Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory Reviews | Glassdoor

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory Reviews

Updated August 16, 2018
323 reviews

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4.5
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Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory Director Dr. Ralph Semmel
Dr. Ralph Semmel
170 Ratings

323 Employee Reviews

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Pros
  • "The management supports work/life balance" (in 35 reviews)

  • "Great working environment and great benefits" (in 29 reviews)

Cons
  • "Not using the concept of a matrix organization correctly" (in 9 reviews)

  • "At least in AMDS the line management tries to focus on project management tasks more than they should and doesn't spend enough time focusing on staff" (in 7 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. Helpful (1)

    "Great place"

    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 Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory full-time

    Pros

    Support- proud place to work

    Cons

    Advancement a little tough


  2. "Live up to your promises"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Systems Engineer in Laurel, MD
    Former Employee - Systems Engineer in Laurel, MD
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory full-time (More than 10 years)

    Pros

    Great benefits and challenging work.

    Cons

    Some bad pockets of cut-throat management that don't value the employees. I found some of the management to be very unprepared to lead. They manage but don't lead and rather than try and listen to their employees they chose to ignore any suggestions.

    Advice to Management

    When you ask your employees for suggestions why don't you consider taking them.

  3. "Working at JHU/APL"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Software Engineer
    Current Employee - Software Engineer
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Great work/life balance. Lots of potential to work on really interesting projects. As an employee, you have a lot of say on what you want to work on, and how you want your career to develop. Easy to do work outside of your "title," assuming you have the necessary skills.

    Cons

    Lots and lots of politics. Easy to get stovepiped into a particular type of work due to whatever group you end up in. There can be lots of red tape due to the fact that a lot of projects are funded by the government. There can also be redundancies in work due to the nature of being a non-for-profit, as well as government sponsors not playing nicely together. Sectors/departments seem to do things their own way.

    For software engineers, I don't think there's a lot of great opportunities to learn here, outside of a few particular groups. In fact, I'd rate APL a 3/5 for software engineers. Many times you may be the sole developer on a project, or only work with one or two. This is definitely not a software shop...

    Advice to Management

    Try to instill a more unified culture and set of processes. Additionally, invest in the tools necessary for software engineers to more easily do their jobs.


  4. "Intern"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    Pros

    Disovery Program for new hires allows you to rotate among several groups and explore for a period of 2 years

    Learning is encouraged - the APL Education Center offers on-site graduate courses through JHU's Whiting School of Engineering

    Individual research is supported by proposal competitions and allowing one hour per day to be devoted to anything

    schedules are extremely flexible, as long as you work 80 hours in a 2 week period

    a lot of vacation time

    Cons

    the path for advancement is not quite clear


  5. Helpful (2)

    "Allows you multiple ways to shape your own career under fantastic mentorship."

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Associate Member of Technical Staff in Columbia, MD
    Current Employee - Associate Member of Technical Staff in Columbia, MD
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    APL allows and highly encourages you to adopt a large amount of autonomy. As long as you maintain good communication with your technical leads and supervisors, you can take initiative on almost anything that you think needs to be addressed on your project, without having to go through any tedious or bureaucratic justification process that is present in some other organizations.

    Management is receptive and responsive to staff who desire to shift their career in a different direction. Staff who feel unfulfilled or underutilized on their current project can typically find a new project to spend their time on in less than 6 months. Each staff member’s time is typically split amongst multiple projects to minimize the risk of any bumps or issues in a single project. Staff ask have a good amount say in how their time is divided amongst these projects.

    APL also fosters a culture of continuing education and mentorship through several formal and informal programs. The lab will fund staff’s endeavors to take new classes and learn new skills, and has several programs in place to promote informal skill sharing between staff. Formal mentoring programs exist for mentees of all skill and experience levels, and management strongly encourages technical leads to act as mentors for the people working under them.

    There is also significantly less focus on finger-pointing than some other peer organizations. When something goes wrong, the scrutiny is placed on the process, not solely the people involved. Newcomers and early career staff are given plenty of resources and people to reach out to as they continue to establish their skills, so that they feel confident in their efforts.

    Cons

    The onboarding process leaves something to be desired. They do a good job of giving you a broad overview of the lab and informing you about security and compliance issues, but don’t provide much detail about how the sectors and groups of the lab are broken down or the specific goals the lab is pursuing to achieve its vision (although both of these are explained more in periodic all-hands meetings).

    The lab also highly encourages people to pursue IRADs (Internal research and development) and other grants, but does not set aside much of the budget needed for people to collaborate and write proposals. The way grants are organized and managed can be confusing for newcomers at the lab.

    Advice to Management

    Make sure that technical staff really understand the vision of the lab and the strategic goals that the lab is pushing for in the next decade. An easy-to-find summary of these goals with links to more detailed descriptions of how the lab hopes to achieve them would go a long way. It’s common for new staff to end up isolated in their own projects without knowing about other projects going on in the lab that they might find interesting. APL has started taking steps towards counteracting this; continue to make it a priority.


  6. "JHU/APL"

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

    I have been working at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory full-time

    Pros

    Great benefits, generous vacation, flexible schedules and no dress code

    Cons

    Limited advancement opportunities for support staff


  7. Helpful (1)

    "Brief Review"

    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 Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory full-time

    Pros

    Great environment and community. Excellent resources

    Cons

    pay may be a little low but is made up for in retirement savings package

  8. "Benefits package"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Research Professional Associate in Laurel, MD
    Current Employee - Research Professional Associate in Laurel, MD

    I have been working at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    Provided full move expenses for 30 days. Hotel, rental car, and shipped all household goods plus car and motorocycle

    Cons

    Cigma health insurance. Nothing great but not terrible


  9. Helpful (2)

    "Great work environment and growth opportunity"

    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 Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory full-time

    Pros

    Flexibility in working across multiple sectors on multiple projects. Management invests in training and education of employees.

    Cons

    Collaboration can be difficult while trying to get multiple sponsors on board for a single project or effort.


  10. "Comfortable"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory full-time

    Pros

    This is a pretty comfortable place to work. The benefits are some of the best that are out there. You won't be too stressed out here unless you take on a lot of projects beyond your available time.

    Cons

    Some parts of the lab can be extremely political. This can make working on things your interested in complicated or impossible. (This culture dependency really depends which part of the lab you work in, not all parts are like this).

    Also, sometimes projects can be slow and working with other engineers can be hard to do. There's a tendency for engineers to take individual tasks and work on them in isolation without interacting with others. This makes joining new projects and getting to a point of being productive take longer than it should.

    Advice to Management

    Some thought should be given as to how to fundamentally set up a different organizational structure so things are flattened. This goes against the traditional way things are done in this industry but it could really be beneficial. The current way things are set up makes it so engineering groups become like cliques and don't collaborate even when 50% of their "swim lane" overlaps with another group. This prevents a lot of progress since you have brilliant people in different groups who work on very similar things that never interact/collaborate.


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