I worked at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc. full-time (More than 3 years)
SEL is an amazing place to work. Great people. Great products. Great Leadership. The ESOP is unbelievably good.
If you live in Pullman its a bit of a drive to Lowe's.
Advice to Management
Never go public.
I worked at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc. full-time (More than 5 years)
I loved my co-workers at SEL. My supervisor was a smart and kind person who really helped me grow in new areas at the company. I was not sure at first what to think of the employee ownership model but over time realized that it's as good a model as is out there for a company. After a few years I left (my husband transferred to another city and I didn't have a choice) with a healthy nest egg.
The CEO is smart (really smart), talented and pushes hard. He's not going to just roll over if quality isn't right, if we didn't do something right by a customer, and so on. It's that pushing that is part of what has made SEL what it is today. I wouldn't say that it was ever over the top, either, and once you learn why he pushes, it's a very inspiring organization.
If you're a whiner, a "my way or the road" person, don't like to work hard, or can't take direction sometimes this isn't the place for you. But if you want to understand problems and be part of working together to improve electric power, I can't think of a better place. I joke with my husband that I'll leave him some day to go back to SEL. It's the best place I've worked, and I'm not a spring chicken these days.
There are some quirks at any company and SEL isn't an exception. I will say though that the quirks are part of what I came to love. It's a family and families have quirks. It's what makes a place unique. An example: there is an all company lunch every Friday that is really a business meeting. At first I felt like it was kind of a waste of time, but if you actually pay attention and try to learn, there is a lot to pick up about technology, our finances, new markets, community events and so on. I even presented once. It just took me a while to buy in.
Advice to Management
It would be nice to have more field office opportunities for employees who have proved themselves. I understand that there has to be good fit, but it would be nice. I wish SEL the best of luck!
I have been working at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc. full-time (More than 5 years)
Attracts good people. Sometimes there is a Holiday bonus. Disaster discounts for customers when tragedy strikes them. CEO has been known to help some employees during critical times in their lives. Partial tuition reimbursement for education. Company participates in the United Way campaign. Exercise facility. Decent insurance.
In my first year at SEL I lived in and perpetuated the Public Relations (PR) Bubble that my hiring manager and HR sold me- "what a great place SEL is to develop your career". My Bubble was fed each Friday, during our weekly company-wide meeting/lunch where employees are effectively pumped with select SEL propaganda. However, starting in year two, and clearly during my third year I began to see, with my own eyes, the harsh reality that SEL is and my PR Bubble collapsed. With respect, I learned that the Electronic Relay Business is not the core business process at SEL, but rather the PR Machine that pumps employees and the community full of misinformation. Heck, even some of the "Best Places to Work" organizations have bought into our misleading propaganda.
Do not accept an offer to work at SEL without hiring and paying for a professional third party (Industry firm or private investigator). You must know the facts about our working environment here at SEL. These Job Boards, or even asking someone you know at SEL is not good enough to make such an important decision. I suspect, that many of the "Positive" SEL reviews written on job boards are either from those employees who are still in the PR Bubble or have been written by our PR or Business Intelligence teams to try to "own the public perception". There are a few rare areas in the company where there are exceptions to this. Kudo's to those few managers who currently are pulling this off.
Expect crazy, long-term overtime hours (If you try to take a vacation, expect to be working throughout it- time away from work to be with friends or family is not respected by SEL).
Understand that although SEL is an ESOP, it is completely controlled by the CEO who "Sold" his company to each of us... The way the ESOP is designed, we have little rights or advocacy and the CEO dictates from top to bottom the daily affairs of the company. I personally think the ESOP is a very risky retirement plan where all of one's egg's are in one basket. I also think the CEO uses the ESOP to underwrite his "business" interests. Many of us are very concerned about not having access to the specific financial information on how the company is doing and where the money flows. We do get a powerpoint overview on total revenue, etc, but let's see the P&L, the Balance Sheet and where all the cash goes. Many of us want to know how the money flows to other SEL entities and to the "separate aviation company". All of the secrecy leads us to believe that something is not right. We do not get to see what the "Bank" has to say in their annual reports. Besides, they are too vested in the current process- we need an independent auditor to come in and unearth what is being hidden. This will never happen unless enough of us employee's find a way to organize and protect ourselves from the backlash of this type of effort. So given that so many of us fear for our livelihoods, most likely, nothing will change.
The CEO has put each of us "Employee Owners" at risk by moving his family members into key leadership roles that they are not qualified to do. This creates a tough situation for everyone that regularly leads to excellent employees, who report to the family member, being let go just so the family member/CEO can try to "save face". This practice cripples our business and we are only a fraction of what we could be.
There are typically a few bad apples in any company that need to be let go, however its backwards at SEL. We lose far too many of the best people because they do their job, identify a critical gap in our business and bring forward a respectful and responsible plan to solve it- or grow market share. You see, it has been our experience that the CEO does not separate himself from the business- meaning that he is the business and the business is him. So any gap or mistake that is unearthed threatens who he is as a person, he takes it very personally and he protects himself by regularly getting angry and "shooting the messengers". This may mean he publicly humiliates, demotes or isolates the Employee Owner. Other regular activities include being starved of current and future resources or the Employee just disappears overnight. All strategic and many of the tactical ideas on how to improve the business must be the CEO's, all others need not apply- or you will pay by either being ignored and/ or severely punished. After a person is fired or run off, their recommendations often have a funny way of becoming a good idea and something the CEO can now get behind. The CEO then takes credit for the improvements- ridiculous and unprofessional. This also manifests when someone has a solid industry technical idea- the founder will shoot it down, and then has an uncanny ability to resurface the idea as his own several months later. Astounding.
My peers and I have always found it odd that our CEO regularly talks about freedom and traditional American values (openly pushing his own "espoused" political views on us). However, when you review the facts, his condescending, micromanagement "Dictator" approach limits creative insights and puts employees in a locked box. The voice of the people is rarely respected or even wanted. I wish the CEO would sell his stake or worst case, move into a Board only role and bring in, from the outside, some competent professional executive leaders who manage the day-to-day business and can help SEL stop digging its own pit.
So what keeps the company afloat? Good employees who no longer live in the PR Bubble that have learned to play it safe, sacrifice their own "Dignity of Work," take the regular belittling, work the crazy overtime and hope they do not disappear overnight. To a large degree, the craziness becomes "normal" to us and we actually begin to "Identify" with the CEO. Under significant and prolonged duress, people will do almost anything to try to survive.
Advice to Management
Typically someone must pay for giving this type of feedback to you, CEO/SEL Senior Management. However, I wouldn't be acting in accordance with our stated SEL values if I didn't put this feedback out in the open. I imagine, as Senior Management you already know all of this and you are just trying to survive as well- but the great employees at SEL deserve, even have a right as Employee Owners to have reasonable and respectful representation.
My intent is to encourage those who work at SEL to work together and explore our options to solve this overwhelming crisis. For those who are considering applying please do a professional background check to learn for yourselves what SEL really is like as an employer. Those who take the word of HR or a well-meaning hiring manager who is overworked, understaffed and micromanaged, are likely making a critical career and life mistake. Don't take my word for it and I certainly hope they don't take the SEL-propaganda at face value. Potential employee's need to hire a professional third-party background check company. Spend the money- I believe it may be the best money they have ever invested.
SEL, what type of public scandal, embarrassment, legal action or other painful motivator will it take to correct both our business and moral downward spiral? I no longer tell people in the community where I work, they know what is happening at SEL, it's very embarrassing. I hope one day SEL can become a place of integrity, where a talented and hardworking person can reasonably entrust their career.
Finally, I want to thank the good people here at SEL who keep this crazy ship afloat! By the way, for those of us that are left, why are we still here? Is the economy that tough? Is this the best we can do?
I have been working at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc. full-time (More than 10 years)
It refreshing to work with an organization so focused on doing the right thing for employees, customers and the community. The sense of pride that comes from being an employee-owner is apparent throughout the organization. Friday Lunch is a great benefit!
Parking is sometimes limited if there is an event on site and you may have a short distance to walk in the winter months to get to your building.
Advice to Management
Continue to focus on effective communication throughout the organization.
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