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Vulcan Reviews

Updated 17 September 2018
94 reviews

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3.2
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Vulcan CEO Bill Hilf
Bill Hilf
17 Ratings

94 Employee Reviews

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Pros
  • "The diversity of projects means never a dull moment, and there is a philanthropic and impact-driven bent to almost everything" (in 6 reviews)

  • "Good benefits and small turnover rate" (in 10 reviews)

Cons
  • "Some areas seem to have better work/life balance than others - but such is the risk with such a diverse organization working on such different projects" (in 11 reviews)

  • "It's a culture of fear that will not change because it comes directly from Paul Allen" (in 3 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. "I joined vulcanxpress in 2016 and till now I'm employee their"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Bhiwandi (India)
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Bhiwandi (India)

    I have been working at Vulcan full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    I learned from their huge things and have ability to manage all the operation

    Cons

    There was no any growth that has the disadvantage

    Advice to Management

    In order to manage operation we need a proper planning from the beginning of day with respect to everyday's scenerio , by which we implement our plans and ideas with following FIFO and so on


  2. Helpful (1)

    "Weak sr mgmt but good staff and environment"

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

    I have been working at Vulcan full-time

    Pros

    Excellent group of people and available resources. Work life balance is good. The culture of work hard and play hard is alive and well. Advancement happens but only for the select few who are favorites of senior management or "in the club".

    Cons

    Senior leadership is absent. We don't hear about successes probably because they are not making much progress on the company goals. Just a lot of reorging and cost controls. There are few stellar executives (most have been here for years) but virtually all of the recent hires in the last two years are mediocre at best.

    Vulcan Response

    10 Sep 2018 – Vulcan

    Thank you for your feedback.

  3. "Free, free, free at last."

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

    I worked at Vulcan full-time

    Pros

    Reasonable compensation, good benefits, great co-workers.

    Cons

    Don't expect to have a personal life, nor employment security. You'll be subject to the whims of the Owner and management. Upper level management talks a good game about the value of employees and employee empowerment. Talk is apparently cheap. In actual practice a culture of intimidation and quick termination exists within mid-level management, and HR backs them up.

    Advice to Management

    Make sure mid-level management actually adheres to company policy, allows employees to have a voice and that the practice of "my way or the highway" is prohibited.


  4. Helpful (2)

    "Interesting and bizarre place of work"

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

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

    Pros

    - great benefits and decent pay
    - get to work on some unique projects
    - colleagues were genuinely dedicated, experts in their field

    Cons

    - from the top, priorities are consistently shifting
    - shadowy and thick level of management, causes a lack of trust
    - re-orgs on a quarterly basis, causing turmoil and uncertainty
    - keep bringing in fast-talking tech folks to "lead" philanthropic initiatives that they know little about. They are typically just "trying it out, and if it doesn't work, they can just go back to tech". But they change systems, create upheaval, lose trust, and then leave on very short time-cycle.

    Advice to Management

    Make some long term goals and commitments. Unleash the talent that you have. Hold on to specialists and SMEs who have dedicated their careers to the philanthropic impact arena.

    Vulcan Response

    17 Aug 2018 – Vulcan

    Thank you for your feedback.


  5. "Must be able to handle change"

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

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

    Pros

    I've been at Vulcan in a Manager role for over a year. It's not exactly what I expected when I joined but that's because there really isn't anything quite like Vulcan. The most exciting thing here is the diversity in the work that is being done, from producing movies to helping the NFL solve for brain injuries to creating responses to pandemics to hosting a three day music festival. The list goes on.
    In addition, I have found the people I work with to be smart, creative, and genuinely interested in the work they do.
    Our CEO is down to earth and accessible - if you think otherwise I wonder if you have made the effort to engage with him.
    It's definitely hard here - lots of changes, shifting priorities, high expectations. There is no way you will be successful here if you have trouble adapting to rapid paced change. If you like the notion of doing good work to solve big problems this might be up your alley.

    Cons

    Change - so many changes that can be disruptive to the organization. Let's stick to a few good ideas and see them through before jumping to the next.
    We could benefit from more top down communication - tell us what's going on, be more open about the changes and don't assume the messages are getting to the masses.

    Vulcan Response

    14 Aug 2018 – Vulcan

    Thank you for your feedback.


  6. Helpful (7)

    "Good in theory, terrible in execution"

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

    I worked at Vulcan full-time (More than 10 years)

    Pros

    Vulcan has many intelligent and competent employees.
    The downtown office location has stunning views of Seattle. I never get tired of the views!
    Benefits are pretty good, although the medical plans have been scaled back recently. The only plans available now are the consumer-driven HSA plans.
    Unique perks, such as movie night at the Cinerama.
    Vulcan has excellent party planners. Vulcan hosts a lot of employee parties, and they are very well done.
    Lastly, Vulcan has a Coke Freestyle machine that dispenses a wide variety of beverages. It is the highlight of working at Vulcan!

    Cons

    The culture at Vulcan is its chief con. The general culture is elitist and authoritarian, which is sadly ironic because Vulcan is desperately trying to brand itself as free-thinking, egalitarian, and collaborative. Unfortunately, it is largely the opposite. There is a very deep and rigid hierarchy at Vulcan. Executive management lives in fear of getting berated by the owner. That fear then gets passed down through all levels of management and then saturates the rank and file. Consequently, much of what the workers do is support their direct manager in preparing them to have a good story to tell when they get called out publicly by their own manager. So instead of doing what is best for Vulcan, employees often do what is best for their manager’s survival or career aspirations.

    Communication at Vulcan is very unidirectional; namely top-down. Do not expect to have healthy debate with your manager and see your feedback make its way up the reporting chain. You are essentially told what you need to deliver, when to deliver it, and to refrain from asking challenging questions. So essentially, creative thinking, reasonable discussion, and intelligent debate are informally suppressed in this culture. Vulcan tries hard to market itself as a flat, collaborative, startup-like environment, but it tries to achieve that aim through superficial means, such as redesigning the technology department's workspace by eliminating all offices. So if you work in technology, you work in a big room with small cubes, no privacy, lots of noise, and no place to store work related items. In other words, Vulcan has recently jumped onto the “open office” bandwagon.

    Much of what I say here is based on my perspective of having worked in technology for many years. There are some departments that are quite different. Some departments wield a lot of influence, and consequently, enjoy privileges not available to other departments. If you hire on to one of these departments, your experience may be a positive one. But it is this disparity among departments that is one of the greatest weaknesses about Vulcan culture. It is highly political, and who you know, or who you are, rather than what you do, that largely determines your experience at Vulcan. Cronyism, unfortunately, is a big part of work life there. Many employees in key positions are not reluctant to dole out special favors for their friends or their subordinates. This, I feel, damages the integrity of the organization.

    As I mentioned, Vulcan desperately wants to be like a startup. I have worked in Silicon Valley at a startup, and Vulcan is the antithesis of the startup culture. A startup company has a flat managerial hierarchy where there is a strong sense of shared purpose (and sacrifice). In contrast, Vulcan has an extremely high manager to employee ratio. That in itself is not necessarily a problem, but there are so many managers who are unwilling to perform work that they feel is beneath them. Many managers will not even schedule their own meetings or perform their administrative, and even managerial tasks. They have their administrative assistants do that work. This is why the low-rung workers are consistently overworked. There are lots of people with ideas, some of which are good, though mostly absurd, and not enough people to actually execute the work.

    Also different from the typical startup is the way that they treat I.T. employees. In a typical small technology company, the technologists are highly valued and their treatment reflects that attitude. At Vulcan, you are treated as a drain on cash. And because Vulcan does not generate much, if any revenues from technology, the tech workers essentially ARE a drain on cash. I.T. is treated as a necessary evil, so to speak. If you are looking for a technical position, just keep that in mind. You will likely be paid competitively, but do not expect a lot of respect from Vulcan management. Because of this general attitude by management, you can sometimes expect similar treatment from your internal customers. And do not expect your managers to back you when you need their support.

    As some other reviewers have mentioned, HR is not your advocate. Their primary objective is to keep the owner from getting angry. Secondarily, they strive to keep the C-level managers happy. At least this is the feeling that many people have. If you consult HR with a problem, their first thought is to protect the owner and the company, not the employee. Another reviewer recommended that you should hire a labor attorney if you accept a job offer. Unfortunately, I fully agree. That is all I can legally say on that topic.

    My advice to people contemplating employment at Vulcan. If you work in technology and you are sufficiently marketable, don’t waste a year or two testing the waters at Vulcan. You will likely be disappointed with the way you will be treated, relative to the other departments and companies. If you are desperate for employment, then take the job offer and “suck it up” like many of us here are asked to do. If you are not in technology, give Vulcan a try. You may end up in one of the premier departments and have a good experience.

    And one last “con”, in addition to the political culture. Telecommuting is not allowed, unfortunately.

    Advice to Management

    Work on improving communications. The employee town hall meetings are fun, but not what we want when we ask for transparent communication. The town halls are flashy opportunities for executives to tell about the cool things they are doing. Use the chance to address the more controversial topics that employees want to understand, such as diminishing medical plan choices, mysterious terminations, and disappearing perks.

    Instead of trying to market Vulcan as a top company to work for, focus on actually being that great employer. That means starting with rebuilding the integrity of the organization from the top down. While Vulcan exists to serve the owner, remember that employees are a key element in providing that service. You have a lot of intelligent people working for you. You ought to listen to their concerns and make substantive changes where possible; not just throw more extravagant parties. A big part of regaining integrity is to get rid of the favoritism. Treat all departments and employees equally. Vulcan is too small a company to be so saturated with politics.

    You are doing great things for the local community and the world. Take that desire to make the world a better place and turn it inward. Make Vulcan an example of a place where employees have a voice, are treated with respect, and do not live in daily fear of making a career-ending mistake.

    Lastly, please stop hiring more levels of bureaucracy; in other words, stop adding more and more layers of managers. Vulcan needs more people that do, not more people that talk and scheme. Vulcan already has a glut of managers, but precious few leaders. What's the difference? In my opinion, a manager is concerned with her or his own job and aims only to please the boss; a leader is also an advocate for subordinates, a voice that speaks for those who, alone, have little influence.


  7. "Never a Dull Moment"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in South Seattle, WA (US)
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in South Seattle, WA (US)
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at Vulcan full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    Great Pay, diverse Ideas and Issues, great perks such as Movie nights, and sporting event tickets

    Cons

    Strange Hours, and moving goalposts when it comes to pleasing the only person that matters at Vulcan

    Advice to Management

    pay attention to non management employees that keep the company running , instead of the yes people you have surrounded yourself with

  8. Helpful (3)

    "Welcome to the land of OZ"

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

    I worked at Vulcan full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    NONE!! or maybe if you getting to watch the occasional free movie.

    Cons

    If you like delusional, hubris filled days this is the place for you.

    Advice to Management

    Tackling the world's hardest problems...laughable. Try tackling yourselves then!


  9. Helpful (1)

    "Lots to love"

    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 Vulcan full-time

    Pros

    Good pay and benefits, passionate people, incredibly rewarding work

    Cons

    Some mid level managers and directors are extremely cliqueish. Many have come from industries or companies where cut-throat techniques were the norm, and we don't need that at Vulcan.
    Being an abusive jerk might get you somewhere at Blue Origin or Microsoft or Space X, but it has absolutely no place at Vulcan. If you can't leave your ego at the door, go work somewhere else.

    Advice to Management

    There are some good people at the top and botttom of this company, you need to look hard at your directors and managers. When a team is filled with the friends and acquaintences of the director/manager from their prior jobs, you're building a small Microsoft or Amazon or Blue Origin team, not a Vulcan team.


  10. Helpful (7)

    "The Illusion of Work"

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

    I worked at Vulcan full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    As a software engineer, I was afforded the opportunity to learn in several new fields.
    Salary was slightly above average.

    Cons

    Abysmal morale. Engineers are rarely promoted or encouraged to self-organize. The manager to engineer ratio is incredibly large.

    Management is constantly churning and the new managers are brought in from the outside, never promoted up from within. Groups working in niche fields built up capabilities only to have their efforts redirected by whoever the latest manager was who had no domain expertise. Managers were brought in based on their credentials at the biggest tech companies but the strategies they learned there were inappropriate to the size, scope, and audience of Vulcan projects. Imagine a 2 person 6 month research project. Now bring in 3 managers who insist on making the prototype 'enterprise grade', halting progress. Be sure to berate the engineers on their way out. Projects managers focus more on reporting progress than progressing. I've never been at an organization which spends the amount of effort this one does to tell employees how great it is to work there. I wish I left sooner.

    Vulcan Response

    22 Jan 2018 – Vulcan

    Thank you for your feedback on your experience and your advice.


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