NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Reviews | Glassdoor

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Reviews

Updated January 17, 2019
457 reviews

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NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Director Michael Watkins
Michael Watkins
44 Ratings

Employee Reviews

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Pros
  • "Great work life balance, the 9/80 work schedule is wonderful" (in 52 reviews)

  • "Great environment, work/life balance, 9/80 work schedule, amazing benefits" (in 25 reviews)

Cons
  • "there are no cons to this company" (in 12 reviews)

  • "Hard to get a full time job there" (in 10 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. Featured Review

    Helpful (1)

    "Radiation Control Manager"

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

    I have been working at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory full-time (More than 10 years)

    Pros

    Best place in the world to work in aerospace. Challenging and exciting missions that you feel an integral part of.

    Cons

    You may not want to retire because work is exciting.

    Advice to Management

    Keep up the great work


  2. "Excellent place to work and grow"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Pasadena, CA
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Pasadena, CA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Excellent place to work and grow

    Cons

    big age gap differences at lab

  3. "Best Place to Work in the Universe"

    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 NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory full-time

    Pros

    Everyone is passionate about their work; great benefits

    Cons

    Sometimes stressful when facing a big deadline


  4. "GREAT PLACE"

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

    I worked at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Great environment to learn and thrive. Everyone is friendly

    Cons

    nothing bad to say about it


  5. "Amazing entry level Software Engineering Position"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Software and Computing Systems Undergraduate Student in Pasadena, CA
    Current Employee - Software and Computing Systems Undergraduate Student in Pasadena, CA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory part-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    It is the place to work while in school if you can handle the commute and working while in school. Everyone is understanding of that school comes first, no matter what. In fact you must maintain a certain GPA to remain an employee. This is a place that if there is something one is interested in they can explore that avenue. There is not a dull moment or project that one can work on at JPL.

    The biggest pro is that they engineering and build the most extraordinary machines in the world that accomplishes the impossible. One does not get to be a part of that very often.

    One can work from home with Flex work, there are 2 gyms on lab, 2 cafeterias and a whole lot of awesomeness.

    Cons

    California is expensive to live in and if you don't live near or in Pasadena then the commute is horrible.

    Advice to Management

    Keep it up!


  6. "Great Company"

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

    Pros

    Good autonomy and a fun place to work.

    Cons

    Variable schedule can make it hard to get on a good routine.


  7. Helpful (3)

    "Working for the Government Presents its Own Challenges"

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

    I have been working at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    Interesting projects. Incredibly smart coworkers who are usually very willing to help get you up to speed. Current upheaval of the old guard is actually presenting some new opportunities to lay down the foundation for the lab for many years to come.

    Name-drop-ability is real. People's ears perk up when they hear JPL and NASA, and if you're the type that likes to work at a place a lot of people are interested in, and flat out envy at times, JPL will do the trick. It's also a conversation starter when talking to recruiters, and most will be very interested in chatting with you to hear what you were up to at NASA.

    9/80 work week is observed by most people on the lab, and yes that means every other Friday off. Unlike most engineering jobs, it's not a trick, either. People take it off and the lab basically shuts down every other week on Friday. I've had a few Fridays I felt like I would use the day to catch up, but that was my call and overall the lab tries to practice what it preaches and does honor a good work/life balance.

    Remote work is also available, and depending on your team could be encouraged, due to the parking issues the lab does have. Those are real... You'll see people complain about parking a lot on here, and it's a serious problem. When I can, I work from home, which helps greatly get work done and not have to worry about running all over campus, and especially not waste time hunting for a place to park in the morning.

    Cons

    Work can move at glacial pace. Constantly fighting the old way of thinking, and there is a lot of push back toward anything new (whether it be a tool, a different way of working, or even a messaging app). Some missions are fully agile, with a slew of modern tools and technology, while others are using software and build practices that would have looked outdated in the late 90s. There is a constant bucking of new and smart grads and younger techs against the old-been-there-forever engineers.

    Most employees are also on matrix based project schedules, and it is rare to be assigned to more than 25-33% on any one project. Most engineers are juggling three to four projects, each with unique requirements, tools, and processes. It's actually closer to working three to four completely separate jobs, and with the variance and meeting schedules it can really feel like all you're ever doing is running around from meeting to meeting.

    Not a lot of guidance if you want a structured role. Most folks are so busy bouncing from meeting to meeting, and doing their own time juggling, that they expect you to pick up the ball and run with it. Sometimes even getting basic requirements can be a challenge, and on one hand that's very liberating, but on another when you're dealing with limited time, it is costly to have to go back and forth on a bad design, or just a completely wrong direction, due to not understanding the scope or requirements for an assignment.

    Government work can be hard to stomach at times. Big shock, but, yes, things get political here. There are a lot of rules, a lot of cautions, and I've heard numerous times that, "If this is mishandled, you're going to prison," and it's not a joke. It can be stressful.

    Zero perks around the office, and it may sound petty, but those coming from private industry might be shocked to see there's no free coffee, no tea, not even water coolers. If you want to drink water, a few groups have started water clubs (no joke) where you pay a little money each month to have access to a water cooler. Same with coffee. Otherwise, you're huffing it to the cafeterias for water or Starbucks for an overpriced drink. Forget free meals. There are some parties once in a while on lab, but don't expect food, drinks, or anything really that you don't need to get work done. Likewise, trips, travel, conferences, and what have you, are all paid for by your projects, meaning you need to have at least three groups sign off on anything you do. As a taxpayer, I'm happy that spending is so closely monitored and controlled, but as an employee it can be a pain to simply do things that might better all of my projects as a whole. This isn't a place where you come and work for a group, and work on several projects while being paid by your Org. You're actually assigned projects and paid a fraction by each, so you really have to constantly work at keeping all your projects up, hunting for new projects when things are ramping down, and manage your relationships with people on lab to make sure you always have work to do. Group supervisors can help, but mine hasn't been very present in my day to day work, and half the time he's busy with his own tasks and can't really spend time with his reports. Great guy, but sort of a hands off and never present supervisor. Perhaps other people have a different experience there.

    Parking is a real problem. There aren't enough spaces. It's a gag around JPL. If you try to park after 9am all bets are off. If you dare leave at noon for lunch, you're screwed. People park illegally all over the lab. There are cars crammed next to cars, parked almost blocking roads, sometimes completely blocking lanes in the parking lots. I don't blame them. I've circled for an hour plus to find a spot before, and didn't. I ended up calling my teams and told them I was going home and working there. It's bad. It's really bad.

    Advice to Management

    The matrix accounting system is hard to deal with for a lot of people. It's working, but it's barely working, and I can see more and more people getting stressed out of having six plus projects they're maintaining. Please keep an eye on that. If it isn't working, then getting people on more dedicated projects, even if it's 50/50 with certain missions, could make work so much better on the lab.

    Parking is disastrous. I know there isn't much we can do about that, but it's really bad. Keep encourage remote work where it makes sense to cut down on the burden to employees that have to be onsite. You have a great workforce that wants to work, and if you could push more of them to at least 50% FLEX, that would probably save a lot of parking spaces on lab. IF you have a day full of WebEx meetings, do those at home.

  8. "Communications"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Pasadena, CA
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Pasadena, CA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory full-time (More than 10 years)

    Pros

    Great benefits, 9/80 work week, tuition reimbursement, smart colleagues, flexible hours, JPL/NASA name recognition

    Cons

    Slow in business changes, strange culture, minimal communication to employees on workplace issues, over-protection of mgmt. in personnel issues, lack of management training, rules/policies inconsistently applied to employees and situations

    Advice to Management

    Listen to employees with greater value and respect.


  9. "Think inside the box?"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Systems Analyst in Pasadena, CA
    Former Employee - Systems Analyst in Pasadena, CA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory full-time (More than 10 years)

    Pros

    Decent pay and a flexible schedule.

    Cons

    Education doesn't matter much in terms of advancement. Reactive instead of proactive management. Closed-minded culture only rewards those who kiss up to the right managers.

    Advice to Management

    Provide employees with career path choices and opportunities for advancement.


  10. Helpful (1)

    "Space is cool - interesting place to work."

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

    I worked at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    Space is cool! Smart people.

    Cons

    Overcrowded facility, so cramped shared offices. Entrenched not-invented-here syndrome. Section infighting causes an absence of system architecture, resulting in half of all spacecraft lost. People tend to be lifers. The side effect is there isn't much upward mobility. Beaurocratic semi-governmental org can be a bit painful to deal with for simple matters.

    Advice to Management

    Start with needs and system architecture for missions outside section squabbling over who gets the work. It would be easy to cut the number of spacecraft lost from software errors in half.