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Optimal (WA)

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Optimal (WA) Reviews

Updated Jul 21, 2021

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Found 19 of over 22 reviews

3.6
57%
Recommend to a Friend
78%
Approve of CEO
Optimal (WA) CEO Sung Rhee (no image)
Sung Rhee
9 Ratings

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Top Review Highlights by Sentiment

Pros
  • "Work/life balance is amazing, there are often small impromptu team(in 3 reviews)
Cons
Pros & Cons are excerpts from user reviews. They are not authored by Glassdoor.
  1. 5.0
    Former Employee, more than 1 year

    Great company culture

    Jan 8, 2020 - Software Engineer in Kirkland, WA
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    Working at SR Education Group was really awesome, everyone there is super friendly and they often play board games and play wine on Friday afternoons. They also have regular company lunches that are paid for and have a full kitchen you can use to make lunches (they will buy whatever food/ingredients you ask for). There is also a pool table and ping pong table you can use, and they don’t expect you to work more than 8 hours a day even if it means pushing back deadlines. You can have a lot of ownership over specific products if that’s what you want.

    Cons

    They are based in Kirkland, so if you live in Seattle the commute is a bit annoying. The pay could also be better.

    1 person found this review helpful
  2. 2.0
    Former Employee, more than 1 year

    Don’t recommend

    Jul 21, 2021 - Anonymous Employee 
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    Location, work remote eligibility for many positions, & easy to maintain Work-life balance.

    Cons

    Antisocial and downright rude CEO, callous and often nonexistent management, insufficient training, fearful employees (due to constant lay offs & unexplained changes in company structure/priorities), and an overall strange company culture that only exists at meal time. The company boasts about a “flat” org-chart, when in reality, it only highlights their unwillingness to promote employees and pay industry standard (developers, especially!)

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  3. 5.0
    Former Employee, more than 1 year

    Great relationships and work environment. Bring initiative if you want to thrive

    Aug 11, 2019 - User Experience Designer in Kirkland, WA
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    - Amazing people to work with. Everyone is very helpful if you aren't afraid to ask for help, and there were always great conversations at the lunch table. Lots of fun activities and the team is welcoming and tight-knit - Lots of opportunities to take charge and steer projects in a particular direction that's most helpful to your own professional growth, provided you take the initiative and figure out how to align your professional goals with those of the company - Great benefits, flexibility, and trust. Work life balance is great, and the company does things like weekly outings to the local farmers market, which is a nice break in the workday - Company encourages professional development, which I highly recommend taking advantage of.

    Cons

    - Company is very small and has been experiencing quite a bit of growth, so there are lots of growing pains. I think this is typical for any growing small company - Not a lot of guidance or mentorship from leadership, at least for my personal discipline (design). I found a way around this by seeking mentorship externally and taking advantage of conferences, etc., but it does require initiative. PMs who want to follow the path of a senior PM might have more luck seeking this out - At the moment, design is tertiary at this company. Leadership acknowledges/is transparent about this, at least.

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    1 person found this review helpful
  4. 5.0
    Former Employee, more than 1 year

    Great Experience

    Nov 11, 2015 - Content Manager 
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    This was my first real job after graduating from college, and I wasn't expecting much by way of leadership opportunities or real responsibilities--especially not so quickly. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my input was valued and that my work was appreciated to the extent that my responsibilities grew very quickly. Within a year, I was helping to manage a major launch. I truly feel as though the company was invested in my success there, and that I got as much from the company as I put in. I'm incredibly grateful that I got a chance to work at SR because I can see how much I grew both personally and professionally during my time here. The work culture is also pretty great - we would often go to happy hours together and play board games on Friday afternoons, which helped keep the atmosphere fun and relaxed.

    Cons

    There isn't a lot of handholding done here, which can feel very scary. Looking back, there were times when I felt a little out of my depth; but I would not have known I was capable of leading projects if I hadn't been given those opportunities, and help was always there when I asked for it.

    2 people found this review helpful
  5. 5.0
    Current Employee, more than 3 years

    Great Atmosphere

    Oct 15, 2015 - Web Developer in Kirkland, WA
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    Has a great, fast-paced, "try new things" ideology baked in. Employees are encouraged to learn new skills and try and take on more responsibility. The amount of ownership of a project is really up to the ambition of each person, if someone really wants to spearhead a particular thing they are given nothing but encouragement and support if and where they need it. Work/life balance is amazing, there are often small impromptu team-building events that make being at work a blast; whether it's everyone deciding to do a group lunch, playing a card game at the end of the day, or hitting up happy hour after work.

    Cons

    It's a small, fast-paced company in a big industry. There are lots of new ideas coming in and not all of them pan out, which can be discouraging at times. And sometimes you get stuck working on one of those ideas you don't like or don't agree with because it's just another that might work, and it has to be tried. The important thing is to remember that in the long run those ideas may just turn into something amazing if given then chance.

    2 people found this review helpful
  6. 1.0
    Former Employee

    Poor management hidden behind tons of great perks

    Nov 23, 2011 - Assistant (Contractor) in Kirkland, WA
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    - Free food (weekly Amazon Fresh deliveries) - Lunch outings once a month - Very chilled atmosphere (ping pong table, XBOX 360, etc) - Great view/location - Ample space - Friendly staff - Great compensation package

    Cons

    - Poor management This really was my only complaint, and yet it's a significant one. My supervisor was a HORRIBLE instructor (impatient, rushed thru instructions, etc) and despite him telling me he would let me know how I was doing, he didn't. I even asked both him AND the president if they could let me know at least 2 weeks in advance of the contract end date, if they saw me unfit to continue working there. At my review/firing, when I asked my supervisor why he didn't tell me all this stuff I did wrong BEFOREHAND, he got upset & loud and told me that they needed someone who could complete tasks without asking too many questions. When I told the president I thought this was unfair treatment, he replied that he didn't know my supervisor was going to have my review when he (the president) was out of town. Really? You didn't know this, despite you being the PRESIDENT of the company??? Only after I told the president I thought I received unfair treatment, did he give me a very generous compensation package (2 weeks worth of pay). Which was very generous, but odd that he did not mention/offer it until I contacted him and voiced my concerns several days after I was fired.

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    4 people found this review helpful

    Optimal (WA) Response

    CEO

    I agree with the frustration of this reviewer, because we did a very poor job of managing his stint with us. We had a young employee manage the reviewer (a contractor). We did not provide timely feedback on his performance, and when we let the contractor go, it was done abruptly. We definitely should have treated him with more honesty and respect. It was definitely a painful learning experience for us as an organization.

  7. 2.0
    Former Employee

    Great Perks

    Sep 20, 2015 - Anonymous Employee 
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    Fully stocked kitchen, pool table, close to the water, many learning opportunities and training. Hours are flexible and team members are good about completing work.

    Cons

    CEO changes his mind on a whim, manager is inexperienced and manipulative. Ran like a much larger company than it is. Absolutely no positive reinforcement. You never know if you're doing a good job or if the manager is being sincere. The manager has a personal chat with 4 other employees where they make all decisions about group activities and gossip about fellow employees. Manager is in a friend group and she hires from that group. During my employment I saw her hire two more of her friends which led to a cliquey and divided environment. Manager likes to tell people about themselves in front of everyone, and constantly makes jokes at other people's expense. The friend group is incredibly cliquey and it's made worse that one of the members is the manager. Management makes many false promises and manipulates the employees into thinking its a great work environment.

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    8 people found this review helpful

    Optimal (WA) Response

    CEO

    We had a long conversation with the rest of the team about this feedback, because it took many of us by surprise. Regardless of what we want to believe, we need to be honest with ourselves if this is a sentiment shared by others on the team. Other employees openly discussed their thoughts and conveyed that they did not feel this was a general issue facing the company. Every year, an outside consultant collects anonymous feedback from our employees about the culture of the company, the opportunity for growth, and their compensation. Each year, our employees have given us high marks for the culture of the company, which is why this review came as a surprise. Still, it taught us that, as a small company, we need to be even more vigilant on maintaining a great culture.

  8. 2.0
    Current Employee

    Competitive Atmosphere. Run like a much bigger company than it is.

    Dec 23, 2013 - Anonymous Employee 
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    A good learning environment when starting out. Good vacation benefits. Free food in the office.

    Cons

    What happens when you have a CEO who used to be a Microsoft employee? The place is run like it has hundreds of employees instead of ten. Complicated review processes. Stack rankings. Constant power struggles amongst employees. Salary compensation that has major disparities and doesn't seem to fit the current state of the company. A general feeling of mistrust. While this place can be a great place to learn when starting out your career, you can also get stuck. Do not get stuck or you will wind up doing nothing but bending to the CEO's vision. There is almost no room for discussion in this company and it shows with product that are not innovative and rapidly falling behind in a changing market.

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    4 people found this review helpful

    Optimal (WA) Response

    CEO

    We have a review process that allows everyone an opportunity to reflect on their accomplishments and areas of improvement every year. We give honest feedback on their performance. We don't hold back. Sometimes there are discrepancies in how employees feel they're performing vs. how the company feels they are performing. It makes for a difficult conversation but necessary one for everyone's sake. It is not our goal to make employees feel safe in their positions. We challenge everyone to learn, grow, and push themselves so that they're not doing the same thing year after year. One consistent feedback we receive from our employees is that they have much greater ownership and responsibility than they had envisioned. Many people have the growth mindset that thrive in this environment. Others don't. When we recognize that an employee is not a good fit long term, we are honest in our feedback to them and work with them to support their transition out of the company.

  9. 5.0
    Current Employee

    A Golden Opportunity

    Oct 13, 2015 - Anonymous Employee 
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    I've read the negative (and even a few positive) reviews that seem to imply that this company has an identity crisis or that it is somehow flawed in its corporate structure. What few seem to understand is that while this is a profitable business, it is also a learning environment. I would go so far as to say that the primary goal of its founder is to develop his employees into whatever they wish to become. Any startup requires employees to wear multiple hats and develop a range of skills, but this company directly challenges employees to identify what they wish to be and what is required to make that possible. The president and founder is preternaturally aware and keenly savvy in his decision-making. He can convey an air of social obliviousness--though his insights reveal this to be a strategic facade. He takes every opportunity to encourage individual leadership, which can often frustrate those seeking acknowledgement for their efforts. Despite a seemingly callous demand for high performance and flexibility without praise, the president is exceedingly generous; offering benefits and financial support whenever it is requested. His mantra is "ask forgiveness, not permission," but it could just as easily be "no one will give you what you want." In many ways, this company is a classroom for future professionals. There is much to learn with goals that are quickly changing, requiring adaptable decision making and a loose structure to accommodate goals. As a result, stability can seem fragile. Compensation is an area that is somewhat distinct from the individual growth within the company, but like any company, there are annual raises and bonuses and some employees take the initiative to negotiate for additional salary raises. Depending on your school of thought, this could be an area where taking the initiative is also preferred; however, this can also be an opportunity to show employee worth. In a small education-oriented company like this, the paycheck is almost ancillary and if you're here for the paycheck, it's the wrong reason. Compensation is generous and reflective of the employers commitment to employee satisfaction. Make no mistake, there is a high bar for employment and higher expectations for success; however, that success is measured by the growth of those inside the company. The president is firmly committed to the success of the company, as well as the success of its employees. He might struggle to articulate this message at times and often the nimble nature of the organization might frustrate managers responsible for implementing long-term strategies, but regardless of the business decisions he makes, his dedication to his employees is unequivocal.

    Cons

    There is limited mentorship--partially due to the swiftly changing demands of the company--and while it's an asset to allow such flexibility and autonomy in projects, sometimes that can prove frustrating for talents who are struggling to identify future opportunities. More focused individual attention to help crystalize specific short-term and long-term goals might help employees to understand the potential roles within the company or identify new roles.

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    4 people found this review helpful
  10. 4.0
    Former Employee, more than 1 year

    A fun, laid-back culture and tremendous professional growth opportunities.

    Feb 1, 2014 - User Experience Designer in Kirkland, WA
    Recommend
    CEO Approval
    Business Outlook

    Pros

    My experience at SR Education Group was invaluable. Due to its small size and startup-ish culture, employees have a great degree of ownership over their projects and freedom to execute as they see fit, and as a result develop extremely marketable skills. SR Education Group is a true meritocracy. If you work hard and challenge yourself to grow in your field (be it design, marketing, project management, development, etc.), you'll become an invaluable member of the team and have the ability to steer the product direction to a degree uncommon to most companies. I personally felt a great amount of satisfaction in seeing my work directly influence the design, content and functionality of websites seen by 100,000 users per month. As is commonly the case with small start-ups, there has been a lot of change in the organizational structure of this company. When I started, I would have characterized it as chaotic, but over the past year senior leadership has developed quite an efficient organizational structure and workflow process. The work environment is laid-back and informal. There are occasional long nights during product sprints but in general the work life balance is better than I've experienced at any other company. There are also impressive material perks at this company, including pool/ping pong tables, weekly Amazon Fresh deliveries, occasional office happy hours, and a waterfront view.

    Cons

    The main con of working at SR Education Group is simply the nature of the niche it is in. The successes of the online education vertical are closely tied to Google's ever-changing search algorithms. As a result, high-level priorities and project goals can change quite rapidly. If you're someone who would get frustrated having to leave a project unfinished because of these shifting priorities, then SR Education Group is not for you. I was not bothered by this dynamic personally, as I felt that every project I worked on, finished or unfinished, helped to inform future decision-making.

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    2 people found this review helpful
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