Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory Reviews | Glassdoor

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory Reviews

Updated May 12, 2018
313 reviews

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4.5
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Approve of CEO
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory Director Dr. Ralph Semmel
Dr. Ralph Semmel
164 Ratings

313 Employee Reviews

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Pros
  • The management supports work/life balance (in 34 reviews)

  • Great working environment and great benefits (in 28 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. Featured Review

    Helpful (1)

    "Amazing environment, technically sound"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Software Engineer in Columbia, MD
    Current Employee - Software Engineer 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

    Rigorous environment; good engineers; smart co-workers; flexible, calm work schedule; education benefits including Masters and Doctoral degrees; really good retirement plan matching.

    Cons

    Housing costs in the area; pay is good enough but not great.


  2. Helpful (1)

    "Great place to work right out of college and in general."

    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

    Environment is quite and not stressful. Many very interesting talks and events happening every week. Flexible to move between groups and projects. Employees often can choose what project to work on. Great benefits.

    Cons

    Salary may seem not as competitive as commercial organizations.

    Advice to Management

    Communications between management and actual engineers working on projects is highly important. Please make sure to have good communication channels and open forums.

  3. "Used to love it"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    Current Employee - Research Scientist
    Current Employee - Research Scientist
    Disapproves of CEO

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

    Pros

    When I started almost 20 years ago the culture was very open and friendly. Work/life balance was very important and there was more of an university feel. The retirement plan can't be beat and I will be able to retire early because of it. The work is as interesting as you choose to make it except for the occasional project you just have to take.

    Cons

    Huge political environment that if you are not willing to play their game you will not advance. Also favoritism can be a huge problem when conflicts arise. Even if you have evidence that you are correct it does not matter if you are not the chosen one. I had 3 levels of supervisors say I was wrong even though I showed them in writing that I was right.

    Performance coaching is used instead of a traditional rating process. This way they can funnel raises to their favorite people.

    Advice to Management

    Stop playing games with your staff. Listen to both sides in a conflict with an open mind.


  4. Helpful (1)

    "Administrator"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Administrative in Laurel, MD
    Former Employee - Administrative in Laurel, MD
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

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

    Pros

    Working in a cutting edge environment

    Cons

    Good old boy network who turns a blind eye to unethical treatment of female staffers.


  5. Helpful (3)

    "It's going to take all of us to create the unimaginable!!!"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Program Area Manager in Laurel, MD
    Current Employee - Program Area Manager in Laurel, MD
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

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

    Pros

    JHU/APL have been wildly successful at shaping our world over the last 75 years. Lab leadership knows our staff is our strength and are continuing progressive programs and benefits to maintain a world class staff experience. The next 25 years will be even more impactful to the world than the previous 75.

    Cons

    With so many challenging problems to solve, determining which to work on.


  6. "Excellent workplace overall, with some caveats"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Principal Professional Staff/Assistant Group Supervisor in Laurel, MD
    Former Employee - Principal Professional Staff/Assistant Group Supervisor in Laurel, MD
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

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

    Pros

    Terrific technical staff and sense of community. APL treats employees well and clearly values its staff. Work-life balance. Pleasant campus. High job security. Interesting and challenging technical work. You have a high degree of control over your career path.

    Not a pro or con - culture varies widely across the lab. All the anecdotes in Glassdoor reviews, good and bad, are believable. Find out who the outstanding Group Supervisors are and work in their groups - they drive the culture and personality of their group.

    Cons

    Inter-organizational politics within APL leads to more drama than typically seen among technical organizations. Increasing red tape (internal and external). Non-technical obstacles seem to get more burdensome year by year. Some areas experience wide swings in funding leading to uncertainty on what you'll be working on.

    Advice to Management

    Modernize your HR practices by reducing intra-APL competition for new hires (e.g. establish soft and hard limits on # of college candidates per group), and be willing to fire incompetent staff without requiring ~6 months of evidence. The amount of time and energy expended competing within APL for hires is not in the best interest of the lab as a whole, and bad employees drag down morale, especially when in critical roles.

    Be more willing to discuss problems out in the open. We can't solve our internal problems if we're not willing to acknowledge or talk about them. When there's an obvious problem that isn't addressed it affects morale and lowers the credibility of leadership.


  7. "Better than Gov and most contractors"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

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

    Pros

    Benefits, leave, work life balance

    Cons

    Salary is not bad, but lower than other contractors. More bureaucracy

  8. "Group Supervisor"

    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 (Less than a year)

    Pros

    Awesome place to work. Great mission.

    Cons

    Limited bonuses and overall slower salary growth.


  9. "Intern Experience"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    Former Employee - Intern - Hourly in Laurel, MD
    Former Employee - Intern - Hourly in Laurel, MD

    I worked at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Great work environment, several events, very flexible hours, and very understanding toward's interns and their desires to try new places

    Cons

    Not many cons, for interns make sure that engineering and computer science is what you want to do because that's the focus of the work there


  10. Helpful (1)

    "Likely best in industry in region"

    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 (More than a year)

    Pros

    - Incredible benefits package (including 10.5% at 2:1 403(b) match and free JHU tuition)
    - Flexible scheduling and time usage
    - Great campus and work environment; management funnels a lot of money and effort into making it a pleasant and enjoyable place to work
    - Strong culture of personal improvement, mutual support, and setting individuals up to succeed; line and senior management both strongly support (in execution and financially) continuing education and moving employees around to where they're happiest and can contribute most
    - Individuals allowed to rise to the level of their ability and comfort

    Cons

    - Common for low line management positions to be occupied by the best\senior technical expert in their section rather than the best manager
    - Relatively high-stress environment -- individual and collective workload and performance expectations limit downtime, and while there's not generally direct pressure from management the needs of job\programs lean on employees to regularly put in long hours or otherwise subvert personal schedules\desires to push through tough spots or busy periods


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