Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Computer Scientist Reviews | Glassdoor

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Computer Scientist Reviews

Updated September 27, 2018
40 reviews

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Computer Scientist

4.3
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Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Director Bill Goldstein
Bill Goldstein
14 Ratings

Employee Reviews

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Pros
  • "Work life balance is the biggest advantage" (in 113 reviews)

  • "I see the lab working hard to be a great place to work, which it is" (in 35 reviews)

Cons
  • "Being a government contractor does mean there is a lot of red tape" (in 40 reviews)

  • "Of course, the cost of living in the Bay Area makes the 'good' salaries not reach as far" (in 16 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. "A place where you can do awesome work *and* have a life outside of work"

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

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (More than 10 years)

    Pros

    I'm a bit over a decade into my career here at LLNL. During that decade+, I've been able to work on a wide variety of things from computer hardware, to software development, to team leadership. My colleagues are generally excellent: they work hard, their egos are non-existent, they're interested in building great stuff as a team, and they're as willing to learn as they are to teach.

    I get to work on projects that push the frontier of high performance computing. The fact that some of the world's most powerful supercomputers are just downstairs from my office is simply amazing. That I get to help, in my own small way, push that frontier forward is the opportunity of a lifetime.

    And, not only do we push the art of supercomputers forward, but there's tons of amazing, world-altering science and engineering occurring here at LLNL. The Lab's catchphrase is "science in the national interest." And it's true! When I think about all the world-class scientific discoveries which I indirectly support, I'm consistently blown away. I love my iPhone, but the work to help create the next-generation smartphone pales in comparison to all the scientific discoveries and breakthroughs occurring here at LLNL.

    As wonderful as the work atmosphere is, I'm also able to have a great non-work life. I'm able to be home each evening to have dinner with my wife and kids. My weekends are family time, not extra work time. Schedule flexibility is pervasive (for example, the AWS schedule that gives me every-other Friday off is quite nice). And I can afford to live in the same town where I work: there's no soul-crushing commute wherein it takes me 35 minutes to move 10 miles on a jammed freeway.

    Cons

    Cons — doesn't every organization have them? The Lab is a large organization. Sometimes the gears of progress grind more slowly than they should in surprising places. For example, it takes a looooong time to get a new computer for your office.

    Being that this is a quasi-governmental organization, there are various restrictions in place that you might not experience out in private industry. There are no stock options, no exceptional account-busting bonuses, no compensation for volunteer work, no kegs with fresh beer at the end of the hallway, or other types of perks that you might expect at a Google, Apple, or other typical Silicon Valley enterprises. But, the fact that I get to see my family at a reasonable time at the end of every day more than makes up for the lack.

    Another con is that Silicon Valley is close by; the companies there love to poach Lab employees. This can be difficult. It's hard to see a steady stream of my fellow colleagues get enticed by the large salaries, free lunches and dinners, in-building massages, and other Silicon Valley enticements.

    Advice to Management

    Figure out how to stem the flow of our colleagues heading out to work in Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley isn't going anywhere; the problem won't solve itself. It's going to take active and creative measures — including how the Lab sells itself to potential new employees — in order to keep people working on all the important problems we have before us here at LLNL.


  2. "Computer scientist"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    Current Employee - Computer Scientist in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Computer Scientist in Livermore, CA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (More than 8 years)

    Pros

    It has a Good work/life balance.

    Cons

    Bureaucracy can be annoying at times.

  3. "High Performance Computing"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Senior Computer Scientist in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Senior Computer Scientist in Livermore, CA
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (More than 10 years)

    Pros

    Get to work in HPC on some of the fastest supercomputers in the world.

    Cons

    Sometimes very slow adopting new technologies.


  4. Helpful (1)

    "Computer Scientist"

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

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    World class programming challenges, world class supercomputers to work on. Brilliant and friendly people to work with. National security is a vital mission, and that is what LLNL does.

    Cons

    Stifling red tape and regulations. Staggering amounts of training required. If you need a government clearance, two years is probably what to expect for the wait, unless you have something unusual---then it is anybody's guess.

    Advice to Management

    Work life balance is really important to me with a young family: I'm glad that's an LLNL priority. However, so is compensation parity with the private sector.


  5. "great coworkers, good work-life balance"

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

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (More than 8 years)

    Pros

    most people here have advanced degrees like PhDs. You can most define your pace of working. No one raises eyebrows if you take vacations.

    Cons

    layers of paperwork to get things approved. Management overhead is high.

    Advice to Management

    Reduce management overhead


  6. "Top notch technical work coupled with flexible work/life balance"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Computer Scientist
    Current Employee - Computer Scientist
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (More than 10 years)

    Pros

    + working with state of the art technology and people
    + supportive when working part time and taking care of family members
    + always striving to do what is ethically speaking right

    Cons

    - No fancy free cafeteria food
    - Large organization which can be difficult to get small and significant changes implemented across the entire organization (9/80s, 10/40s, work at home, etc )

    Advice to Management

    Keep working on recruiting and retention.


  7. Helpful (1)

    "Work/life balance and the biggest computers"

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

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (More than 10 years)

    Pros

    If you want to work on multi-disciplinary scientific problems of national importance, there's no place better. The world's most powerful computers are sited here and we are constantly challenged to apply that raw power in meaningful ways. There is always something new to research or simulate. You can work a 9-5 schedule, or put in lots of overtime and get rewarded proportionally. People tend to have long careers, so there is a willingness to invest in training. You can move around to many various areas or stay in one place, both are acceptable. There is no salary negotiation, since the annual review process tries to be fair to everyone. Promotion is almost always from within. For many of these above reasons there are more women, even in management, in technical roles than comparable private-sector employers. (Not that there are huge numbers of women, but, for instance, I once had a female direct supervisor and the three levels above her.) Health insurance is excellent and affordable. Since it's located further out than the most expensive parts of the Bay Area, it's possible to buy a home in town. Lots of people bike to work.

    Cons

    The wait for clearances is routinely 18 months or more (The Washington Post says an average of over 15 months, don't know where the management is getting this 12-13 number). However, LLNL has no control over (or visibility into) that process. Many areas of basic science, such as lasers, seismology, computer science, etc. have some connection to nuclear weapons work, if you find that objectionable. Salaries are lower on an absolute basis than the private sector, though the per-hour rate, especially if you factor in commuting and benefits, is competitive. No stock options, obviously. Because of the weird management structure, we get most of the restrictions of being federal employees with few of the benefits of being, technically, private sector contractors. So no federal GS steps or cost of living adjustments, but also no pension or TSP (thrift savings plan). Getting hired in the first place is difficult unless you have very high-level technical skills or know someone involved in the hiring process, you must be a U.S. citizen for most jobs. There is a fair amount of training, not nearly as much red tape as I expected at the level of individual employees. Once you get into management, it is pretty bad. There are 250 separate Department of Energy policies, orders, and mandates that LLNL must adhere to, and all of it is subject to auditing for compliance. It took me hours and hours of work, and probably a solid week from my administrative staff, just to get one off-site collaborator approved for computer access. And then it has to be renewed (somewhat less work) every year. If you just want to write code or do science, the burden is minimal. There is lots of LLNL-specific jargon.

  8. Helpful (3)

    "Interesting Projects, Out of Date Policies, Red Tape"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Computer Scientist in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Computer Scientist in Livermore, CA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (More than 10 years)

    Pros

    Nowhere else will you get to work on so many amazing projects, all within one square mile. Energy, Environment, Biology, really big lasers, and more! Get tired of your current project? Go find another one without leaving your workplace. There aren't many places left where you can really build a long-term career, and this is one where you can. The people here are, for the most part, committed, caring, and very, very intelligent. They're a great group to work with.

    The 401k plan is very good. There's a great match, even if you're new to the lab, and it just gets better the longer you're here.

    Cons

    "The Lab." The lab just celebrated its' 65th Anniversary, and sometimes it shows its age.

    They haven't caught up on things like telecommuting. Housing prices in the Bay Area are SO high. Most people have significant commutes in bad traffic, which could be somewhat alleviated with a reasonable telecommuting policy. But for the most part, it isn't permitted.

    Salaries have not kept up with industry in the tech fields. Housing costs here are so high, even with a lab salary you could be easily outpriced.

    Benefits used to be much better. For anyone coming in now, the pension is long gone (though the 401k and match is very generous). Health benefits are pricier and not as good as what is often offered out in industry. And your yearly raise, if you get one at all, could be easily wiped out by that year's health insurance cost increases. Downside of working somewhere where the average age is so high.

    There are a lot of retirements. Big brain-drain. The lab cannot (or will not, sometimes hard to tell) hire fast enough to take advantage of the knowledge of those leaving. The hemorrhage of talent between retirements and turnover in tech positions (commutes and comparatively low salaries are big contributors here) is painful. Those that are left end up doing more and more, resulting in burnout and then more departures.

    Inflexible policies. Flex time? Good luck with that. Tele-Commute? Funny (see above). Need some time off? Hope you have the vacation time accumulated (and you can track down all of your bosses to approve it), or you can take leave for an approved reason. Good luck finding someone who can help you figure that out. You really want to avoid working with the Benefits or HR department, if you can help it.

    They have great programs as far as health, working out, specialty classes. Good luck getting the time to participate, especially if you have a family and a commute (constrained time). And the latter two are not free.

    Job stability isn't what it once was. Overhead costs are so high that it's harder for projects to hire as many people as they really need, and money is often unstable.

    You CAN go find another project when you want to, but most don't make it easy to do. Projects get very insulating, it's hard to find out what else is out there.

    Frequent reorganizations that don't actually ever seem to improve anything.

    Advice to Management

    * Work on more flexible policies.
    * Benefits and HR need to re-learn that their job is to help employees.
    * Bring down the cost of overhead.
    * There is TOO MUCH MANAGEMENT! I have two bosses right now, and that's the lowest I've had in years.
    * Make it easier for employees to move around within the lab.
    * The ranking system is time-consuming and demoralizing. If you do the same great work year after year, you move down because you're not doing more and different great work. There's something wrong with this.

    You have a lot of employees here that are trying to manage families, awful commutes, and terrible traffic. It's a fragile juggling act and you aren't helping. BART is great, but it won't help people with young kids who need more flexibility, and for most people it's going to INCREASE the commute time if they want to use it. If you want to attract and keep good people, and you can't improve salaries, try making the lab a more welcoming place to work.


  9. Helpful (1)

    "Good work-life balance, not so good physical work conditions"

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

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (More than 10 years)

    Pros

    The lab is a good place to work as far as balancing your work and personal life. With many of the positions there you are able to leave work behind at the end of the day and not worry about it until you return.
    Many positions allow you flexibility in your scheduled hours and the ability to shift them when needed.

    Cons

    The buildings, many being temporary modular 'trailers' leave a lot to be desired. Old, moldy in some cases, broken Heat / AC, months to get a light bulb changed, etc.
    They want the 'best of the best' but expect them to work in the 'worst of the worst'.
    If Government employees get a pay freeze or forced shutdown, they usually recoup it... Not so for us contractors... no retroactive pay, etc.
    Employee moral and benefits have gone downhill since the transition in 2008 to LLNS from the UC management

    Advice to Management

    Do what is needed to improve facilities, perhaps have those in high rise come work for a month or two in some of the deplorable trailers.


  10. Helpful (1)

    "Computer Scientist 3"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Computer Scientist III in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Computer Scientist III in Livermore, CA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    Great place to learn and grow your skill sets. Excellent assistant to get higher degrees.

    Cons

    Management is still not very connected to their employees. Culture is pretty slow.