Software Engineering Institute Reviews | Glassdoor

Software Engineering Institute Reviews

Updated April 2, 2017
42 reviews

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3.5
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Paul Nielsen
24 Ratings

42 Employee Reviews

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  1. Helpful (1)

    "Has challenges, but provides great balance and opportunity"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Senior Member of Technical Staff in Pittsburgh, PA
    Current Employee - Senior Member of Technical Staff in Pittsburgh, PA
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at Software Engineering Institute full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    Great place to work for a self-starter. Incredible benefits in terms of PTO and flexibility. Very smart people on staff with opportunity to work with campus faculty. Software and security are not going away, so the potential is boundless.

    Cons

    Support functions are bloated and staffed with people who don't seem to understand that they are there to support technical work. Lack of technical strategy leaves middle management thrashing.

    Advice to Management

    Focus on a true technical strategy. Trim the fat in support areas. Staff are leaving because they want both and are being vocal about it. Be more visible in community and with customers.


  2. Helpful (1)

    "A Great Place to Start and End a Career"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Member of Technical Staff in Pittsburgh, PA
    Former Employee - Member of Technical Staff in Pittsburgh, PA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at Software Engineering Institute full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Work-Life balance and flexibility
    Interesting, cutting-edge technology
    Lots of incredibly intelligent people
    Fantastic benefits

    Cons

    You hit your ceiling pretty quickly if you don't have a PHD
    Very bureaucratic, lots of road blocks
    Pays significantly less than industry
    Lots of politics

    Advice to Management

    Improve career advancement opportunities for non-PHD employees
    Have a better sense of what your employees can make elsewhere, and adjust compensation accordingly - you don't have to match, but don't low-ball.
    Allocation of assets should be more about merit and less about politics
    Cut red tape where appropriate


  3. Helpful (3)

    "Great Colleagues"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Member of the Technical Staff in Pittsburgh, PA
    Current Employee - Member of the Technical Staff in Pittsburgh, PA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at Software Engineering Institute full-time

    Pros

    There is great comradery between colleagues and opportunities to participate on projects that are interesting and make a difference. The people I work with are great and the work is challenging and interesting and that is what keeps me coming into work everyday.

    Cons

    Poor management impacts everything. The SEI promotes people to manager who have no “people skills” and in some cases, no amount of training can fix this. I don’t know if upper management knows the depth of this issue because they keep promoting people to manager who are great in their domain, but not with people. If you really want to know about someone as a manager ask the employees that report to them. I would think when a number of employees begin leaving a specific manager or Director, it would be a red flag, but apparently not.

    Advice to Management

    Engage with the employees more. Walk around and find out what we think and what we see. We have great ideas about how to improve the SEI and they go unheard. The message is upper/senior management does not care about employees and I’m sure that is not the case. The one senior leader that has visited our team and asked about our work and how things are going is the CTO. He also gave us an update on what is going on at the SEI. If I could I rate him I would give him a high rating.


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  5. Helpful (8)

    "Toxic environment with systemic problems"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Member of the Technical Staff in Pittsburgh, PA
    Former Employee - Member of the Technical Staff in Pittsburgh, PA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Software Engineering Institute (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    There are a lot of smart people to work with. The pay is reasonable for the Pittsburgh area when you consider the nice work-life balance at the SEI.

    Cons

    None of the people in leadership roles have the skills or experience to be in the positions that they are. A lot of them have been with the SEI their whole career and don't have exposure to well-run organizations so they think that the broken SEI way of doing things is normal. I'm mid-career and have worked in a handful of different environments and this is the worst I've experienced.

    The culture is that of low morale, no cohesion between teams, no collaboration, and no organizational support for those who take initiative. Successful employees at SEI are silos and keep to themselves. This works for some people and it's a good fit for them, but for others who want to be part of a successful team so they can accomplish something bigger than an individual can, this is not the place.

    Do not spend your energy here. If you have the technical skill to be offered a position you can easily work in many other places that have positive environments, know the value of teamwork, and have effective leadership. 95% of the difficulty in accomplishing anything at SEI is due to the environment, not the work itself. The effort spent trying to navigate this isn't worth it since it can really only be fixed from the absolute top.

    Advice to Management

    Systemic management this bad is ingrained and can only be fixed by a full-on clean out at all levels.


  6. Helpful (5)

    "great place to begin or end your career"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Senior Member of Technical Staff in Pittsburgh, PA
    Current Employee - Senior Member of Technical Staff in Pittsburgh, PA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at Software Engineering Institute full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    very flexible work environment, interesting work, lots of travel, conference speaking & attendance, access to CMU campus, own office

    Cons

    funding model promotes house-divided mentality that holds the organization back, nepotism has lead to poor middle management, pay and raises below industry, few opportunities to advance career within the organization unless you're friends with the right people

    Advice to Management

    Institute a vetting process for management, incentivize collaboration among work areas, clearly communicate the org's mission to the org, invest in small "feel good" HR programs to promote company culture and identity.


  7. Helpful (10)

    "Run Away."

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Member of Technical Staff in Pittsburgh, PA
    Former Employee - Member of Technical Staff in Pittsburgh, PA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Software Engineering Institute full-time (More than 8 years)

    Pros

    Work-life balance isn't too bad. There are the great benefits and perks of being a university employee. It's a cheap way to get a CMU degree.

    Cons

    New ideas are almost immediately killed. Everything is driven by funding and the business developers that get the funding are not incentivized to get new funding streams or to be proactive or creative in any way. There is more emphasis put on writing papers than producing anything else. Most of the time the papers have little substance backing them.

    Management above the team level is an old boys club. There is little to no diversity (even for this industry). There is a terrible career path. The people put into management positions rarely have any outside experience. Their careers have only been with the SEI, they've just been around long enough to befriend the right people. As a result the middle management has little idea of how to manage and is only interested in playing politics to get further ahead and to cultivate a culture of favoritism and power brokering.

    In addition to all of this the pay is terrible. CMU pays a bit less than it should on the whole, but the SEI pays considerably less then other government affiliated groups like this one.


  8. Helpful (5)

    "Great place to work, for a while"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Senior Writer in Pittsburgh, PA
    Current Employee - Senior Writer in Pittsburgh, PA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at Software Engineering Institute full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    The organization has a great benefits package, and you can do important work for government and industry with smart coworkers. The SEI and Carnegie Mellon University are both well-known in technical fields. Oakland is a nice area of Pittsburgh to work in if you can deal with a little traffic. Flexing your work hours is allowed, as is the occasional work-at-home day. Management will encourage you to self-direct some of your job opportunities if you have an idea about something different you'd like to do.

    Cons

    Negotiate your starting salary carefully; after that, you will get annual 1-3% raises based on performance reviews. Promotion opportunities are few and not transparent (the role may be filled by assignment from behind closed doors rather than by an open application process). The professional development budget is relatively small. All these things add up to a lack of potential as a permanent place of employment; eventually you have to move on in order to grow professionally and to make more money.

    Advice to Management

    The annual raise schedule should be tied to both performance reviews and cost of living increases; for example, assure that someone with high performance reviews will receive an annual raise of at least slightly more than the "loss" due to inflation. When management positions come available, there should be open competition for them. Allow people to "save" their annual professional development allowances up to do something that costs more one year.


  9. Helpful (11)

    "Severely lacking leadership"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Member of Technical Staff in Pittsburgh, PA
    Current Employee - Member of Technical Staff in Pittsburgh, PA
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I have been working at Software Engineering Institute full-time

    Pros

    Overall, it's a generally low-stress working environment with a fairly consistent stream of incoming work. Most staff members never work over 40 hours. The benefits are great (8% of salary automatically added to 403b, generous PTO). The pay is noticeably worse than the private sector, but marginally better than the public sector.

    Cons

    The leadership at this place has been described as "Dilbertian".

    Upper management is so out of touch with its workforce, the direction of the industry, and the morale of its staff. A heavy layer of middle management exists solely to do song and dance routines to the upper management; not to actually manage. I can expect a one-on-one conversation with my direct manager once every six months or so, and that's only because I initiate it.

    Our contracting rates are incredibly high due to enormous overhead (lots of middle management and support staff), so a lot of contracts are on arbitrary/bogus government projects that simply exist to burn money in someone's budget. It's demoralizing when you spend 6, 8, or 12 months working on a project only to have the government customer all but throw away the deliverables at the end. No thank you's, no feedback, no mental reward. It's not an isolated occurrence, either; it's happened to almost every project I've seen. It's very demotivating, and it's engrained into the culture here.

    My raises haven't even been on par with inflation since I started despite great performance reviews every year. Turnover has been high, and the talent that's coming in doesn't come close to matching the talent that's leaving.

    Advice to Management

    Retire. Seriously. Stop treating this organization as your cushy early retirement and just retire.

    Oh you don't want to retire? Then manage. Rather than only talking to us about the financial health of the organization every 3 months, walk around. Talk to us. Ask us what we're doing. Ask us *how* we're doing. Ask us what we'd like to see improve in the next 1 - 3 years. Actually *manage* us.


  10. Helpful (5)

    "Poor Leadership"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Member of Technical Staff in Pittsburgh, PA
    Former Employee - Member of Technical Staff in Pittsburgh, PA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Software Engineering Institute full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Great reputation. Wonderfully helpful and supportive colleagues.

    Cons

    Poor leadership has allowed the organization to settle on its reputation. No longer works on cutting edge solutions to current threats & vuls. The people in the industry who know of the SEI know it from 15 or 20 years ago.

    Advice to Management

    Lead your customers, they want your guidance and direction. Provide solutions that advance their mission in leaps not steps.


  11. Helpful (3)

    "Brilliant minds; old leadership"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Aspinwall, PA
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Aspinwall, PA
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Software Engineering Institute (More than a year)

    Pros

    Work on real challenges for federal government; some departments embark in highly technical areas; benefits are excellent; learning opportunities are significant; highly regarded and known nationally and internationally

    Cons

    Limited promotion opportunities; limited raises and bonuses; Senior management doesn't change, are stuck and won't retire and give someone else a chance; confusion among managers as to what makes a good performer (is it publishing papers, is it solving key client issues?)

    I recommend working at the SEI for a short period of time to get whatever benefits are important to you (education, learning opportunities, conference presentation, research) and then get out so you don't end up being frustrated by the management and lack of promotional opportunities.


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