Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Software Engineer Reviews | Glassdoor

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Software Engineer Reviews

Updated October 5, 2018
18 reviews

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4.4
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Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Director Bill Goldstein
Bill Goldstein
7 Ratings

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Pros
  • "Work life balance is the biggest advantage" (in 111 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. Helpful (1)

    "Excellent Work-life balance"

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

    - Good work life balance: better than most places, but could still be a little better
    - 15 vacation days a year
    - Low people Politics, no backstabbing.
    - People generally try to help each other
    - Both Senior and Junior Management are very approachable and open to input,
    - Management makes a lot of effort to hear, gather and value your feedback.
    - The Site Director (CEO) even has brown bags with rank and file employees to hear feedback!
    - Management is attentive to our needs and gives us everything we need to do our jobs
    - It's a Better location relative to other bay area companies. But, even here, housing is still 500$/sq foot! So any location outside of CA will be much better
    - Salaries are roughly equivalent to other companies in the area.
    - Excellent 401K
    - Everyone gets an office of their own, wow! And an office phone of your own.
    - Beautiful campus with a lake, benches, trees and wildlife, sometimes even right outside your office! Geese and rabbits too!
    - Free filtered water in some buildings, free faucet water in others
    - Some people can stay here for very long periods 10+ years or even 50+ years! This place will be loyal to you, if you stick with them for a very long time and earn it.
    - Medical insurance is not too bad.
    - Lots of interesting talks to go to, if you like that sort of thing
    - Yearly 5K run event for HOME.
    - Depending on the group your in, SE may face less beurocracy than a full software company (less code reviews and meaningless check-in processes). This leads to greater development efficiency.
    - about once per quarter there's an ice cream social or something like that.
    - Super easy parking on base
    - Bicycles and taxi service available to get around on base.
    - Great equipment: software engineers get 2 monitors and a laptop
    - Occassional free lunches once per month for new members via the NEIT group
    - Free yearly biometric reports: blood pressure, blood work, etc
    - Hackathons once per quarter, have free coffee, snacks and Pizza
    - Full time ergonomist will come by and make sure you have a good chair and computer setup
    - Excellent wifi and internet connection, nice and quiet work environment
    - Smart and knowledgable coworkers
    - Research oriented software has requirements that are more flexible
    - Low number of users for your software which helps decrease stress
    - Leads and managers often bring in donuts and bagels for everyone, paid for with their own cash.
    - Due to "need to know" policy, there is Below average overcommunication, not too many meetings.

    Cons

    - Bay Area has huge Housing problems that can't be fixed. You better think long and hard before you decide to move to the bay area or anywhere in CA for that matter!
    - Lots of substandard tools used: Outlook, Jabber, Bamboo, etc. Jabber has a terrible UI, has bugs, won't let you paste output into the chat, etc. Bamboo is particularly painful. These tools often fail and are a pain to use. You can't change away from any of these tools because it's all they will allow. However, for tools like IDEs and things that can run on your own computer, you may choose the very best tools. They don't like any hosted tools in the cloud: Gmail, Google docs, etc.
    - Security sometimes used as an excuse for Technical debt and substandard software development practices (this will vary from group to group, of course). Security concerns often negatively impact productivity.
    - Paranoia is rampant
    - Extreme security practices mean you'll need to type your password in at least 20 times per day(i'm not exaggerating) and it can NOT be automated.
    - need to change your passwords often and it's almost always a huge pain
    - You will spend a lot of time doing extra work due to security concerns and overcoming obstacles related to security
    - For research done at the lab there's 240% funding overhead! that doesn't include all the security obstacles any researchers must overcome.
    - Funding/Work can dry up and you might need to find other groups to join in order to keep your job. So, Long term stability doesn't seem to be option for everyone
    - Early work stability (first 5 years) aren't nearly as stable as I thought.
    - You may need to work on several projects at once because there's not enough funding for you to be on just 1 project.
    - Things are always changing: tech stacks and technologies
    - Enormous variety of technologies used: every team uses a completely different tech stack, which makes it much harder to ramp up, if you're going to another team
    - Getting a clearance can take 3+ years. You will spend dozens of hours completing this paper work.
    - Administrative training: LTRAIN, a couple dozen hours every year
    - Stack Ranking. This sucks because it stresses everyone out and puts a lot of pressure on people. Although, I believe it's not nearly as bad as most other places that do this because you don't get laid off for being at the bottom
    - Performance review is much more stressful than it needs to be.
    - Although the pace is relatively slow, the workload can still be high because you get placed on multiple projects at once.
    - The local cafeteria on base has very short hours: lunch is only open for about 60 minutes or less. You need to be really on time, if you want to eat. Sodeka the cafeteria provider has an exclusive license with LLNL which means they can't add more variety.
    - You will need to be very careful about your driving. Getting a speeding ticket can get you in trouble at work.
    - Gotta protect your badge. Loosing your badge can get you in big trouble.
    - No onsite pictures and no usage of any camera functionality on your phone on base, no pokemon go, no facial recognition login.
    - Disruptive building speakers: lots of frivolous chatter about testing. Sometimes this can happen 2-5 times within a few days, then there might not be any tests for many weeks. Almost seems like trolling.
    - Since all the services are hosted locally, they can be unreliable.
    - Old computer with a broken microphone
    - minor: like most places, the printers and projectors sometimes dont work.

    Advice to Management

    Check security policies to make sure they make sense.


  2. "Best quality of life"

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

    - Challenging, competitive work environment
    - Innovative work, hackathons, dev days
    - They have proven repeatedly that the care about the health and well being of their employees, work life balance is great
    - Great people!

    Cons

    - It takes a while to get used to the security environment, which is natural for most people.

  3. "Group Leader IT related functions"

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

    Cooperative and dedicated staff in support the nation's security and innovation needs. An overwhelming amount of the staff is dedicated to the Laboratory's missions and not to the how to make more money for share holders or management. Good opportunities for continuous training and self improvement. Safe and secure environment for long term employment.

    Cons

    Lack of upward mobility. Most technical talented employees end up leaving the lab for other high tech positions in the area.

    Advice to Management

    High tech for profit firms are taking your trained staff. The lab needs to compete with better career choices and work life balance. Less bureaucracy, more results.


  4. "Summer Internship"

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    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    Former Employee - Software Engineer(Internship)
    Former Employee - Software Engineer(Internship)
    Recommends

    Pros

    Super great summer intern experience. The work environment was flexible and supportive.

    Cons

    None that I can think of.


  5. "Great place to work with freedom"

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

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

    Pros

    The lab offers great benefits and has events to keep employees engaged.
    The atmosphere is very upbeat and many employees stay at the lab.
    You are not micro-managed and are given freedom. You just have to make sure to get your work done.

    Cons

    As we are a DOE (government) lab, it takes a long time for processes and change. For example, It takes a long time to get hired, get a clearance, transition out older technology, etc.

    Advice to Management

    Actually, all of the managers I have encountered have been extremely nice, patient, and understanding. No complaints there


  6. "Awesome place to work"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Software Engineer in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Software Engineer 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

    I am a software engineer. Been here for about 2 yrs. Great place to work for. If you have a proactive attitude and want to try out new tools, this is the place to be. Good work-life balance. Safety is the top priority here.

    Cons

    Not a place for someone who likes little bit more structure!

    Advice to Management

    Strong leadership!


  7. "Interesting projects, great work-life balance"

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

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

    Pros

    Great variety of work happening, very nice location if you don't want to live in the crazier bay area location.

    Cons

    Bureaucracy, plenty of outdated technologies around, security rules that can get absurd.

  8. Helpful (4)

    "Good balance of interesting work and life"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Software Engineer in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Software Engineer in Livermore, CA
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    The work life balance is the best. The only time I have worked over 40 hours a week is when I wanted to. There will be times when people feel the need to work overtime but it is not the norm.
    The problems are interesting and feel important. Sure you can burn out on anything but there is a ton of interesting work at the lab.
    On that note, the lab has so many projects going on that if you need something new after a few years you can find something fresh to re-invigorate you.
    Finally the pay is pretty decent for the area. Yes you will get more money at the big companies further west, but the cost of living around the lab is way more in line with lab salaries than with other companies.
    Final advice, if you are a fresh grad and can grind for a bit, go to one of the big companies and make some serious dough. If you appreciate work life balance, want to spend time with your family, and want a decent quality of life, this is a great place.

    Cons

    When it comes to software engineering the lab hasn't quite figured out how to define career paths yet. They have a classification system worked out but it is only a few years new at this point and they are only just starting to define and coach employees on how one would get a promotion.
    Being a government funded facility, we are at the mercy of the federal budget. When stuff like the government shut down happens, or salaries are frozen for federal workers, it affects us.
    The frills and niceties of other companies are non-existent here. Here are some examples: when taking someone on a lunch interview, the lab will not do the courtesy of paying for your interviewees lunch, you have to pay out of your pocket; Many buildings have cramped hallways and not so nice bathrooms (not gas station bathrooms, but not nice bathrooms); Many buildings have only basic custodial services, i.e. you'll be cleaning the fridge out yourself.


  9. Helpful (4)

    "Fast-paced, shifting priority interesting job with national significance"

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

    The people here are scary smart. We have good opportunity for career growth and development. The work-life balance is quite good. The culture here values team work.

    Cons

    Scientists change their minds a lot -- drives engineers a little nuts. There's lots of bureaucracy. The job security and benefits aren't as good as they used to be.

    Advice to Management

    Decide if this is government or a business and act accordingly.


  10. Helpful (6)

    "Software Engineer"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Software Engineer in Livermore, CA
    Current Employee - Software Engineer in Livermore, CA
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    Full of challenges, management gives you a wide latitude to research and deliver solutions. You are treated like a highly trained individual, not a 'cog in the machine'. Good work/like balance for people with families.
    Working in Livermore means you can find a lot of affordable housing (example: Tracy, $300k houses, 20 miles east of lab).

    Cons

    Salaries are not very competitive once an employee grows their skills and responsibilities into a senior software engineer/architecture role. Your salary will typically rise to the average salary level, then plateau. This is good for people that want a stable, 40 hour job, and are more focused on their family, but frustrating for someone that is ambitious.

    Advice to Management

    The salary ranking system for computer scientists constrains the size of raises that new, ambitious, hard working employees can get. I've seen this result in newer computer science employees learning a tremendous amount at the lab in their first few years, then getting disillusioned at the 3-5% raises they get. Facebook or Google is usually thrilled to offer them a 30% higher salary and grab them after we've done such a great job turning them into a highly skilled HPC software engineer.

    I think these issues are common across the DOE and other government labs. It's just exasperated because we're located net to Silicon Valley, a highly competitive area.

    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Response

    Aug 28, 2014

    Thank you for taking the time to share this. We view compensation as a critical issue and will make a point of sharing your input with senior management.