SemanticBits Reviews | Glassdoor

SemanticBits Reviews

Updated March 8, 2019
33 reviews

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4.4
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SemanticBits CEO Ram Chilukuri
Ram Chilukuri
29 Ratings

Employee Reviews

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  1. Helpful (1)

    "Nice, casual work enviroment"

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

    I have been working at SemanticBits full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    My job is very rewarding and never a dull moment. Everyone at the office is very friendly. There is some flexibility in your work hours like if you need to take a couple of hours for a doctor's appointment, you can make up the hours in the same week, instead of taking your PTO.

    Cons

    Health insurance for a family policy is a bit high but I think that's true for other similar sized companies.

    Advice to Management

    timesheets please

    SemanticBits Response

    Mar 13, 2019 – HR

    Thank you for taking time to leave a review. We’re glad that you find our team to be friendly and the work to be interesting. We’re continually refining our benefits and figuring out ways to create... More


  2. Helpful (4)

    "Awesome place to work but there's still room for improvement"

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

    I have been working at SemanticBits full-time

    Pros

    1. CEO is involved and cares about employees. All managers seem to have an open door policy and are interested in improvement.

    2. Everyone who works here is competent, hardworking and likable.

    3. Remote and flexible schedules

    4. Interesting and challenging problems to work on

    5. Good software development practices

    6. Individual scrum teams are fun and supportive

    7. Many opportunities for advancement and contribution in this growing company

    8. Good work-life balance, benefits and company culture

    9. The company has worked to improve the onboarding process

    Cons

    I do not believe that these are really cons but they are worth noting as difficult aspects of this job or things you should know before considering a job here.

    1. Requirements are hard to gather and require patience and flexibility on behalf of all team members.

    2. Hard deadlines exist due to the nature of government work. This means brief periods of increased hours but in my experience, they have been very brief and manageable.

    3. You cannot skate by here. You must be competent and hard working.

    Advice to Management

    1. Improve the 360 review process. Most managers are not reviewed by those they supervise. Reviews are comprised from feedback from only a few people instead of everyone you work with.

    2. To really stand out consider adding a PTO day for volunteer work, and gym membership reimbursement. Both will significantly increase company morale and health.

    3. To be competitive with the best tech companies you should improve maternity leave benefits and increase PTO for incoming employees to at least 4 weeks since it includes sick leave.

    4. Make diversity a priority. The company is predominantly male and white. This the entire C suite is male and only one higher level manager is female. Do a review to ensure women and people of color are being treated well both from a compensation/advancement standpoint and a company culture standpoint.

    SemanticBits Response

    Feb 25, 2019 – HR

    Thanks for taking time to write a review and for being part of the SemanticBits team. We completely agree that our team members are talented and fun to work with, and it’s great to hear that you... More

  3. Helpful (4)

    "Keep up with the Quota"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Software Engineer (Remote) in Seattle, WA
    Former Employee - Software Engineer (Remote) in Seattle, WA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at SemanticBits full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    - Benefits are decent, on par with what I had previously so can't really complain
    - Other developers are always happy to help. Never had an issue getting help when I needed it
    - They do mail you a laptop, but while you're waiting for it you are expected to use your own personal computer for work until it arrives
    - There is a "social" Slack channel so there is a place to "hang out" and talk about random stuff. Like the solar eclipse that happened while I still worked there. Someone shared some professional-looking photographs they took of the eclipse itself which is pretty cool.
    - They do sometimes allow you to attend conferences. The one I attended was free and local to my area so I'm unsure if they cover costs, but I didn't have to use any vacation time to attend (it was only 1 day).

    Cons

    On-boarding. The process can be summed up as throw-you-into-the-deep-end-sink-or-swim. The code base I worked in wasn't documented (more on that later) so all of the learning I did had to be done in the code itself. I wasn't expecting thorough documentation, but an outline of the application's architecture/design would have been helpful in getting started.

    Point quota. Developers are expected to meet a minimum number of points completed per sprint (6-8). Keep in mind 1 point was considered 1 day's worth of work. A sprint is 2 (work) weeks long so developers have 10 days to meet this quota. This may seem like an adequate amount of time to get the work done but keep reading and you'll see why it isn't. The quota was the reason I left the company because it had the following problems:

    - Massive Bug Backlog - Code was written quickly to earn as many points as possible in the shortest period of time. This caused developers to make mistakes and not test thoroughly so when the testers actually evaluated the quality of the product, a bunch of bugs get logged. Those bugs, however, don't get fixed immediately because unless management pulls those bugs into the current sprint and assigns point values to them, no one will work on them (nor are the developers allowed to pull the bugs in themselves, it must go through the pointing process).

    - Code Duplication/Quality - It's faster to copy/paste code than it is to refactor it so there was a lot of copy/pasted code in the code base. I often noticed other developers (myself included) doing the bare minimum to pass code review (and earn points). Refactoring didn't earn developers "extra points" so without the incentive, why spend the extra time to clean up the code? Management only seemed to be concerned with the number of points earned vs the quality of the code written so why spend the extra time to make the code better when "functioning" is good enough?

    - "Extra" Points Don't Rollover - Each developer is expected to earn 6-8 points per sprint. If a developer earns more points than that, they do not rollover into the next sprint. There is no incentive to do any more work beyond the bare minimum. I once had a sprint where I earned 16 points then took my time in the next sprint to carefully refactor a portion of code. When my refactor didn't produce any completed points at the end of the 1st week of the sprint I was messaged by management asking why I didn't have any points done.

    - Lacking Documentation - None of the developers bothered write documentation on the code base because writing documentation wasn't worth any points, so why do it? This was the reason why my on-boarding process was more difficult than it should have been. In general, the quota prevents developers from doing additional work that could benefit the team in the long-term.

    - Work/Life Balance - Developers who don't meet their point quota get messages from management asking why and if additional (over 40 per week) hours were put in to attempt to meet that quota. This happened to me a few times which is disappointing because it shows that management prefers quantity over quality. Likely because it's an easy metric to sell to stakeholders. Honestly, I don't even know how the quota applies when people take time off. Evidently it seems that senior developers were still active on Slack and doing code reviews despite taking time off for vacation which I find alarming.

    - Discourages Discussion - Often times when there are questions around requirements it's normal for developers and product reps to have a discussion making the requirements more clear or even changing them to better suit the user experience or the technical limitations. Since developers are always expected to be churning out points, we're less incentivized to carefully discuss the requirements when we had questions and often the went with our "best guess." This often led to re-work when either the product rep noticed the requirements weren't met or a developer would notice that the feature as written didn't make sense from a user/technical perspective.

    - Doesn't Account for Blockers - A perfect example of this was our pull request (PR) builder. A PR cannot be merged until the builder has been run and passes (code compiles, tests pass, etc...). Our Jenkins jobs were setup in such a way that there could only be one active build job running at a given time including the build for the master branch as well as the builds for all PRs. This means that if multiple PRs were made at the same time (like say towards the end of a sprint) then each PR would get queued until the previous PR finished building. The same would occur when a PR was merged into master and the master build would kick off. As you can imagine, it could take a long time to get through all of the pending PRs slowing down the entire development process. It was even worse when Jenkins would go down. The quota doesn't account for issues like these which causes developers to work more hours (see Work/Life Balance above) or possibly get a "nasty gram" from management. When I brought this up to management during sprint retrospectives it wasn't clear to me if they followed up on it or what the outcomes of that were as they never mentioned it again (but the problems continued).

    - Estimates - Developers use pointing poker to determine how many points a given card is worth (usually based on how much work the card required). One would think that since developers control the points this system would work right? Wrong. The stages for a card go like this: coding -> UX review -> testing -> done. The only part of this process that we as developers can accurately estimate is the "coding" stage. We cannot possibly be expected to estimate how long a designer will take to review the UI and how long a tester will take to test the feature. When I brought up my concern to management they simply replied that developers should account for those steps in their estimates. I don't think that's fair. Not to mention, if a story card fails any of the intermediate steps it goes back to the "coding" stage where the process starts over. Which means developers need to juggle multiple cards at the same time and monitor the processes of each in case follow ups are needed or someone in the process is dragging their feet. The quota unfairly judges developers on their productivity when they may not even be the reason why a story card isn't "done."

    - Personal Development - Since developers are always busy trying to earn points and juggling story cards, there isn't much room for your own personal development unless you do it on your own time. This can be difficult if you're working over 40+ hours a week. It seems to me that the way a developer grows here is through trial by fire through an assignment that you may not necessarily know how to do. This is unfortunate because with the quota in place developers are not incentivized to grow their skillsets, but rather stick with what they already know and understand for the sake of earning points consistently.

    - Turn Over - I worked at SemanticBits for 5 months. In that time, one other developer from my project left the company, shortly followed by me. I witnessed a conversation occur on Slack between the developer and management which discussed an issue management had with the developer's inability to join impromptu meetings in a "timely" manner (it took the developer a couple extra minutes to log into meetings due to the internet setup they had a home). I personally had two issues with the entire conversation: 1) it should not have been done in a public channel where everyone could see it, and 2) I suspect that no one other than management had an issue with the developer's delay in joining unplanned meetings which seems unfair to reprimand someone (albeit a minor reprimand) when so few people had an issue.

    - Developer Evaluations - I didn't work at SemanticBits long enough to actually receive a proper evaluation, but I suspect the overall points earned for the year (or average per sprint) are a major factor in the evaluation. I don't feel those metrics accurately measure the level of contribution any one developer has made to the project or team as it ignores other useful measures like:

      - Helping other team members
      - Mentoring
      - Code quality
      - Code performance/run-time
      - Staying up-to-date on current technology
      - Learning the product

    I also noticed that one-on-ones did not occur between developers and management at all (they did occur between HR and team members though) which further supports my theory that performance is based on points. I find that concerning because it indicates that management is not aware of the activities any individual developer is doing besides the story cards they are actively working on and/or completed. I also felt I was micromanaged quite a bit. In my 3rd week on the project, I received a message from management inquiring as to why I hadn't earned any story points yet. It's a little unsettling to be watched like that especially when I was still new to the project.

    Advice to anyone looking to work here. You should ask about this stuff during the interview process. It's been over a year since I've worked there so any number of these things may have changed.

    Advice to Management

    - Get rid of the point quota you'll solve a lot of problems by eliminating it.
    - Your job is to shield developers from the demands of the stakeholders by reigning the stakeholders in to more realistic expectations NOT to promise them everything they want at arbitrary deadlines so you look good.
    - Do one-on-ones with your developers, they're people not point-generating robots.
    - Listen to the problems people report, if the suggestions they offer aren't good (enough) solutions then actually work towards coming up with better ones. Follow up and report back, keep your team(s) informed.

    SemanticBits Response

    Jan 23, 2019 – HR

    At SemanticBits we use a Scrum-based Agile process. Part of our approach is to try to accurately estimate the team’s capacity each sprint, so that we can size our sprint backlogs appropriately. We... More


  4. "Great place to work if your a great developer"

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

    I have been working at SemanticBits full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    You work with some of the smartest people from around the country. The company is very structured and day to day operations run very well considering most employees are remote.

    Cons

    It's hard to come up with any cons for this company. I guess it can get lonely if you're not used to the remote work life.

    Advice to Management

    Keep it up! Love working here

    SemanticBits Response

    Dec 21, 2018 – HR

    Thanks for reviewing your experience working with SemanticBits. Many of our employees agree that it’s a great place to work, whether it’s because of our competitive benefits, exciting and meaningful... More


  5. "Great place to work for!!"

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

    I have been working at SemanticBits full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    - Friendly and healthy work environment.
    - Have employee's to guide and motivate when you are stuck in problem-solving.
    - Best software engineering practices followed.
    - Collaborative work environment to achieve a common goal.

    Cons

    - Nothing that I have experienced so far.

    Advice to Management

    Keep it up!!

    SemanticBits Response

    Dec 10, 2018 – HR

    Thank you for taking time to leave feedback on your employment with SemanticBits. We’re glad to hear that you enjoy being part of our team and find support among your teammates. We strive to create a... More


  6. "SemanticBits Review"

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

    I have been working at SemanticBits full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    I've been at semanticbits for almost a year and on two different projects. Overall I have been happy with the amount I have learned during this time. This is always important since as a developer it's important to keep your skills sharp.

    Additionally I've worked with incredibly smart and productive people who are always willing to help out. I really like that aspect of the team culture.

    Finally, you can work fully remotely. There are a lot of slack channels so you can still feel connected to the team and others in the company.

    Cons

    Overall new technologies get pretty easily adopted here but one thing we definitely have to support is IE11.

    SemanticBits Response

    Nov 28, 2018 – HR

    Thank you for your feedback on your employment with SemanticBits and for the hard work you do. We’re proud of our project teams and the software they develop. We’re glad you like working remotely... More


  7. "Great Company. Great People. Good Environment. Good Leadership"

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

    I have been working at SemanticBits full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    Working from home. Good work life balance
    Work with down to earth, good people who want to make a difference
    Good benefits
    Good equipment (workstations)
    The work is challenging but fair.
    Always an open door to talk to management, including the CEO

    Cons

    The leadership is relatively good, but can be better. Need more operational decision makers.
    Deadline expectations are extremely high.
    Communication could be better. Sometimes it feels like we are expected to be mind readers.
    Need better processes.

    Advice to Management

    Better communication is needed from the top down.
    Better/Standard processes need to be setup across teams.

    SemanticBits Response

    Dec 10, 2018 – HR

    Thank you for providing feedback. So many of our employees agree with you about our competitive benefits and good work-life balance, as well as with how fulfilling it is to work on challenging but... More

  8. Helpful (4)

    "Dead end job."

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Senior Software Developer in Remote, OR
    Former Employee - Senior Software Developer in Remote, OR
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at SemanticBits full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Remote work, some decent co-workers.

    Cons

    Company culture is fairly negative. They favor slow work ethic and poor quality code so that it can be refactored severals times at the expense of the tax payer since all work is government contract. Almost everything they work on is for government healthcare which is strange since they provide horrible benefits.

    Advice to Management

    Stop promoting senior management with the good old boy career advancement style.

    SemanticBits Response

    Nov 28, 2018 – HR

    We appreciate the feedback on your experience working with us, and we’re sorry that you didn’t find a good fit with us. A majority of our employees are remote, and we understand that it can take a... More


  9. Helpful (1)

    "Great company, awesome people"

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

    I have been working at SemanticBits full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    I love working at SemanticBits. Here are some pros, in no particular order:

    1) Wonderful people. There are zero people I dislike at this company, and no one who is annoying or difficult in my day-to-day tasks. This is almost unheard of (don't we all experience that one person at work who just... arghhh). Everyone is smart, professional, and hard-working.

    2) Meaningful work. Knowing that the work I do every day will lead to better health outcomes for millions of people is very rewarding. It's also nice to feel like I don't contribute to shady practices with data and privacy violations or abuses, nor that I'm solely focusing on how to use data to get more money, which is boring after a while.

    3) Professional advancement. There is so much opportunity to learn new skills and experiment with new tools at this job. I'm getting paid to learn technology that I tried to squeeze into my off-hours at other jobs, where I wasn't encouraged to branch out, and was stuck in a set of core duties with little variation. Not so here. In my first 6 months alone, I worked with python, R, Elasticsearch, SQL, and git, and probably could have done more if I wanted to.

    4) You are expected and encouraged to work hard, treated like you're a smart and capable person who can do the job and then some, but there isn't a do-or-die mentality where you can't be human and make mistakes or be relaxed, which is very refreshing. There is a very upbeat, enthusiastic, supportive, and positive culture of work at SemanticBits.

    Cons

    1) You will find out quickly whether or not you can handle 100% full-time remote work, if you're hired as a remote worker. Personally, finding a co-working space where I can get out of the house each day and focus on work has been a lifesaver. Some people don't mind full-time WFH, but it drove me nuts.

    2) Salaries are slightly lower for data positions than in highest-paid areas like Silicon Valley. Then again, you're also paying for the extremely expensive lifestyle in a location like that, so this is minor. There isn't a set bonus structure, but the manual says bonuses are available based on performance.

    3) It can be hectic at times, there can tend to be a *lot* of meetings, many of which are scheduled last-minute, and the lunch hour isn't routinely observed. I've never had a problem taking time for myself out of the day, but it's not like I get the same lunch hour each day. FYI for anyone who is a stickler for schedule and set work/lunch hours. I definitely feel like I have work-life balance, and I don't have to be available all hours of the day. But when it's on, it's on!

    4) There is some travel. Not a lot, but it's there. This is a pro or con depending on how you feel about traveling.

    These cons feel very minor compared to the huge pros, but nothing is perfect, and these are my experience of cons in my current role.

    SemanticBits Response

    Jun 18, 2018 – HR

    Thank you for taking time to share your experiences at SemanticBits. We're glad to hear that our employees are happy and have work-life balance. With a majority of our employees, including some of... More


  10. "Great company to work for! Love it"

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

    I have been working at SemanticBits full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    Getting to use the latest technologies, also flexible as most of the team works remotely.

    Cons

    Working from home can be an adjustment, and takes work to facilitate good team cohesion

    SemanticBits Response

    Jun 4, 2018 – HR

    Thank you for your review. We're glad to hear that you love working at SemanticBits. We're pleased to know that our employees like the benefits and work flexibility that we offer, and that they are... More