"This is techie heaven."
— Steven Heinrich, Director, Corporate Personnel

IBM, DEC, Symbolics C, LISP, FORTRAN, Assembler
R&D, AI, Parallel Processors Large shop


Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc. designs and manufactures high performance computers and wide-area networks. BBN designed and built ARPANET, the first packet network, for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). They developed the Butterfly™ parallel processor, which can contain up to 256 processors and Thinkertools, a software package developed for teaching physics to elementary school children.

BBN was founded in 1948. They have 3,000 employees, with 1,800 in the Boston, Massachusetts area. Approximately seventy-five percent of their business is with the federal government. Cambridge, Massachusetts is corporate headquarters. BBN is publicly-held. Revenue in 1988 was $305 million.



Hardware includes IBM mainframes and DEC VAXes. Programming is in C, LISP, FORTRAN or Assembly language.

There are 1,000 computer professionals. Job titles include Associate Programmer, Staff Programmer, Programmer, Senior Programmer, Divisional Programmer, Principal Programmer, and Chief Programmer. There are fifty computer professionals in the MIS department; the rest are involved in Research and Development.

Recent projects have included the design and implementation of Prophet, which helps researchers diagnose diseases and the development of an airline reservations system for Japan Airlines.


Computer professionals work in Cambridge. Most people have private offices with a workstation or PC on their desk and machines to work on at home. There is a designated smoking room.

The need for travel varies considerably. For research and development positions, there may be no travel. For technical support, it may be as high as 30 or 40 percent. The average work week is 50 hours or more. Overtime is not compensated.

BBN is proud of a culture that takes technology from the laboratory into commercial products. They believe they offer computer professionals the opportunity to work with a first-class staff, on intensely interesting projects, with good salaries.

BBN observes 10 holidays. They offer 3 weeks of vacation to start, prorated the first year, 4 weeks at the start of the tenth year and 10 days of sick leave. The company pays two-thirds of the expenses for medical insurance. Disability insurance is shared and dental coverage is 75 percent company-paid. The company pays for life insurance (2 times the annual salary) and tuition reimbursement up to $2,300 a year. There is a retirement plan and a deferred profit-sharing plan to which BBN contributes up to 15 percent of earnings.

After 6 months of employment, employees may purchase BBN stock at 85 percent of the market value. Employees may contribute tax-free dollars to a plan to pay for the costs of dependent care and insurance premiums. Additional benefits include fresh espresso coffee, onsite exercise facilities and a jogging track, several technical libraries, a grand piano and an Ultimate Frisbee team.

In 1987, there was a reduction-in-force (RIF) affecting 150 employees. They were selected based on positions that were no longer needed, with a greater emphasis falling on non-billable slots. All employees received a base severance package of four weeks' salary, plus one week for each year of service, doubling to two weeks for each year of service over five years. In addition, BBN helped prepare resumes and compiled a resume booklet which they circulated to four hundred companies.


BBN looks for candidates with experience in complex software development projects. Candidates typically come from teaching, R&D labs, and start-up software development companies. Fifty-one percent of current employees have a B.S.; thirty-seven percent have an M.S.; four percent have a Ph.D.

BBN does hire entry-level computer professionals. The company looks for native intelligence and creativity. There is a bias for graduates from such technical universities as MIT. Candidates should have some work experience, such as a computer lab, or working on a research project for a professor. New employees are found through employment agencies (40 percent), employee and college professor referrals (20 percent), ads and unsolicited resumes.


No phone calls.

Mr. Steven Heinrich, Director, Corporate Personnel

Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc.

10 Fawcett Street

Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138

Copyright 1991. Vandamere Press. Covin’s New England Computer Job Guide