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Thermopylae Sciences & Technology Reviews

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3.5
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AJ Clark
10 Ratings

18 Employee Reviews

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  1. Helpful (2)

    "A big challenge for small GCs"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Vienna, VA
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Vienna, VA

    I worked at Thermopylae Sciences & Technology full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    Dedicated group of fun, smart, hard working current and former employees loyal to the company and to each other to meet deadlines and keep the best interests of the company at heart.

    Cons

    Tough for a small business to compete against larger and more established businesses with larger and longer term government contracts especially with smaller customer budgets, turmoil in Congress creating delays in proposals and large companies fighting over won work

    Advice to Management

    My advice is to try to make the best of a difficult situation, stay lean and keep a positive attitude


  2. "Decent company with questionable leadership"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at Thermopylae Sciences & Technology full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    -Lots of talented and motivated employees dedicated to the company.
    -Strong technical leadership provides great learning opportunities for software developers.
    -Flagship products are great and have a lot of potential for success.
    -Excellent work-life balance and flexible hours.
    -I could work from home every day.

    Cons

    -Company is having financial trouble. As a result, upper managment wastes talent on irrelevant government contracts to make money. This is a distraction from developing core products, and many of contracts are awful to work on. Also, raises are uncommon.
    -Upper managment isn't good at communication. There have been instances of mass layoffs and key people resigning that were never mentioned.
    - Many people at the company don't like each other, which hurts morale.

    Advice to Management

    Stay away from contracts that distract from product development.
    Do a better job with communicating company news.

  3. Helpful (1)

    "Fun company"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at Thermopylae Sciences & Technology full-time

    Pros

    Great company culture, product getting much better. Company seems to be on the up & up following a dip.

    Cons

    Dysfunctional management. Sometimes seems out of touch with what the customer wants, versus what they think they want.

    Advice to Management

    Make sure you listen to everyone on every team, not just the ones that you care about. Make sure every voice is heard.


  4. Helpful (2)

    "Night and day better than a big defense contractor"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Software Engineer
    Current Employee - Software Engineer
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at Thermopylae Sciences & Technology full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    I used to develop software for a large defense contractor (who shall remain nameless) and they had all the big corporate annoyances. This company is totally different.

    Big corporate: you're a body to be moved like a pawn by an invisible (or totally fake facade) chess player
    TST: You're respected as a person by real people. Sure not everyone can get exactly what they want all the time, but there will be an effort made if you make your wishes known.

    Big corporate: stuck on IE8 and IMB Lotus Notes and not allowed to download any of the software you need to do your job (everyone downloads anyway so they can do their jobs)
    TST: You get a computer delivered to your home (if you're telecommuting) and you can put whatever OS or software you want so long as you use common sense to protect proprietary data. Most of your access to company resources is via your company GMail account.

    Big corporate: constantly out-of-touch with reality: invisible executives make horrible technological decisions that devastate team productivity. No one knows or cares about software processes. Agile is a buzzword to impress customers.
    TST: Understands that process is important and strives to adapt and improve. Welcomes input on and makes time for whatever improvement developers agree are necessary.

    Some here say that TST pressures a lot of unpaid overtime and such. While that may be true for some, I have never experienced such pressure. I work 40 hours a week and almost never more. I suspect that most who feel compelled to work more are imagining the necessity.

    - Modern technology and common sense about what works
    - Allows telecommuting and flexible hours (and reasonable ones if you want!)
    - Invites process improvement and takes

    Cons

    - Some work too many hours which hurts productivity and for some may create peer-pressure to do the same
    - Occasionally there's a sense of disorganization and important things falling through the cracks, but rarely anything that you won't be able to help fix when you see it
    - As a Software Engineer, I don't really know much of what's happening at the company level (even in terms of sales)

    Advice to Management

    Keep up the constant improvement!

    Disseminate a broad "State of the company" view to all employees every so often.


  5. Helpful (2)

    "Bad Reputation for Selling Vaporware"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    Pros

    Embraces open, remote, and casual work environment.

    Cons

    I joined Thermopylae because of the outsiders perspective that the company is innovative and working on next-generation defense technology. Contrary to what they would have you believe, when you open the doors to Thermopylae you do not see people training like in a James Bond movie, you do not see Tony Stark innovative technology, you don't even see the atmosphere of a relaxed open minded company willing to hear ideas from all employees. What you do see is an attempt to create the "Silicon Valley Startup" facade by way of a game room collecting dust. You see stressed out employees (most of whom were in college a few months prior) wondering how they can even come close to the vaporware promises made in faked customer demos and sales meetings. You see a collective of once middle managers from a big defense contractor trying to play little defense contractor in an attempt to grab a piece of the government over-spending. This is exemplified in the form of pricing meetings where estimates are pulled from thin-air, often excused by using management domain words like "ROM Factor" and "Management Reserve". You see weekly product meetings where managers talk about the latest open source technology they downloaded and tinkered with in hopes to sound cutting edge. You see confused developers unclear of tasking and product roadmap primarily because it lives and changes in the mind of one or two people that fight over who should be CTO. You see one person playing the role of CEO, President, and CTO - and whatever other opening has been vacated by the last few rounds of layoffs and resignations.

    This is not the place to grow a career. The once HR department (which has now been terminated) used terms like "flat organization" to hide the real problem that there is no leadership and no career growth. "Opportunity for those who want it" is a concise way of notifying candidates that you are expected to work 60+ hours to demonstrate you really want the reward of having a seat at the same table as the "big boy". Know in advance that does not come with financial reward - at the end of the day you will need to vacate your seat to give someone else that worked 60+ hours a turn.

    Final warning, only butt in seat contracts were being won at this company. If you're looking for a place to work on cutting edge technology in the defense sector, look elsewhere. Thermopylae does not have what you are looking for.

    Advice to Management

    Decide what you want to be when you grow up. If its products, then you should have created something people wanted before you started the company. If its services, make sure that's clear in your recruiting efforts.


  6. "Program Manager"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Program Manager in Arlington, VA
    Former Employee - Program Manager in Arlington, VA
    Recommends
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    Great staff, generous salary and benefits, and laid-back corporate culture.

    Cons

    The company is primed to branch out to other business areas but I'm not sure all employees are on the same page as to what the way-ahead ought to be.


  7. Helpful (7)

    "Going down hill and speeding up"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Thermopylae Sciences & Technology full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    - Casual dress code. Company uses Google Hangouts and Google Apps for collaboration.

    - Flexible on work location. Many of the staff members are remote employees that are in different states and countries.

    - Get to use Good Hardware.

    - The tech support team is awesome for resolving internal issues regarding equipment. They make sure everyone has what they need to do their job effectively and realize the workers need an environment to be productive.

    Cons

    Most organizations claim to have lofty goals and values, but many fall flat when you look at what actually matters to them in how they reward or disincentivise certain behaviours and environments. Thermopylae’s problems are many and deep, but can generally be broken into two distinct categories: compensation and environment.

    Compensation
    The annual review process, or lack there of, has no bearing on raises and bonus. Raises are less than inflation and bonuses appear to be based purely on social status.

    There is little to no opportunity for career or skills growth. There is no pathway to being respected for technical skills. Employees should be able to become an expert in a field and teach their co-workers what they’ve learned. There appears to be an inferiority complex amongst many in management and some engineers that actively punishes initiative takers and keeps the company from realizing it’s potential. To make matters worse, the company has a tiny training budget that most don’t qualify for.

    Employees are constantly in fire fighting mode and expected to work 60+ hours to “overcome challenges”. At the same time, salaries are below average and there is no overtime paid for time beyond 40 hours.

    Environment
    Many companies are highly productive by being a flat organization, but Thermopylae uses it to hide problems and maintain chaos. Experts in fields are ignored, skills go unrecognized and good people are underutilized. There is no accountability to deliver the best solution and there are no consequences for failure...people just get moved around. It’s a pretty easy job to stay at if you’re interested in not doing much of anything.

    There are rumors that Thermopylae has asked specific employees to write reviews on glassdoor taking away anonymity or objectivity. I don't know if the rumors are true, but 4 of the 5 star reviews here were posted within a 2 day period by current employees...it seems fishy. No one is going to write an honest review when HR is going to check what you wrote.

    Management often makes promises to appease or acquire employees but avoids following through by using excuses like “business needs”. Why make promises you can’t keep?

    They use last years government slowdown as an excuse for poor morale and people quitting (averaging 1 per week for months). Good companies get better in slowdowns. They improve their position and improve their core staff. Thermopylae did the opposite.

    While management claims the opposite, their behavior makes it clear that Thermopylae is a consulting company, not a product company. There are more people working in management than developing products. There are 3 products, but these are used to get consulting contracts (often completely unrelated to what the products actually do). The number of product sales could be counted on 1 hand.

    My reason for leaving was not a snap judgement. I’m not one to complain to management about paying me more. Everyone can always go get more money by switching jobs. I realize that you can’t get a raise every time you ask or always get your way. Before my departure I decided I would stick it out and see if it would be better in a year (either in the sense of acquiring more technical talent or financially). When that date came around, I made the decision to start entertaining offers. If Thermopylae’s issues had improved, I would have stayed, but I didn’t see myself better a year from now. I honestly believe it is still getting worse.

    Advice to Management

    Realize that the people choose to work for your company, not because they have to.

  8. Helpful (6)

    "Overpromise, underdeliver"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Technical Writer in Arlington, VA
    Former Employee - Technical Writer in Arlington, VA
    Recommends
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at Thermopylae Sciences & Technology full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    + Positive work environment. A casual, Big Bang Theory-like atmosphere where the company and its employees do serious work but don’t take themselves too seriously.

    + Excellent benefits. Four weeks of PTO for sick and vacation, two flex days, flexible spending account preloaded with $5k, excellent health and dental insurance, 401k, revenue sharing, and holiday bonuses. HR always has interesting and fun events from happy hours to karaoke to keep employees happy and engaged.

    + Interesting and innovative work. I learned much about Agile software, REST software, and numerous Google apps and how a startup operates.

    + Company is always looking to improve and innovate its products, expand its market (overpromise).

    Cons

    - Executive management is unclear on how to accomplish said goals (underdeliver).

    - Thermopylae’s system of documentation is horribly disorganized. Instead of having one centralized system for all its technical documents, there were five different systems depending on which project you were working on.

    - Lack of mentorship/direction. As an entry-level technical writer I didn’t receive much if any training on how to effectively do my job and was left to my own devices to figure out what managers and engineers wanted.

    - High turnover. Many of the people who were there when I started left within months of my hire, including the engineering management officer who hired me.

    - Seven months after I was hired I was abruptly laid off despite a positive review of my work a few months earlier. I received no notification or warning until HR called me down and told me that there weren’t enough billable hours for technical writing. Because there was one other technical writer but was hired after me, I can only surmise that they paid her less, keeping her and firing me. You would think that in a state of downsizing, a company would follow a “first hired, last fired” rule but I guess not. As a recent college graduate trying to find and keep a job in a difficult economy while paying off debt, this layoff was just unfair. It left me reeling for three months before I found another job.

    Advice to Management

    Be clear about what your goals are and have a plan to accomplish them.
    Offer some sort of mentorship or training program so that new hires can learn about this industry and effectively do their jobs.
    Notify someone weeks before their termination date if they are going to become a cost of doing business. If employees must give two weeks notice, so should HR.


  9. "Opportunity for those who want it"

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

    I have been working at Thermopylae Sciences & Technology full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Great corporate culture
    Lots of opportunity; employees have to seize that if they want to grow
    Access to upper management

    Cons

    High expectations for everyone; this sometimes means putting in a lot of hours and making some real commitments to overcome some difficult challenges

    Advice to Management

    Maintain as much integration between technical and non-technical staff as possible


  10. "Comfortable work environment with great people."

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

    I have been working at Thermopylae Sciences & Technology full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    I very much enjoy the environment at TST. The casual dress code is great bonus, especially in the summer. I feel like the company cares about my well being. Easy to get close with your team. Generous PTO and benefits. Snacks and drinks is a nice perk too.

    Cons

    They have tried to spruce up the office the best they can, but the building its in really isn't all that great.


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