Working at Vulcan | Glassdoor.co.uk

Vulcan Overview

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Seattle, WA (US)
501 to 1000 employees
1986
Company - Private
Computer Hardware & Software
£5 to £10 million (GBP) per year
Unknown
Vulcan is the engine behind philanthropist and Microsoft cofounder Paul G. Allen's network of organizations and initiatives.
We share a commitment to improving our planet through catalytic philanthropy, inspirational experiences, and scientific and ... Read more

Mission: Empowered by our founder Paul Allen's vision, our mission is to be catalysts for change and make a positive difference in our world."

Vulcan Reviews

3.0
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Approve of CEO
Vulcan CEO Bill Hilf
Bill Hilf
20 Ratings
  • Helpful (15)

    "You And Me Could Write a Bad Bromance"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Senior Product Manager in Seattle, WA (US)
    Former Employee - Senior Product Manager in Seattle, WA (US)
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at Vulcan full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. When people were interested in coming to work at Vulcan I told them, “It’s cool because you work on crazy stuff. It’s awful because you get to work on crazy stuff.”

    I worked on some crazy stuff. Drones and VR and machine learning. It’s a tech playground. It was great for my career to dabble in cutting edge technology. It makes people notice my resume. It forced me to think outside the box. I am grateful for my time at Vulcan.

    Cons

    I’m also very happy to have left. Vulcan lacks paying customers. Without that simple but powerful force, it is hard to keep a company pointed toward true north.

    In my five years in the tech department, it had about three name changes and 4-6 leadership changes. With each regime change I would feel a new sense of hope. “This guy (note: always a guy) seems like he understands business. He’s not just interested in creating a wacky invention, but he wants to make products for actual human beings.” Inevitably, users would fall to the wayside and we would ultimately build something for a white guy sitting in an ivory tower. While Mr. Allen had good intentions and creative ideas, he often wanted a cutting edge engineering solution to a big humanitarian problem. The non-engineering solutions were too dull. But the engineering solutions were often out of touch.

    One thing was consistent: the worker bees were passionate about making something amazing and functional. Similar to Mr. Allen, they wanted to make a big impact in people’s’ lives. They researched ways to make science fiction come to life. They are smart, kind, creative, sharing people. However, the people who get promoted spout empty promises. They strut in like Donald Trump, fabricating business models and customer needs.

    In some ways, it's hard to fault these leaders. When there is no business, then lying with flourish is the best way to personally survive. If they can’t be successful by making a sale, then success has to come from a bloated sense of self worth.

    In the last regime change, things have gone slightly differently. The customer we designed for was no longer Paul Allen but instead a nonexistent customer who wants futuristic products at a reasonable price. In trying to productize Paul’s ideas, they are taking something developed in a lab and trying to make it a commodity, underfunding any R&D that would maintain differentiation.

    Leadership isn’t taking a strong stance in any direction:
    - If it truly wanted to build products, it would expand the team size to function comparably to a competitor. Right now, teams of 2-10 people are trying to create a full scale business.
    - If it wanted to operate as a tech transfer office, it would partner with major companies. Instead, it keeps its tech development under wraps.
    - If it wanted to be a Google X, it would focus on R&D and build truly futuristic product prototypes and not worry about making a sale.

    Vulcan doesn’t know what it is. It never has. It always sat in a technological purgatory, partially because I don’t think Mr. Allen cared enough to commercialize. Without Paul Allen, it loses a leader that had a sci-fi imagination. That might be a good thing since his ideas never touched the ground. It might be a bad thing because there are no longer any ideas.

    Right now, it is trying to commoditize futuristic ideas for an imaginary customer. Best of luck.

    Advice to Management

    You have a bias against women and non-egotistical men. Get some training to figure out why you favor the opinions of loud mouth men. Find someone to point out your biases. The company is bleeding women in particular.

See All 99 Reviews

Vulcan Photos

Vulcan photo of: Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin joins Vulcan CEO Bill Hilf on stage at a recent company meeting
Vulcan photo of: Russell Wilson and Ciara stopped by recently to meet with Vulcan CEO Bill Hilf, Mary Cadera and Art Min to discuss philanthropic endeavors
Vulcan photo of: Sporting our custom cycling jerseys
Vulcan photo of: At Vulcan we take the dog days of summer literally and invite employees to bring their dogs to work for a fun-filled day. This year we had more than 75 dogs in the office.
Vulcan photo of: Two of the stars of "Step" teach Vulcan employees some moves.
Vulcan photo of: Vulcan employees enjoy a unique opportunity to tour the Seahawks locker room at CenturyLink Field
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Vulcan Interviews

Experience

Experience
48%
22%
30%

Getting an Interview

Getting an Interview
65%
19%
8%
4
4

Difficulty

2.9
Average

Difficulty

Hard
Average
Easy
  1. Helpful (1)  

    Software Engineer Interview

    Anonymous Employee in Seattle, WA (US)
    Accepted Offer
    Positive Experience
    Easy Interview

    Application

    I applied through an employee referral. The process took 4+ weeks. I interviewed at Vulcan (Seattle, WA (US)) in May 2009.

    Interview

    I was recruited to the position by an old friend who I had worked with before. He pushed my name through the interview process, but I still had to jump through a lot of hoops with HR who were adamant on maintaining their control over hiring. Job required a thorough background check, which was no problem for me.

    Interview Questions

    • I was interviewed by an eventual co-worker who asked me many very specific questions about how I would approach a given problem. He later told me that any time he was stuck on a problem, he would quiz the potential employees he interviewed about it until he heard an idea that intrigued him.   Answer Question

    Negotiation

    Simple - they offered me more than I was asking, and I took it.

See All 28 Interviews

Vulcan Awards & Accolades

  • Washington's Best Workplaces, Puget Sound Business Journal, 2016

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