Pros: dry cleaning, gym, cafeteria for some sites, good benefits, great individual contributors
Cons: high turnover (both voluntary and involuntary), constant reorganization, unhealthy culture, long hours.
Compensation is fair if you negotiate carefully when you're hired, and benefits are on the high end of standard. But there's a lot to be wary of.
First, there are the layoffs. Every April people start getting tense as folded boxes arrive and layoffs commence, followed by sweeping reorganization (sometimes more than one reorg a year). Valuable employees – more... often leave voluntarily for more stable employment. Many younger employees who come to CA fresh out of school, learn valuable skills, and then leave because their compensation no longer reflects their market value. Adjustments to retain these people happen, but they are rare and it's a tough fight. As a result, the company bleeds talent and tribal knowledge at a prodigious rate. On the plus side, they are an excellent farm team for other companies.
Management is a mixed bag. Upper management is extremely disconnected and reluctant to let go of underperforming middle management. Middle managers (even the good ones) are unskilled at helping their teams shine or advance. Managers also suffer from the constant reorganization--it's hard to invest in a team when you know they'll be someone else's team next quarter, and hard to help an employee you just inherited from someone else. There's also no structure to help managers help individual contributors--there's no typical map of how to advance from job A to job B, and no clear sense of what skills set a senior apart from a junior or a manager apart from an individual contributor.
Development for individual contributors is all up to the employee. Initiative in this area is only sporadically supported and never directly rewarded. You can prepare yourself for another job, but there is no mechanism to pursue it--you have to be clear on what you want and find your own way there, and you must be politically savvy enough to do so without stepping on the wrong toes. If you're the type of person who wants a pat on the back and a promotion for earning a degree or for taking the initiative to improve your skills, look elsewhere--individual managers sometimes reward this, but it's rare and atypical of the culture. Also, individual managers do not have access to money or promotions. Money and promotions are dispensed on an emergency basis to retain the top "flight risk" employees. You have to be on that list for a couple of years before they get around to you.
Advancement is definitely possible--eventually a senior person will get laid off and if you have your eyes open and prepare, often you can step in. Just be prepared to do the new job for a year or two before you get the title or a raise. The fact that layoffs are the primary vehicle for advancement makes for a culture where skills and information are sometimes hoarded to promote job security rather than shared as they would be in a healthier company. The constant threat of layoffs and stagnant job growth means individual contributors are often more focused on keeping their job than on efforts that contribute to the bottom line.
It's sad, because at the individual contributor level, every department is full of smart and skilled people who are good at their jobs. There are loyalists who believe the company is looking out for them (many of whom remember CA from happier times), but in Islandia there are also plenty of people who just don't want to commute to the city and are waiting for their package before they start looking for work. Some people all over this company go to extraordinary lengths every day to do a good job. But their efforts are disorganized and often ineffective due to poor leadership and a lack of top-down transparency about the company's goals and strategies. Perhaps as a result, their efforts are rarely recognized or rewarded.
I was in IT. In the early phases of a project, a typical day would be about 9 hours. Meetings are ubiquitous and multitasking is deeply ingrained in the culture--this is not ideal, but it's common at many companies, and people make it work. In the late phases of an international project, my typical day started at 4 a.m. and went straight through to about 3 p.m. Then I'd have a break and come back online around 10 p.m. for anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, as needed. This would only last for a month or two at a time (maybe 2-3 times a year), and it's part of working with an international team. It's not as bad as it sounds because most of the people you work with are really wonderful. But it's not a model of work life balance. IT staff without the early meetings with India often worked from about 9 or 10 a.m. to 11 or midnight during these project phases. Production support frequently comes in at 7 and logs in at 11 to communicate with offshore resources, but the 9-10 hour day is fairly typical for them if they aren't also engaged in project work. Offshore IT teams are frequently online during US hours, as well--people do their best to make the partially-offshored model work for customers.
I've worked similarly demanding jobs in the past and loved them, but other companies award days off to compensate for a couple of months of crazy early mornings and/or late nights. And...do I have to say this? They say thank you. I take pride in my work and I'm happy to pull some weird shifts to meet the requirements, test thoroughly, etc. But I've felt a lot better about doing it for other companies. CA just expects you to turn your life over to them in return for not getting walked out with a box. But there's excellent daycare, a gym and on-site dry cleaning and a cafeteria.
If you work for CA, you'll probably gain weight and come out of it with a knowledgeable network and really good friends. But a lot of companies offer great opportunities without the constant threat of layoffs, the hostile politics and the every-man-for-himself culture. In hindsight, I wouldn't choose to work at CA again.
If you have the opportunity to hire a CA veteran, go for it. They work really, really hard, and if you show them the slightest gratitude they will be shocked and amazed at your generosity. Or maybe a little suspicious, but that'll go away eventually. – less