Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

www.gatesfoundation.org
Employer Engaged

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Reviews

Updated October 7, 2014
Updated October 7, 2014
21 Reviews
3.0
21 Reviews
Rating Trends

Recommend to a friend
Approve of CEO
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Susan Desmond-Hellmann
Susan Desmond-Hellmann
21 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

21 Employee Reviews Back to all Reviews

Sort: Popular Rating Date
  1. 15 people found this helpful  

    Best of Times, Worst of Times

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

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

    Pros

    -Phenomenal salary and benefits.
    -Very bright colleagues
    -Access to the best minds and most cutting-edge work in your field
    -Opportunity to support amazing people doing amazing work
    -Culture of genuine commitment to mission by both staff and management (though I encountered some careerists, too)
    -Excellent work flexibility as long as you perform, and the tools you need to take advantage of that flexibility
    -Great business/IT/ops/travel/Events, etc support teams.
    -Great food, generous events.

    Cons

    -What others have written about the politics and bureaucracy are true. The place can sometimes feel like something out of Kafka or Heller.
    -It's also true that it can be a very cut-throat place, but that varied by team, manager, and director.
    -And it's also true about the perpetually shifting sands, continual reorgs, and endless Powerpoints. I think one reason for this is the unrealistic goal-setting, at least in some program areas. Departments often set themselves up for failure by setting goals that are nearly impossible and whose achievement they have no control over.
    -Permanent sense of inadequacy: Despite year after year of positive reviews and 360s there was always a nagging sense of inadequacy. (As one colleague, a Stanford PhD, once put it, "I've never worked anywhere where I felt so dumb.") I felt bad about myself all the time, even when I was winning awards for service.
    -There is a lot of churn, and very little chance for advancement. But it should be noted that the organization is very up-front about this. They make it clear: No career ladder. And while there are no formal "term limits" for program staff, there's an expectation that you'll cycle back into your field after 3-5 years.
    -All the policies and tools that enable you to work anytime, anywhere--which is great for flexibility--can, along with all the pressure, make work-life balance difficult. (But some managers and directors do try to mitigate the problem, with some success.)

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    None. One of the big lessons I learned there is how difficult it is, even with all the talent and resources you could possibly want, to create an efficient, effective organization. All the complaints you read here about bureaucracy and "politics" and abrupt shifts and reorgs, isn't for lack of a lot really smart people trying hard to make it better. That lesson was humbling.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  2. 11 people found this helpful  

    Great people, but terrible systems, HR and wasted resources

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

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

    Pros

    Dynamic work environment, plentiful resources (relative to other NGOs), great people (more on the non-programmatic side), great benefits, compelling mission

    Cons

    Work-life balance is non-existent, artificial "fire drills" and emergencies that appear for no apparent reason. I've worked here over seven years, and it is not the same place where I started. HR is awful. No clear growth opportunities, unequal pay depending on team, promotions few and far between. Really sad that an organization with so much potential is squandered with terrible upper management. Consultants call all the shots while staff are not empowered to make decisions. Thank goodness Jeff Raikes is out, he brought all of the bad from Microsoft with very little of the good.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Fire all of HR. Change compensation system and reward those that add value to the organization, build collaborations, bring people together.

    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  3. 5 people found this helpful  

    Complex organization with admirable mission, well-meaning employees, and significant cultural issues.

    • 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

    Wonderful co-workers. Unlimited access to incredible information, guest speakers, knowledge, resources from the philanthropic/global development sector. Worthy mission. Fantastic perks and benefits.

    Cons

    No clear decision making rubric across teams/org.; little room for advancement or growth, complex, competitive culture.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Empower all employees to do their best work and commit to professional growth and development of all levels. Try to remove fear of failure from the equation.

    Recommends
    No opinion of CEO
  4. Is this helpful? The community relies on everyone sharing – Add Anonymous Review


  5. 12 people found this helpful  

    Temp grants management

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

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

    Pros

    smart people, beautiful campus, somewhat satisfying work, casual clothes (jeans, flip flops) ok, free starbucks coffee/fruit/snacks/beverages, conveniences available on site like an ATM, dry cleaners, discounted UPS shipping services, (there are other perks not available to temps like use of the gym, bike lockers, subsidies for going "green" on your commute (if you walk or bike to work, you get like $3 a day), use of the parking garage)

    Cons

    You are expected to be accessible 24/7 (not so much as a temp since you are not allowed to get a foundation issued cell phone or be allowed to take your laptop home), ok salaries (especially if you are not on the program side), terrible neighborhood, temps are treated like "second class citizens" (no benefits, exclusion from certain meetings, cliquey people not welcoming), often you are left to figure out things/work assignments on your own (sharepoint sites not managed well), overpriced cafeteria offering mediocre food, a mess of software systems that are not synchronized across the foundation (so you often have to learn a few different ones to do your job (with little guidance), slim chance (if any, especially if you are in IT, where almost 90% or so are temps) of being converted to FTE status (full time employee entitled to all the benefits of the foundation)

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    If almost half of your workers are contingent workers (a fact verified by an FTE), start treating them right instead of being complacent with the high level of turnover. Tighten up your onboarding strategies (if you have one), invest more time and effort in the training of new workers, encourage a culture of inclusion, treat temps with respect. With so much constant change here, think things through before instituting them. Change this mentality of how temps are treated (since there are so many of them, doing most of the grunt work). If you don't want to waste the time and effort of FTEs in training temps for their roles, hire more of them as FTEs. Stop abusing the legal loopholes regarding the use of contingent workers so you can deny benefits to these workers. As the largest (in terms of endowment) private foundation in the world, you can spend a little more to hire more FTEs (instead of temps, whose morale is low) so you foster a sense of commitment and loyalty. Happier workers equal more productivity, greater output and dedication. Get the message!

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  6. 14 people found this helpful  

    Management skills are still problematic

    • 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 (more than 3 years)

    Pros

    - Feeling like you are trying to do good in this world
    - Amazing depth of experiences and knowledge in your coworkers
    - People you meet are impressed with your employer
    - (for some) Great opportunities to travel, meet other influential people, etc.
    - (for some) Great professional development opportunities

    Cons

    -Read the other reviews in Glassdoor - the management problem is still a problem. They hire people for knowledge or connections, and then expect them to manage human beings. They then don't reprimand managers who have high turn-over underneath them, or who have multiple complaints to HR about them. Usually, they end up promoting the bad managers.
    - HR exists only to protect upper-level echelon management. Do not expect them to assist in workplace conflict, to respond quickly or at all in cases of abuse, or to guide in professional development. If you complain or ask for guidance, you will be seen as a problem and there will be a 'performance' issue in your future.
    - There's a lot of 'good job!' to your face, and then finding out from your manager that there was a problem with your work. Not that your manager can tell you exactly what that problem was or how to improve, just that your work is unsatisfactory and you need to do better. It hasn't happened to me (yet), but I've seen multiple junior level officers go through this.
    - If you are anything lower than an SPO, you are treated as completely unimportant, despite those roles being the major workhorses on the team. It is acceptable behavior for senior management to scream and belittle PAs and PCs (don't bother going to HR about it) and for SPOs to 'forget' how to do basic tasks like print documents.
    - Diversity? It can be hard to find. Upper management is dominated by whites, mostly by men. Some teams (including some that would surprise you) are almost completely white, with only the support staff being of color. Hidden diversity can be even more difficult, although the home office is very accepting of GLTBQ.
    - Over-reliance on consultants, including those who are grossly overpaid. They build knowledge and take it outside of the foundation, and are working for their own benefit, not for ours. Plus, some of the managers who hire them are easily dazzled by academic soft-shoeing - they could hire graduate students to do the same work and pay them 30K per year.
    - It's hard to trust your coworkers or your team. You never know when you will be reassigned or a coworker will be let go...or if you'll be the one to be let go next. It's hard to stay invested in a project or a team when you know that you could show up to work tomorrow and be told that your portfolio is now being covered by someone else...with no explanation.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Respect all human lives - including your employees. Treat management personnel issues as important - management ineptitude results in lost work-efficiency and turnover costs the foundation money (yes, it would be cheaper in both short & long run to replace the problem manager than to keep replacing staff). Invest in HR improvements - it is currently considered to be the secret police of the foundation; aka, no one trusts them. Particularly when they are 'investigating' a bad annual survey. When you've seen the track record of people being let go because they reported management issues, do you really think that people want to identify themselves from an anonymous survey?

    Doesn't Recommend
  7. 2 people found this helpful  

    Good mission, great benefits.

    • 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 8 years)

    Pros

    The mission you support is excellent as are the benefits.

    Cons

    The salaries are little low and advancement isn't really possible.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Approves of CEO
  8. 1 person found this helpful  

    If you would like working for Microsoft...you won't mind the Foundation

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

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

    Pros

    Talented people, good intentions, great benefits

    Cons

    Too many reorgs and little support for line staff

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Figure out how to make better use of ALL your staff and create a culture where people are supported to do their best and want to stay because they can do their best work not just because the pay, benefits and prestige are good.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  9. 1 person found this helpful  

    An amazing place ... with some challenges

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

    I worked at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation full-time (more than a year)

    Pros

    You will never work with a more talented and accomplished group of peers who share a deep commitment to a common goal. There are amazing people here.

    Cons

    The organizational and management culture is challenging: a self-imposed emphasis on speed with rapid cycles of rethinking seem, in some strategies at least, to result in lots of false starts. On the team I joined, we had a very high turnover rate, especially at the higher levels, which was frustrating.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Working to catalyze and support change in an established "industry" will require greater stability and continuity among program officers and deputy directors. Relationship building and consistent follow through is critical, but is not yet a strong suit for the foundation.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  10. 2 people found this helpful  

    the mission is everyone's true north

    • 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 (more than 3 years)

    Pros

    In many ways, it's like most complex organizations - constant leadership change, reorgs, shifting priorities. But at the end of each day, no matter how challenging, I walk away knowing I contributed in some way to a greater good.

    Cons

    Your success hinges greatly on your manager. This can be a very good thing if you have a manager who is your champion. If you don't, it could be completely detrimental to your career growth. Manager effectiveness is still very much an area of development for the organization as a whole.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Acknowledge that employees who aren't managers or directors still have a voice. More skip-level feedback should be encouraged, even solicited.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  11.  

    Great place to work, but if you are contractor in IT and hope to become full time employee you will be disappointed.

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

    Pros

    Great location.
    Awesome new campus with plenty of windows and work space.
    Good equipment and furniture to work with.
    Good management, friendly, hands-off style.

    Cons

    If you are a contractor you will quickly feel left out in many events that take place at the foundation.

    If you are working as a contractor in IT you will not have a chance to get hired on full time but you will see many other departments converting contingent staff to full time.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    None.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Photos

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Motto on ground floor of new building

+ Add Photo

Work at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation? Share Your Experiences

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

 
Click to Rate
or

Your response will be removed from the review – this cannot be undone.