- Work/Life Balance
- Culture & Values
- Career Opportunities
- Comp & Benefits
- Senior Management
I worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory full-time (More than 5 years)
The location (if you like outdoor activities)
Training for the sake of training (and LOTS of it)
Business systems are totally dysfunctional
Dead weight allowed to remain dead weight (i.e. no consequences for not doing work)
Nobody cares if you even show up (seriously, I know people who didn't show up for literally YEARS and never got even talked to by management)
Advice to Management
At what point did the lab stop being about science and start being about the bottom line, protecting managements' bonuses, etc.? It is such a shame to see what was the gem of the scientific world for decades just become a prison of bureaucracy? I have never worked for such a dysfunctional organization and probably would be hard-pressed to find another at that level if I tried.
Working at LANL killed my technical career and was the death of my soul. I know that sounds dramatic, but it couldn't be more accurate. There is so much wrong with how this place runs that I question if it is even salvageable. Did anyone even notice when someone changed the PPT template from "The World's Greatest Science Protecting America" to "The World's Most Expensive Science Protecting America?" (Yes, that was old news, but still accurate.)
My advice to management would be to completely start over. Throw out everything in the administrative manual. There are so many people so set in their ways that they refuse to innovate to make the place a functional place (much less a better place) to work.
I have been working at Los Alamos National Laboratory full-time (More than a year)
Good salary and benefit. Academic culture.
Hard for a foreign to be converted to be a staff.
I worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory part-time
Great for interns, lunch and learns were the best part
Housing can be a pain
-The benefit package is decent, but the lab used to offer a pension. Since the pension has been eliminated, the overall offering is not as competitive as other places.
-Salary is slightly below market, and local real estate is very expensive.
-Most of the work is soul destroying. If you want job security, you have to work with plutonium and risk your health and well being.
-The lab management is incompetent.
-Human resource department is the worst on the planet.
-Most of the buildings are unsafe or outdated.
-Way too much "training" and paper work.
-Worker morale is in the pits, and a large majority the workforce spends a significant part of the day complaining.
-Too much government fluff that interferes with work ethic and progress.
-The performance review system is ancient and disheartening .
-Support staff and facilities take at least two years and 10K dollars to replace a light bulb.
-Office admin staff is generally poorly educated, and the turnover rate in this area is astronomical.
-The vast majority of the R&D staff is arrogant, and not willing to learn new ideas or even that well versed in their respective fields.
Advice to Management
Quit or get out of the way of the technical staff to allow them to do their job. Eliminate several layers of management and give the proceeds to the individual workers.
I have been working at Los Alamos National Laboratory full-time (More than 10 years)
Steady job, mountains are great.
Hard to advance, too focused on advanced degrees
I worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory full-time (More than a year)
BENEFITS: Are great. Free vision, dental, basic life insurance (equal to 1 year of salary). I have 20/20 vision and had vision insurance for the hell of it. Retirement is great -- they no longer do pensions, however I got a 3.5% unmatched employer contribution to my 401k and they match 100% beyond that up to 6% of my salary. I believe I accrued 3 weeks of vacation a year, about 15 paid holidays, and then sick leave. It also does not seem uncommon to have unpaid leave approved if you want to take a few months off or something -- I think that depends on your management. Work/life balance is great. They have a variety of work schedules (9/80 being the most popular -- 80 hours in 9 days, then every other Friday off). PPO and high deductible healthcare option; I couldn't figure out a way to make the high deductible plan cost effective even though my medical expenses were low (your miles may vary). PPO was great: great premiums, low deductibles, and decent copay.
The surrounding Jemez mountains are phenomenally beautiful. Any science/technology job here will be impressive on a resume. Top tier minds. Apparently the city of Los Alamos has the highest concentration of Nobel laureates per capita in the world. Or so I heard.
PAY/PAY RAISES: People here are generally compensated well. Go look at the HR page -- they list a salary range for each posted position. I will say that a lot of the pay bands don't make sense in relation to each other. For example, cyber security professionals are worth more on the market than sys admins, though IIRC, they are both in the same paybands. I got a 5.5% pay raise my first year and 7.5% my second. In my exit interview I was told I was about to be promoted and get another bump had I not left. My management loved me and was able to compensate accordingly. This is probably not representative of the lab as a whole. I know of people who reported they had gotten almost nothing during the same time period. Furthermore, my initial salary was good to start with.
COWORKERS: Loved my coworkers. They were great. Nothing but positive things to say here; your miles may vary obviously.
COOPERATE CULTURE: National Labs tend to be laid back. People are pretty stringent about working 40 hours a week (this ain't no startup!). Dress is casual. Tshirt, jeans, and tennis shoes are common; business casual is about as formal as it gets. I have now worked for two national labs and collaborated with three others -- they all seem to be pretty similar in terms of culture.
OVERALL: I would definitely be open to returning to LANL some day. In fact when I decided to make a move, LANL was my number 1 choice for employment. The issues that caused me to leave were not with LANL, nor my coworkers. Rather dissatisfaction with my role and inability to move laterally within LANL. I would DEFINITELY recommend working at LANL (if you can tolerate living in Los Alamos) and if not LANL then one of the other National Labs.
Disclaimer: I worked extensively with lab IT and IT/business management. Mission is different though might have some commonalities. I encountered Politics, politics, politics. It seems people have high job security and are paid well (read: bad employees who are unable to acquire better jobs never leave). During my time at LANL I dealt with *way too many people* who would write and say things that were simply incoherent and/or irrational. Job security can be a double edged sword. Further some top talent is hesitant to come to Los Alamos due to the isolated nature of the Lab.
BUREAUCRACY: The bureaucracy is mind numbing -- this is largely a function of NNSA and federal oversight/regulatory environment. I now work at ORNL and the regulatory environment is *much* lighter.
NNSA: Seriously, NNSA is filled with a bunch of buffoons. Go read NNSA's glassdoor reviews if you don't believe me. I worked with NNSA, NNSA contractors, and other NNSA M&Os about as much as any LANL employee ever would -- NNSA constantly gets in the way of mission in ways that are irrational and adds no value. The other M&O's reported the same things and NNSA contractors expressed frustration with the Feds. I once had a conversation with one of LANL's weapons designers and he compared NNSA to a bunch of neanderthals. They add a layer of completely, totally, and utterly mindless bureaucracy. Without a shadow of a doubt NNSA is successful in its mission to ensure the safety, security, and effectiveness of the United State's enduring stockpile exclusively because the M&Os are so effective. They are successful despite themselves.
LOS ALAMOS: I was walking around downtown one day around noon and did not see a human for about 2-3 minutes. Weird place with a strange sort of vibe. Restaurant selection is limited and consistently remarkably average in terms of quality. Limited selection of stores considering the population of the town. Needless to say, this is not the place to go if you want a night life. Real estate/Apartments are expensive considering Los Alamos is in the middle of nowhere (land is limited on the mesa). Apartments are difficult to find (again limited space), specifically during the summer during intern season. Houses are nearly impossible to buy. That said, some of the land lords I spoke with said they reserve apartments for full time lab employees willing to sign a 6 month or 1 year lease. It took me about a week to find an apartment, with move in 3 weeks later (I am full time). If you are an intern, one land lord told me that her intern waiting list starts in February for May apartments. Plan accordingly, or if nothing else understand you might have to commute from Espanola or Sante Fe.
HIRING PROCESS AND HR: Don't expect the hiring process to be faster than 4 months. Don't quit your job before your offer letter arrives. *Every* time estimate I was given was wrong and ended up getting postponed.
Advice to Management
I'm not arrogant enough to think I know how to run a complicated organization like LANL. IMO Lab management on the whole is pretty effective at delivering on its mission; some of the business/IT groups: not so much.
I have been working at Los Alamos National Laboratory full-time (More than 8 years)
Excellent pay and benefits, opportunity to work into placement instead of solely relying on prior education.
Only major employer in the area. Must work at the Laboratory, in order to subsist.
I have been working at Los Alamos National Laboratory full-time (More than 3 years)
Los Alamos is truly one of the most intriguing places to work. You meet so many exceptional individuals. The pay and the flexible 9/80 schedules are great. Love the community!
Individuals with no people skills are made managers.
Also, every new hire begins to quickly learn that everyone's son, daughter, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, husband, wife, ex-husband, ex-wife, uncle, aunt, cousin, 2nd cousin, 3rd cousin, boyfriend, girlfriend, godmother, godfather, grandpa, and grandma all work at the lab. It is one giant family reunion every day, all day. Welcome to Northern New Mexico. Brilliant.
Advice to Management
Please don't let individuals become managers that have no people skills. They will in turn make poor people decisions.
I worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory full-time
Learning and networking with different people in different fields.
Having to gather research in two months.
I have been working at Los Alamos National Laboratory full-time (More than 5 years)
Good benefits, competitive pay. Other than that I could not point to something that other companies are not currently offering. Is just a job
Quite plagued with favoritism and nepotism. It doesn't matter what you know to advance your career but who do you know. For students don even bother to apply, your position will be given to the son of, or the nephew/niece of. If you are not to the approval of management you'll find your self stuck in the same position forever regardless of the work you do.
Advice to Management
Stop promoting only the people you like. Verify for yourselves the accomplishments and work done by individuals, many team leads are biased in their in their feedback to upper management. Do real evaluations of the work individuals perform. Open employment opportunities to everybody not just relatives of well connected employees.
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