Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Reviews

Updated July 15, 2015
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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Susan Desmond-Hellmann
Susan Desmond-Hellmann
2 Ratings

Pros
  • Great benefits and retirement package (in 18 reviews)

  • New campus is beautiful and gives an appearance of transparency (in 7 reviews)

Cons
  • The amazing work-life balance others report is solely dependent upon the team you land in and the manager you have (in 12 reviews)

  • There isn't a clear program structure for summer interns to get full-time jobs at the Foundation (in 10 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

20 Employee Reviews

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  1. Helpful (3)

    Anonymous

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Seattle, WA
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Seattle, WA

    I have been working at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (More than a year)

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    Pros

    The mission. The benefits.

    Cons

    Enormous bureaucracy, highly dysfunctional, down right cut throat in many cases. Be ready for constant chaos. Mind blowing politics and re-orgs are constant.

    Advice to Management

    Treat your people in alignment with your mission statement. They are your most valuable asset. CEO's actions and rhetoric are not in alignment.


  2. Helpful (5)

    Not At All What It Seems

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Program Assistant in Seattle, WA
    Former Employee - Program Assistant in Seattle, WA

    I worked at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation full-time (More than 5 years)

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    Pros

    Great Benefits and compensation if you are a full time employee. Opportunity to travel the world if you have a boss who fights for you and creates these opportunities

    Cons

    HR is the worst I've ever experienced in a professional organization. Nobody trusts HR. Foundation culture is mean spirited and competitive, with frequent re-organizations for no reason, and a top down culture from founders who have no grasp of the programmatic work. No management oversight or middle management training. No room for professional growth. I spent over almost half a decade here and regret what it did to stall out my career potential. Temps are treated poorly and rarely converted to full time staff. Way too much use of high end east coast consulting firms to drive strategic decisions.

    Advice to Management

    Revamp HR with actual HR professionals, and hire somebody with enough backbone to run the organization in a professional manner.


  3. Helpful (8)

    Stay FAR, FAR way from here

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Senior Analyst in Seattle, WA
    Former Employee - Senior Analyst in Seattle, WA

    I worked at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation full-time

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    Pros

    Everyone talks about how "smart" people are here, but having worked in numerous companies in the greater Seattle area, I can tell you they are no "smarter" than anyone else..especially in IT and HR!! If "arrogance" translates to "Smart"...then I guess each one is a genius! NO PROS other than a nice campus in a horrid location, some nice coworkers

    Cons

    Middle management absolutely SUCKS at BMGF!! I've never seen such poor decisions, such inability to get RID of troublemakers and poor performers, and such spin and drama around absolutely everything. The bottom line is that this company doesn't have to worry ABOUT the bottom line, so people just MILK Mr. Gates to death and he doesn't have a clue as to how poorly his foundation is managed. LOTS of spoiled little brats running around, doing NOTHING...especially in HR!! ...worst HR team I have ever seen. I'd fire 90% of them.

    Advice to Management

    Read the cons...kinda clear. You are CLUELESS


  4. Is this helpful? The community relies on everyone sharing – Add Anonymous Review


  5. So you want to help change the world...

    Former Contractor - Anonymous Contractor
    Former Contractor - Anonymous Contractor

    I worked at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as a contractor

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    Pros

    The reaction you get when you tell people you’re working for the Gates Foundation is powerful. People seem to believe you’re single-handedly saving the world, and many will ask how they can also get a job there. There’s a huge halo around the Gates Foundation, merited or not. The main campus is amazing. It’s beautiful, architecturally impressive, with unique sculptures and inviting outdoor spaces. It also feels like you’re at the center of the universe, trying to solve the world’s problems, with dignitaries and officials from all over the globe visiting the campus. The cafeteria is decent, and there’s plenty of free snacks.

    Cons

    Where to begin... The lack of efficiency in IT is mind-boggling, and worse than I’ve seen in any corporate environment - and corporate environments are not paragons of efficiency. The things that stand out are the ill-conceived, wildly overstaffed projects that go on for years and years, a culture of groupthink and a lack of skeptical thought, multiple iterations of failed initiatives on the same effort, and a corporate intranet littered with dead sharepoint sites from these failed initiatives. With the scores of consultants and contractors that they have, there’s no shortage of all kinds of documents and meetings, and Dilbertesque meetings to plan meetings. What there is a shortage of, is a product that anyone wants to use, or a solution to anyone’s problem. Good people who want to do good work will leave - it’s too frustrating a workplace. In a normal organization, you'd have one person who might have 3 roles. At the Gates Foundation, oftentimes, these 3 roles would mean 3 jobs, for 3 individuals. This is part of why it's so overstaffed, and people are doing make-work much of the time. One thing I learned here is that more money spent does not necessarily bring about better outcomes. As a matter of fact, I think the truckloads of money sloshing around at the Gate Foundation actually leads to worse outcomes, and perverse incentives. The leadership is made up of a bunch of nice people who won’t/can’t make hard decisions. There appears to be an understanding that dramatic change is necessary, and there’s a new CTO now (actually a “Chief Digital Officer”), but first impressions are that it’ll just be more of the same. I’m not sure what the what the program groups are like, as compared to IT. I hope they’re lots better.

    Advice to Management

    You need to welcome critical, honest feedback from independent thinkers, not cronies who are beholden to you. The Gates Foundation has no competitors - that’s a big problem. Remember what they say about “the road to hell”. Don’t believe your own press releases.


  6. Helpful (3)

    terrible place to work

    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    Pros

    decent salary, benefits, nice office building

    Cons

    Arrogant people who do not understand the damage they do to public education

    Advice to Management

    Wake up!


  7. Helpful (6)

    Besides Rigor, Collaboration, and Optimism, and Innovation - you could add Humility. It is lacking a great deal...

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

    I worked at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    Pros

    Want to get things done? Its who you know and how you stroke their ego. Benefits are great.

    Cons

    Still an "Old Boys Club", as in "It's who you know". Positions in leadership rarely get opened up to staff and others outside of the org. It is given to people who are the most vocal, stroke peoples egos, and play the political games.

    Advice to Management

    Perhaps try and be a little more transparent about what you do.


  8. Helpful (9)

    Massive egos get in the way of the mission

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Senior Communications Officer in Seattle, WA
    Former Employee - Senior Communications Officer in Seattle, WA

    I worked at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation full-time (More than 3 years)

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    Pros

    Worked on an amazing, cross-disciplinary agile team of very smart individuals. Lots of opportunities for learning. Experience looked great on a resume.

    Cons

    Massive egos get in the way of the wonderful mission. Back-stabbing co-workers fight and claw their way to the top. Employees are paralysed when it comes to decision making.

    Advice to Management

    Value all of your employees, not just the ones who make the most noise. Provide opportunities for growth throughout the org.


  9. Helpful (18)

    You'll be glad your year is up.

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Contractor - Anonymous Contractor in Seattle, WA
    Current Contractor - Anonymous Contractor in Seattle, WA

    I have been working at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as a contractor (More than a year)

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    Pros

    Huge projects with relatively inexhaustible budgets. Unique intersection of academia and commerce. Highly diverse. Lots of smart people. Young people. Excited people. Beautiful building, very comfortable to work in.

    Cons

    The glamour will wear off, make no mistake. I worked here for a year in a temp support role. It was possibly the most demoralizing place I've ever worked. Highly dysfunctional management only gives voice to the most aggressive stakeholders. An environment that practically encourages backbiting and extreme competitiveness. Very little respect for support staff whom they churn and burn, and shed no tears in the act. Most support staff have BA/BS. Many have MA/MS degrees. These are not slackers who took an easy path in life. But they are treated like they are subhuman. Physically segregated from the teams they support. Planted out in the open, clustered around library study carrels with no privacy or ability to close off and do some work. You hear everyone eat, chew, talk on their phone, stifle their coughs. It's awful. Working with program staff is much like working with a petulant, genius child. One who hasn't had the life experience to understand how unreasonably they are behaving. But never gets told no by management. Very chilly people who are hard to make inroads with. You will definitely be sized you up to see if you are worth their career. Just an uncomfortable mix of people, and it didn't get better after a year. Organizationally a mess. Constant turn over in staff. In one year I saw 5 program officers leave in rapid succession. Don't even ask about the support staff. They are like throwaway people to this place. The foundation skirts ethical limits by using temps, but only for one year to avoid breaking state law. The nature of these "temporary positions" is in no way temporary. You're doing core work. Getting yelled at. Being held responsible for millions of dollars. Tackling an intractable bureaucracy. These jobs don't go away after a season, or because someone vacates them. They are refreshed every 12 months with a new soul who just wants a job and thinks it would be pretty cool to work at the Gates Foundation. Run as fast as you can. There are nonstop refreshes, updates, renaming, change for change's sake. A stated goal to "reduce complexity" somehow manifests into more and more databases and steps and processes for doing very simple tasks. Investment Workflow is a nightmare. Gateway is a nightmare. If you don't get it, then the problem is you. Not the over-engineered process pulling from four databases that requires multiple teams to keep running and updating and refreshing and starting from scratch in 6 months. Your brain will be sore after 2 months. If you take an assignment here, you will no doubt

    Advice to Management

    Maybe rethink the whole philanthropy thing. And the management thing. And the "contingent" staff thing. And the awful culture thing.


  10. Helpful (8)

    Toxic culture and managers prevent contributing consistently towards worthwhile foundation mission

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Seattle, WA
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Seattle, WA

    I have been working at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation full-time (More than 5 years)

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    Pros

    Adding BMGF name to your resume Beautiful campus Competitive pay and benefits

    Cons

    Subject matter experts with no previous people-managing experience consistently given supervisory roles over teams. This lack of leadership experience (and yes folks, leading is different than managing) coupled with the elitist, politically deceitful and purposeful back-stabbing of colleagues, team-members and consultants results in a perfect-storm of toxicity and dehumanizing behavior. Shamefully, you'll find this behavior not only tolerated, but rewarded and enabled at the cost of rapid mass exodus from toxic teams. Is upper management really unable to discern that the problem is the so-called leader placed over these teams? Witnessing borderline abusive and demoralizing approaches with employees, contingent workers(who truly are treated as sub-human at times) and consultants with no accountability, for years now, is stomach-churning, at best. HR team is liken to the foundation's personal mafia. Do NOT engage this department unless you are prepared to be targeted next. Sadly, our team has watched multiple highly skilled, accomplished, capable team members fall wayside to their procedure "siding with upper management to create 'performance issues' for employees who seek their guidance or bring legitimate grievances to their attention". Not safe! The revolving doors in teams across the foundation are testament to this. The amazing work-life balance others report is solely dependent upon the team you land in and the manager you have. For many, expect to work 60+ hours, with direction to report anything over 40 hours as overtime, then prepare to defend your "level of efficiency" as a thank-you for your hard work. If you are seeking employment here, be sure to conduct your due-diligence about the specific reputation, practices, and managing principles of your potential team. This may make or break your entire experience.

    Advice to Management

    Implement transparent 360 reviews for any people managers with a method that protects the input-providers, if you care to know the truth about the good, bad and ugly team dynamics. Then, support your worker base by firing inept and toxic managers and replacing them with experienced people managers who seek to serve their teams, enhance the unity with other teams and best serve the foundation's mission.


  11. Helpful (24)

    "All Lives Have Equal Value"-- well, unless you are lower level staff at the Gates Foundation

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Global Health Staff in Seattle, WA
    Former Employee - Global Health Staff in Seattle, WA

    I worked at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation full-time (More than 5 years)

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    Pros

    Great benefits package and 401k contribution You will work with some of the smartest scientists and academics in the world

    Cons

    When you're done drinking the Kool-Aid (trust me, it will seem like your "dream job" for the first six months or so, and I suspect most of rare positive reviews of this organization on here are written during that time period), you realize that the day to day operations of the Gates Foundation are in direct contradiction to their own touted Guiding Principles. Lower level staff are treated with a standard of disrespect and dismissal that this organization shoud truly be ashamed of. I'm confident there are pockets of good people at the foundation who treat their program assistants and program coordinators with respect, but they are the minority. Your first reorganization may seem easy. But then you realize a year or two in, when you've been re-orged four or five more times, and it's gotten operationally worse each time, that the cycle will never end. Leadership doesn't seem to realize how hard re-orgs are on the staff, since they occur on at least an annual basis. Yes, change is hard, and adapting to that change is part of professional development. But change, just for the sake of change (as it often feels there), is difficult on a whole other level, especially when you don't justify the reasoning behind it or bother to re-evaluate why all the other re-orgs your staff have previously suffered through have miserably failed! They've made a habit of forcing people out, inventing or falsifying "performance issues," or just flat out firing staff who bring management issues to HR's attention. HR is, by far, the most unprofessional, untrained and "dirty dealing" department at the Gates Foundation. It's as if they built this non-profit with great ambitions, and lots of smart people, and then created a sub-par HR department as an afterthought. Huge mistake with detrimental consequences. The extremely high turnover at the foundation is in large part due to this department's failings. Scientists are often hired for their subject matter expertise, but then also assigned to manage large teams of people. With no previous management experience (and no HR focus on training), you can imagine the issues this causes with regard to appropriate or standardized performance management, coaching, feedback, etc. Contracting agencies have the Gates Foundation wrapped around their fingers. They overcharge and have an unhealthy influence over programs and initiatives. The foundation would do well to utilize the collective talent of their staff and bid farewell to the expensive, high maintenance and entrenched contracting firms. I can't count the times I saw tears, yelling, swearing and childish fit throwing as a direct result of managers and HR condoning an unprofessional and backstabbing culture. If you value your work-life balance, this is not the organization for you. If you want professional development or a career path, this is not the place for you to realize those goals.

    Advice to Management

    Realize that your HR department needs a re-org, just like every other department has been forced to do several times over the past few years. Hire true HR professionals that are effective and actually care about humans. Wonder why so many people in the Global Health division have quit? Have you even noticed that there has been a mass exoduss of GH staff in the past couple years? Do you not care? Why have you done nothing to address the issues employees have identifed over and over and over again before they walk out the door? Apply your Guiding Principles with your staff, just like you do with grantees, and I bet you find that more people are willing to stay and help carry out the mission.



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