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RAND Reviews

Updated 18 January, 2018
176 reviews

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4.0
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RAND CEO Michael Rich
Michael Rich
87 Ratings

176 Employee Reviews

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Pros
  • Smart people doing interesting work in a collegial atmosphere (in 15 reviews)

  • Smart people, flexible work environment, good benefits (in 13 reviews)

Cons
  • You have to find your own work (RAND's "internal labor market") (in 12 reviews)

  • Internal labor market is stressful; you need to be fully covered at all times, which can be difficult if you work on the domestic side (in 12 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. "Great Support"

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

    I have been working at RAND full-time

    Pros

    They have excellent training. The marketing materials and people are very capable.

    Cons

    The pay is very low.


  2. "Great place to work!"

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

    I worked at RAND full-time

    Pros

    Innovative culture where ideas are encouraged. Not fearful of failure, just learn from what doesn't work. Work with very talented people.

    Cons

    Not many - work/life balance can be a bit challenging

    Advice to Management

    Keep up the great culture. Perhaps consider Schuitema's Care and Growth Model to take the employee/employer relationship to the next level and improve employee engagement even more...


  3. "IS support"

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

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

    Pros

    Benefits and compensation are good

    Cons

    Management has changed and not supportive


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  5. Helpful (3)

    "Great benefits, uninspiring pay, poor mid-level management"

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

    I worked at RAND full-time

    Pros

    Aside from basic insurances and leave many rand positions include more leave, sabbatical leave pay, tuition reimbursement, relocation benefits and working in aesthetically pleasing, well managed offices. The RAND team is generally very well educated and engaged in impactful, interesting efforts.

    Cons

    At RAND there is a spirit of "every man for himself" as opposed to one of teamwork, collaboration, and group achievement. This fostered information hoarding, dishonesty/mistrust, and overall poor communication throughout the organization. Positions are generally high-pressure - not for those who want to work a simple 40 hour work week.


  6. Helpful (2)

    "Call me dissapointed"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Los Angeles, CA (US)
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Los Angeles, CA (US)
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

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

    Pros

    benefits, casual dress, location in Santa Monica

    Cons

    lack of movement for support staff; a conservative male oriented culture, really poor operations

    Advice to Management

    You're not going to be able to solve your problems until you take the blinders off. A CEO who has never worked anywhere else in his life is a little cloistered. You need some new blood.


  7. "Finance"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Finance in Santa Monica, CA (US)
    Current Employee - Finance in Santa Monica, CA (US)
    Doesn't Recommend
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

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

    Pros

    Stable employment, Santa Monica location, minimal dress code

    Cons

    - your peers will stab you in the back, your manager will blame you for their errors, you can't trust anyone
    - people who throw others under the bus and take credit for other people's work get promoted
    - expectations 50 plus hours a week
    - CFO can't or won't make a decision
    - Benefit erosion (leave mainly)


  8. Helpful (11)

    "Dear God"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Full Researcher in Arlington, VA (US)
    Current Employee - Full Researcher in Arlington, VA (US)
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

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

    Pros

    There are some definite pros to working at RAND:
    - Ability to work on interesting topics.
    - Ability to raise your profile as a researcher in your field, especially since RAND publishes a lot of research. Definite plus on your resume.
    - Flexible work hours and flexibility on forming teams.
    - No "pigeon holing" of staff into only doing certain tasks or research areas.
    - A few, but highly competitive chances to pitch ideas for new research funded internally by RAND.
    - High degree of autonomy.

    Cons

    At the same time, there are SIGNIFICANT downsides to working at RAND and I do not recommend to my friends that they work here. I have only worked on the national security side, but here is what I have observed or experienced:
    - Internal labor market that creates significant anxiety and significant amounts of unpaid time reaching out to principal investigators. This is a substantial "tax" that is not discussed about the internal labor market. There is also significant unpaid time spent on developing new project ideas.
    - Maladaptive strategies such as hoarding coverage and coalescing into "mafias" that defend turf and are hard to break into. See: Project Air Force.
    - All risk is on the researcher to find work, bring in work, and cover their own time. This crowds out the ability to invest in developing skills.
    - Risk adverse management working for risk adverse defense clients. Add the fact that RAND seems to be in a time warp and behind on methods, and this is not a formula for innovation. Managers literally refer you to the same three methods that RAND has used for years.
    - Emphasis on bringing in your own project work from clients, which can lead to not having the best qualified people work on a project, purely out of survival. Who you know in the Pentagon, rather than research skills, is what is important as you try to bring in money.
    - Emphasis on operating as a distributed company between locations, even though this is difficult and not ideal from a project perspective.
    - On the national security side, past emphasis on growth over innovation means the corporate culture is struggling to innovate. The purpose of an FFRDC is not growth. It's to do research no one else is positioned to do.
    - No mentorship, limited time for professional development, and a sink or swim environment means that despite being surrounded by brilliant people, you are largely on your own. Management seems to consider you a revenue source, not someone to advise or develop.
    - Hugely ineffective internal bureaucracy with administrative staff who are sometimes downright hostile, ineffective, and unresponsive. Why does it take three days to fill out a form? Who knows. A wide variety of process differences throughout RAND make each program or center procedures idiosyncratic and inscrutable.
    - Internal labor market means that people who signed up for your project can suddenly decide there are off to a more interesting project, leaving you in the lurch, AFTER having spent project money on them to get spun up.
    - The high cost of overhead is an enormous problem and causes complaints from both researchers and sponsors.
    - The cost of senior staff means there is an incentive to "thin slice" project funding and only give them the minimum time possible. This means your most experienced staff are often only given small amounts of time on projects, priced out of the internal labor market, have had their hours reduced, and are not used for valuable mentoring or to their full capabilities as researchers. They are also given no time to learn new skills. I feel like I'm watching elderly researchers being put out on ice floes when they are no longer as useful. It's not a future that inspire confidence or builds morale. (If it happens to THESE brilliant people who have given years of their life to RAND, what's going to happen to ME?)
    - The constant juggling of projects that may come in at random times means there is a tendency to overcommit to projects to avoid gaps in coverage. Between this and the constant multi-tasking between projects, it is nearly impossible to focus. If you think being at an FFRDC means you have time to think deeply about policy problems, don't kid yourself.
    - Again, large amounts of unpaid work, which really sucks. There are many activities that can't be billed to a project, so you have to suck it up.
    - Although you could theoretically work on a variety of topics, this does not always happen in practice. You are still more likely to get work in areas where you have previous experience, so the ability to branch out can be a little misleading.
    - A steady stream of bright-eyed, hopeful new staff who meet with you to try and get on your projects in a hugely inefficient process that often only yields little. Their dreams will be crushed soon enough, and you have no work for them anyway.
    - Performance reviews that also depends on how much money you bring in. This is unavoidable anywhere these days, but even at RAND, all is forgiven if you bring in money. It's not clear to me that some of these projects are what RAND should be focusing on - for-profit contractors would be fine for some of this.
    - The matrix organization means that the departments who hire you are not the managers you end up working for. This is important since in most organizations, a specific manager will want to hire you for a reason and usually has a vision for how you would fit in. Instead, you are launched into an environment where you are trying to work for managers who many not be interested in your personal research strengths, and who have no vested interest in you being professionally successful.

    Advice to Management

    I appreciate the efforts by top management to try and prod middle management to try more innovative approaches. Please keep change management in mind as you hire new managers! A big name in the government or in research does NOT translate into being a good manager with the intellect to oversee the huge variety of work that RAND does. There are technical aspects to research that RAND managers could do a better job reviewing or understanding. There is also a clear conflict (and neglect of other research areas) when a manager wants to remain a star researcher in his or her field, and this should be avoided. Please, no show horses when considering the new management positions that are open.

    I understand the conscious decision to be bottom-up and avoid traditional hierarchical staffing decisions. However, at some point, there is only so much chaos and anxiety researchers can manage.

    There is almost no sense of community. RAND is organized for individual stars and individual performance, which I suppose is not that different from academia, but the culture is not as team-oriented as it could be.

    The managers set the tone that you're on your own, and it can trickle down, especially as staff whose work experience has only been at RAND only have this as an example. After being at another organization where there was a strong sense of shared purpose and team bonds were almost like family, RAND feels like an inhospitable environment where 1) you "eat what you kill" and Lord help the toothless, and 2) managers "go with the stronger horse" rather than support and develop new people.


  9. Helpful (1)

    "Great Place To Work"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC (US)
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC (US)
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

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

    Pros

    At RAND you are working with a select group of professionals, many are recognized as national experts in their field. If you are a military person this is very similar to being in a "selectively manned unit".

    Cons

    Each of us are responsible for finding and maintaining coverage throughout the year. This can be very stressful to new employees or very senior ones as they become more expensive.

    Advice to Management

    For new employees: Don't hire them unless you have an internal commitment to cover the new employee for the first year.

    For senior employees: Maintain contact with them and help them with their career decisions.


  10. Helpful (1)

    "Lucky to Be Here"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Behavioral Scientist, Full in Washington, DC (US)
    Current Employee - Behavioral Scientist, Full in Washington, DC (US)
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

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

    Pros

    1. I'm surrounded by brilliant people, and we're working collaboratively on important problems.
    2. Flat management structure--I don't have a boss, so I petty much self-start, self-direct, and figure out how to be successful.
    3. Incredibly variety of projects--I'm working on national defense, behavioral health, and intelligence projects currently.
    4. Tons of flexibility in work schedule--I have to meet deadlines, but otherwise I work when/where I want.
    5. Very generous pay and benefits

    Cons

    1, That flat management, no boss thing means no one is micro-managing you, but it also means no one is guiding you. It's kind of sink or swim.
    2. You have to find your own work at RAND: you need to find about 220 billable days every year. You have to either a) build a network of people who think you are valuable for projects, and will invite you onto projects, or b) be able to get grants/awards for your own project work and sort of hire yourself.

    Advice to Management

    1. There is little explicit training for many critical details of being a PI--instead there is a built-in assumption of apprenticing as a co-PI. If you don't get that apprenticing, it can be a steep learning curve. There's a ton of learning by experience in project management.
    2. Be upfront with us on contentious issues. In both the 5th floor phone/computer issue, and the 8th floor DC change, the issue wasn't presented directly and honestly. If we had been told "We're running out of space, so we need to do stuff like double-up offices, and have an open-floor plan," ok fine--that's honest, and we understand that real world constraints happen. Don't tell us that this is about increasing productivity, when we all know the primary driver is a space constraint. All this does is lower confidence in management--the perception is that management is willing to be disingenuous to try and make changes easier. It's having the opposite effect.
    3. Accept the truth that like all institutions, RAND hates innovation. As one of the people on the forefront of innovation at RAND, I'm fighting the institution's control systems every day. I don't know the answer to this, because institutions have a good reason to hate innovation: it involves risk. For example the unit structure, and the incentive system for unit heads strongly discourages innovation in favor of maximizing current STE for this FY within the FFRDC unit. And since QA is oriented around this unit structure, anything outside of the usual (e.g. software) is a complete goat-rope.


  11. "Culture Fit"

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

    I worked at RAND full-time

    Pros

    Company mission is to match research to solving social issues.

    Cons

    Insular culture is not for everyone.

    Advice to Management

    Add employee compassion to mission statement.


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