Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

  www.gatesfoundation.org
  www.gatesfoundation.org

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Reviews

Updated October 1, 2014
Updated October 1, 2014
113 Reviews
3.3
113 Reviews
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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Susan Desmond-Hellmann
Susan Desmond-Hellmann
4 Ratings

Review Highlights

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)

  • Support of management for consultants is more than the full time employees (in 10 reviews)

More Highlights

30 Employee Reviews Back to all reviews

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  1. 2 people found this helpful  

    Given 200%, work 80hr weeks, build a lot of slide decks, and leave with a very thick skin...

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

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

    Pros

    One of the first annual meetings I attended, they listed the people who had been with the foundation for 5yrs & 10 yrs, respectively. I didn't realize until a colleague pointed it out, but the list was almost entirely composed of admin staff. Benefits are great for this sector (retirement savings, travel, etc), but the shelf life of most staff (save admin staff) is about 2 years. On balance, some very talented and smart colleagues with challenging work that is not constrained by resources (not your typical NGO). Seattle campus is well designed.

    Cons

    I worked as a program officer for the foundation for six years. The mission statement of the foundation is that "All lives have equal value." The largest irony of my work experience at the foundation is that the internal motto should be, "All lives have equal value, except if you're a contract worker, admin staff, someone without direct access to senior leadership, or has Bill and Melinda on speed dial." Your value in this organization is in your job title, and everyone acts accordingly.

    My short summary:

    If the work doesn't kill you (they extract as much out of you as possible b/c you are very replaceable), then the work politics will. Just as the foundation is not a perpetual funder, it is NOT a perpetual employer. The work culture and environment is designed to ensure a half life about of 1.5 years for most employees. For an organization that can afford world class technical talent, it's HR division is possibly one of the worst I have witnessed (and I worked in government for a brief period of time). I believe this is by design as a completely incompetent HR division ensures no one sticks around too long. In fact, there are almost no paths for career growth as they expect your shelf life to be less than 2-3 years.

    One of the pros I list above in terms of resources (and there is a lot of it floating around) creates some of the most bizarre office politics. Type A people (almost 80% of the staff) will trip over themselves to control and command those resources, and if you're in the way (which you mostly are) then you will be thrown under the bus in the name of someone else's glory. It happens often.

    The first signal I knew something was deeply flawed in this work environment: the marker of a successful team meeting was that no one walked away crying (literally).

    You will be rewarded for "managing up" towards the senior leadership, but there is almost no accountability for how you manage down or within a team. Kiss up and kick down. You will survive well if you follow this simple principle.

    In the end, I did a lot of work -- some of it meaningful, but i feel much of it was a lot of hot air pushed by people who wanted to make a mark for themselves in the two years they would be spending at the foundation. This myopia is shameful but omnipresent. But, the organization seems to thrive on it b/c it has the resources to entertain so many vanity trips.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Closely examine the organization's values, and see if you promote a work culture that emulates them.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  2. 4 people found this helpful  

    Rewarding in some ways, but tough environment with few growth opportunities

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    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)

    Pros

    Great mission, great place to learn about a wide variety of topics, brilliant and fun colleagues. Get to be creative in what we fund although this is getting harder as the foundation becomes more bureaucratic. New CEO is fantastic, hope she rubs off on the rest of the foundation quickly. Very flexible in where we do our work (easy to work from remotely). Great benefits.

    Cons

    Manager capabilities are very mixed. Too much time spent working and rehashing strategies. Growth opportunities and promotions are very political. Ethically questionable and unsupportive HR department. Lack of transparency and consistency around why people are hired into which positions and promoted into others; it all seems very arbitrary. Culture and values are more rhetoric than actual.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  3. 8 people found this helpful  

    Contract Program Assistant (1 year)- Don't do it!

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

    I worked at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as a contractor (more than an year)

    Pros

    The name itself helped job interviews and instant credibility afterwards. My boss still introduces me as coming from the Gates Foundation. There was a lot of opportunity to meet and interact with diverse people with many skills.

    Cons

    As a contract employee, this place sucks. As a program assistant on the bottom of the totem pole working with megalomaniacs, this place sucks. The program officers are all the "experts of the world" and view themselves as such. They are used to being catered on hand and foot and have a god complex. While the slogan is that all people have equal value and should be healthy and live productive lives, that philosophy doesn't apply to the contract employees. No health insurance, no sick time, no sympathy. You get the worst tasks, the blame, and are restricted from going to any events with speakers or anything else that is only for the cool kids, ie the Full time employees. Never mind that you do the exact same job as the full time employees and that your position is permanent in the sense that they will always need a program assistant. There is absolutely no upward mobility, and very high turnover for that reason. The best day here was the day I left.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Use contract employees only for temporary needs, and pay them more than full time for all the crap they put up with.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
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  5. 7 people found this helpful  

    Inconsistent and work against each other

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

    I have been working at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation full-time

    Pros

    Benefits are great. The Campus is beautiful.

    Cons

    No one seems to care where the buck stops. It is very silo'd and decisions are made in teams or departments and likely are duplicated elsewhere leading to overly complicated processes and waste.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Accountability is key. People should not re-create operations positions in the programs.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  6. 10 people found this helpful  

    Invaluable experience at a failed organization, especially early in career

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Program Officer
    Current Employee - Program Officer

    I have been working at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation full-time (more than an year)

    Pros

    - Great mission; big audacious goals
    - Incredible campus right near downtown
    - Many informal opportunities for learning, such as lunch and learn (esp. across silos)
    - Very good cafeteria
    - Great benefits and retirement package
    - Robust culture that keeps you on your toes
    - Many lessons learned about working with difficult people in a very politically complex environment (see cons)

    Cons

    I've received invaluable experience; learning how to not manage an organization. If management education programs are about giving you the tools to successfully manage an organization, the foundation abounds with lessons from the other side of the coin.

    Valuable learning in:

    - Sustaining a culture of distrust and animosity both between teams and between layers in the chain of command
    - Spending billions on foreign investments with little to no accountability
    - Selecting inappropriate technology solutions and rolling them out improperly
    - Engaging external consultants at a very high price while not setting value expectations
    - The risks of putting HR in charge of managing an organization's people with no checks and balances

    The foundation is a total shipwreck, but shipwrecks are valuable warnings to others so they may navigate a safer course.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Not too much here.

    I write that because leadership frequently solicits unvarnished feedback on the work and our environment, receives it, then promptly discards it.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  7. 5 people found this helpful  

    Toxic, hypocritical organization

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

    I have been working at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation full-time (more than 3 years)

    Pros

    good salary, some good friends, interesting projects, helping people globally - not much else I can say. Oh yes, nice campus, but the "security" people are absolutely suffocating and arrogant.

    Cons

    horrid management, game playing, toxic/incompetent management, WAY too many contractors that create undue pressure and a revolving door, competitive environment where people stab each other in the back and get away with it, the worst HR team on the planet. SO glad I'm gone from this place. The only thing that kept me there was the money/benefits, but I just nailed a role with someone else making more. Nice... Can't wait to recruit the good people way from this toxic organization.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    fire yourselves! You contribute nothing and you only take. You're spoiled brats and wouldn't amount anything if you couldn't use the "Gates" name. You're clueless as to how to manage people and career growth. Your talk absolutely does NOT match your walk in any way, shape or form.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  8. 6 people found this helpful  

    In a word, disappointing.

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

    I have been working at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation full-time (more than an year)

    Pros

    Great mission, benefits, and name to add to your resume.

    Cons

    Contrary to the mission the Foundation doesn’t value people, employee retention, or people management skills in their work force. The craze of competition and murky political waters penetrates even the simplest of tasks and is exhausting even for the most game. The entire foundation lacks heart, caring, and compassion. Intelligence without passion and common sense makes for a giant think tank that isn’t connected to the the people the Foundation aims to serve.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Involve the communities that the Foundation aims to help more directly and hire people who actually have passion and experience (including people management skills for position with direct reports).

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  9. 2 people found this helpful  

    Culture not what I'd expected

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

    I worked at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

    Pros

    Beautiful campus, great benefits, exposure to Bill, Melinda and other incredible speakers who come to speak at the campus.

    Cons

    Culture is a bit "cold." They hire VERY smart people but many of those smart people take pay cuts to "save the world" and then feel let down when they realize their job isn't going to save the world, it's just a job.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Approves of CEO
  10.  

    Gates Foundation

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

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

    Pros

    Great mission proud to work for.

    Cons

    Culture is the biggest challenge staff deal with. hard to get work done.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  11. 3 people found this helpful  

    Perhaps a chance for a new start...

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

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

    Pros

    Numerous smart folks, good benefits, nice working environment

    Cons

    Toxic work environment, inept management, disrespect of employees at all levels

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    To the co-chairs - please have the courage to hire a Raikes replacement who is compassionate, competent and caring. So many opportunities were missed during Jeff's administration - the best replacement will right the ship and set a new, productive course.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

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