NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Systems Engineer Reviews | Glassdoor

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Systems Engineer Reviews

Updated 24 Sep 2019

To filter reviews, or .

4.5
StarStarStarStarStar
Rating TrendsRating Trends
99%
Recommend to a Friend
90%
Approve of CEO
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory CEO Michael Watkins
Michael Watkins
7 Ratings
  1. Featured Review

    "Great atmosphere with a variety of projects and room for growth"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Compensation and Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Systems Engineer in Pasadena, CA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory full-time for more than 10 years

    Pros

    University-like atmosphere, knowledgeable colleagues, a variety of different projects and positions with a lot of movement for people every few years, excellent pay and benefits (especially for government-like work)

    Cons

    Some project phases require long hours (but the reward is worth it!)

    Advice to Management

    Keep developing people as leaders, and not just engineers, and the workforce will continue to get even stronger.

    NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory2019-09-24
  2. "Great place to work"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Compensation and Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Intern - RF Systems Engineer in Pasadena, CA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory for less than a year

    Pros

    Probably one of the best places to work in the world. Very open and accepting environment, where people care more about advancing human knowledge than personal gain.

    Cons

    In California. California is a terrible place.

    NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory2019-09-24
  3. "Great Place to Work"

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

    I have been working at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory for less than a year

    Pros

    Co-workers are very smart. Work on exciting projects. Clear trajectory upward.

    Cons

    Lots of red tape as to be expected. As a contractor, I do not get paid time off and I can't use the gym on the Lab. There are several things like that which remind you that you're not an employee.

    NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory2019-04-17
  4. "Great place to work for curious individuals"

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

    I worked at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory full-time for more than 3 years

    Pros

    Innovative, open, rewarding, exceptional, cutting-edge

    Cons

    Bureaucracy, slower pace, expensive location

    Advice to Management

    Keep up the great work

    NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory2019-01-28
  5. Helpful (15)

    "Working for the Government Presents its Own Challenges"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Compensation and Benefits
    • Senior Management
    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 for 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.

    Show More

    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.

    Show More

    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.

    Show More
    NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory2018-11-28
  6. "JPL Intern"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Senior Management
    Current Intern - Computer Systems Engineer 

    I have been working at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory for less than a year

    Pros

    Great Environment, Cutting edge technology, Lots going on.

    Cons

    Located in California where taxes are high, stuff is expensive and people are everywhere.

    NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory2018-07-18
  7. "Absolutely phenomenal place to work."

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

    I have been working at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory full-time for less than a year

    Pros

    Incredible management, passionate, hardworking coworkers and exciting work.

    Cons

    Cons? Cons of working at JPL? No way.

    NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory2018-05-07
  8. Helpful (8)

    "Can't recommend."

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Compensation and Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Systems Integration and Test Engineer in Pasadena, CA
    Doesn't Recommend

    I worked at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory full-time for more than a year

    Pros

    9/80 work week, good benefits, lots of vacation and sick days. If you fall on a good group, you might have a decent experience.

    Cons

    If you're looking for a place to do minimal work and get awards, and a decent pay check, you'll love it here. If you actually are interested in innovation, expanding your skill set and contributing to space exploration, this is not the place for you. You will be gravely disappointed.

    Advice to Management

    Massive amounts of wasted and poorly managed funding, constructive criticism is a good thing, no need to only keep around spineless 'yes' people.

    NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory2018-02-20
  9. "Systems Software Engineer"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Compensation and Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Intern - Systems Software Engineer in Pasadena, CA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory for less than a year

    Pros

    Great work environment, exciting projects, amazing people

    Cons

    Pay for interns is a bit low

    Advice to Management

    Especially for quality SWE, pay must be more competitive

    NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory2017-09-14
  10. Helpful (2)

    "Diverse environment with freedom to get your work done."

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

    I have been working at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory full-time for more than 10 years

    Pros

    Great place to work. Diverse environment. Freedom to do your work with minimum interference. Able to talk to anyone at ANY level. Work on unusual projects. Management does sincerely make an attempt to keep work/life balance in check.

    Cons

    Benefits not as strong as current tech companies. No profit sharing (government). No free coffee, soda, juices, meals, yogurt, childcare, etc. Skills learned may be of limited value for other companies. Transition to other projects when current tasks get completed, is not smooth. New hires seem to get more attention than current employees.

    Advice to Management

    Nurture your employees. Train them for new projects and challenges. More classes and inclusion into new projects. Encourage more mentoring and team building.

    NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory2017-07-27
Found 28 reviews