start practicing becoming a yesman, as that will be your ticket to success here. Oh, or you could also ride the coattails of nepotism, and have worked with one another at the past two or three companies, each for about a year or two before you jump ship to the new one. Also a good way to advance your career.

    The past few reviews, save for what is probably the least subtle attempt of score manipulation by posting a positive review, have all been negative, and have all pointed out common points of contention. Mainly, the Product Services Management and their ineptitude.

    To start off, Product Services, in the incarnation that I saw it last, was a proud adopter of the Dilbert Principle, except the rule was modified to include any and all of the manager's friends, regardless of competence. The term "lackey" does come to mind, but also would be of great disrespect, so I'll avoid it here. You see, the Dilbert Principle normally is followed in order to limit the damage that one can do in their role, but what can I say, Manager and Friends are a group of overachievers.

    In order to understand why these other reviewers thought management was so horrendous, inefficient, and useless, it is necessary to understand what it is that makes for a good manager. You can read about the qualities of good managers anywhere. Sources vary on how many qualities there are. With the case of Product Services management, there are too many positive ones to talk about. But, for times sake, let's say there are 7, according to Forbes and Business Collective.

    Company Culture

    "Good managers are great leaders and high achievers, but the best managers? They like unique qualities about the company that might turn others off."

    At Great Minds, you will find that the people at the top all have great reasons for joining. Is it to create a superior product or to help advance the education of children around the nation? That's too simple of a reason. When the new wave of management came in, I was genuinely surprised and full of glee that one of the higher, higher ups had joined because "[they] liked the name." The motto, which I don't believe has been reworked yet has been "Every child is capable of greatness," and the new management has been keen on making sure products, both old and new reflect that. I may not have worked in marketing, but given the great advances and strides taken by management in the past year, I will offer a new motto for free that I believe represents their quality take on company culture, "Every parent and school is capable of shelling out more money."

    They're Positively Contagious

    "A positive attitude can go a long way. Managers who have a good attitude during the workday don’t complain about projects that need to get done. They look for solutions to finish them before the deadline. "

    A lot of what reviews are, for the most part, are subjective. For instance, what I consider positive, you may not. A gleaming example of positivity, in my opinion, would be the consistent meetings we had in which one person in management would contribute to the positive atmosphere by saying things such as "I'm not here to make friends," or "That's your headache, not mine." I wish I were capable of that self control, deflecting issues in order to preserve my sanity and happiness. Solutions to problems were reactive, not proactive, and any attempt to further error-proof were met with a steadfast resolve. As one can imagine, this only meant smooth sailing moving forward. I probably don't need to tell you, but solving problems as they come up, as opposed to planning on what problems to eliminate, causes an increase in brain elasticity and responsiveness. It also means job stability for you in the long run - these problems could have been solved, but since they haven't, now you have a steady stream of work trying to fix the easily avoidable.

    They Can Sustain Focus

    "The key to overall success? Prioritization and the ability to focus for an extended period of time. Specifically, they can manage multiple projects at once to make sure everything gets done on time and completed to client (or company) specifications."

    The beauty of the new management team that had come in was that they were tasked on fixing some of the problems that had existed historically. There were planned initiatives put in place, both by management of old and new. The new management did something that I never would have thought of, due to their genius. You see, you cannot miss a deadline if there was no deadline. And so, there were plenty of different initiatives, that all had a wide range of focus on that was still being worked on by the time I left the company. I have no doubt in my mind that all of them are near completion. They were also effective at conducting meetings - they were so focused on simply getting work done, that they would struggle forming coherent sentences and thoughts. They would also forget previous knowledge of previous employment - if one of them were to have a strong background in chemical engineering, they were not able to identify that they were contributing to a toxic workplace, as they were so focused on their current positions.

    They Lead With Their Head and Heart
    "Empathy for employees is important -- everyone goes through professional and personal struggles that can affect their work. The best managers are emotionally intelligent; they have the ability to lead their employees and guide them with understanding."

    The management at GM is fantastic at being empathetic. They are so empathetic, that I can say with 100% confidence, that they are the type of people that will ignore e-mails in order to focus on business for months and months on end. Then when you do have a personal life event, say, a relative of yours passes, they will try to call you the day of, after business hours (because they work so much, of course), and have the wherewithal to threaten you with an administrative action, because you, as the employee were not emotionally intelligent enough to pick up the phone during a period of deep stress. They will further empathize with you by going back to focus on business. When HR gets into the mix, they will also be empathetic to your cause, reminding you that you owe the manager an apology for not picking up a phone call, after business hours, on the day a close relative of yours passes. So, if you do join the company, be more empathetic like they are. I know I wasn't.

    They're Honest

    "A managerial position is no place for a dishonest employee. Your best managers will tell their team the information they need to hear, not what they want to hear."

    See, what I loved in GM was the backgrounds of all the people that worked there. They were varied, and learning about the past experiences of each of them was fantastic. You had teachers, you had writers, you had designers. All skilled people working in their respective fields. And then you had the management team, with even more diverse backgrounds, and they were honest about who they were. If they had zero publishing experience, zero educational experience, or curriculum development experience, only chemical engineering experience, they would let you know. If they were to tell you "that's your headache, that's not mine," it was the truth. They weren't shirking responsibility, they never understood their responsibility in the first place. Some of them were self-proclaimed "vector [people] in a raster world," whatever that means, and some were just clueless in general. If they conducted interviews, it was without scripts, without an expectation of an answer, because they played things by ear. They didn't know who they were hiring because they only knew nothing. They never hid their lack of knowledge about any fundamental aspect of their role. It's perhaps what I admired most about them.

    They Take Accountability

    "A well-rounded manager will take charge of their own goals and, on the same note, take responsibility when things don’t go according to plan. They foster a culture of accountability so their employees understand the importance of responsibility for their actions as well."

    When moral started to decline at GM, the management scrambled to find solutions. So they did what any respectable team would do, they created surveys in an attempt to gather feedback. And when some of the surveys came back with negative responses, they were certainly accountable for their actions, adopting a "put up or shut up" policy, and labeling people that take surveys "cowards." I wish I could be that accountable. I sometimes wish that I could be in a room with all of them, sharing kombucha and laughter, as we talk about who hurt us in the past and why we end up taking it out on our employees. But I am not as self-aware or accountable as they are.

    They're Effective at Making Decisions

    "If supervisors can’t make decisions for their team, how can they expect to guide them towards the finish line for projects or goals? The truth is, they can’t. That’s why the best managers have the ability to make decisions with a wealth of information -- in a short amount of time -- to get the best results from their team."

    What's also great about GM is that your role in the company may not necessarily dictate the work that you do. For instance, if you were hired in the QC department, you may go above and beyond doing quality checks. Which is great, now you have something to put on your resume when you decide to leave the company for the next role. Or you may have been hired as an operations manager, where you may not operate or manage any of the department. It ends up being quite the gamble. Due to the ability of individuals going beyond their roles, specialists and experts develop in the company, providing a wealth of information to pass along to the guys capable of making decisions. Maybe it is an industry-standard software to replace the archaic software that we were stuck in?
    Well, in my opinion, the best decision to make is to admonish your experts and to not make any decision. After all, if the new software is found to be problematic, you were the one making that decision, and that would make you accountable. No one wants to take a risk and fail! By doing nothing, if the older software does pose problems, you can pretend that you're working on a solution, before you inevitably jump ship after a year or two, like you did with the past three companies you worked at. Simple.

    Conclusion

    The truth is, I loved Great Minds when I started working there. Departments had a sense of camaraderie to them. We would work with each other to adopt new solutions and processes. I simply could not handle the glory of the new management team. When they wanted to adopt swim lanes for everyone, I could not comprehend that the work was going to be so isolated; I did not have the type of focus to only worry about the output of my work and team. When I wanted to speak out, I felt foolish for wanting to. I could not accept that an authoritarian leader with zero experience could possibly know more than me about what it was like to work in publishing or with its software. I could not live with the embarrassment or humiliation. I felt shameful for asking for more responsibility, for wanting to better the company both internally and externally. There was nothing to change, the company was perfect as is. I wish I had known that then. I know it now, and I only feel shame and regret for my lack of knowledge and understanding.

    Cons

    The environment was too friendly to work in there. The leadership, too empathetic, and too knowledgable.

    Advice to Management

    Keep the several most recent hires on the production services team that have managerial or leadership roles. Shower them with praise. They've certainly earned it.

  8. Helpful (3)

    "Abysmal Pay"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at Great Minds (DC) full-time

    Pros

    Intelligent people who really care about the mission

    Cons

    For the amount of work people do, the pay is atrocious. Management should be ashamed.

    Advice to Management

    Pay your employees what they're worth so you can actually retain talent.


  9. Helpful (17)

    "Be Concerned"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend

    I have been working at Great Minds (DC) full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    I have been working for Great Minds for a few years now. I love my co-workers, and am beyond impressed with the effort put forth by many lower level employees. Being able to work off-site from my home is another terrific benefit.

    Cons

    • Unless you are in high level management, expect VERY poor pay. Great Minds uses the excuse "we are a nonprofit, or we are just a start-up" to justify low salary and poor salary increases.
    • If you believe in the importance of keeping jobs in America or have concerns about inequitable pay in third world countries, than this is not the company for you. The members of the production department of Great Minds continues to dwindle due to a mandate to outsource much of its work to cheap labor from India.
    • Many employees also have little, if any access to the executive leadership. As an employee of Great Minds for several years now, The CEO/President has addressed employees as a whole more than a couple times in five years.
    • The company provides very few growth opportunities for current employees, often choosing to hire from outside, rather than promoting from within. This results in many employees’ feelings as if there are no options for growing "up" in the company.
    • There is also a great deal of confusion as to whether or not the company still remains a non-profit, as they also have LLC status and are no longer including "non-profit" language in any of its products.
    • The content teams (Math, Science, Humanities) are viewed as the “favored children” in the company, while other departments (finance, marketing, sales, production) very rarely are acknowledged or shown appreciation.

    Advice to Management

    Pay people what they are worth and stop treating employees as if they are expendable. Work to show greater appreciation across the company. Find a way to uncover the amazing employees already in the company, rather than overlooking them and bringing in more and more outside employees. Find ways to help employees understand and embrace the vision (if there is one) set forth by the executive team.


  10. Helpful (2)

    "Great Nonprofit but low balls employees with salary"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Customer Success Representative in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Customer Success Representative in Washington, DC
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Great Minds (DC) full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    Lots of opportunities for professional growth within this company.

    Cons

    For the amount of work being done, the company tends to low ball its employees salaries. Employee turnover rate is very high as well.