Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
3.0 of 5 103 reviews
www.gatesfoundation.org Seattle, WA 1000 to 5000 Employees

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Reviews

Updated Apr 28, 2014
All Employees Current Employees Only

3.0 103 reviews

                             

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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Susan Desmond-Hellmann

Susan Desmond-Hellmann


50% of employees recommend this company to a friend
27 Employee Reviews Back to all reviews
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    Very satisfying.

    Anonymous Employee (Former Employee)

    Pros1) Passion, 2) Expertise 3) Mentorship 4) Projects

    ConsHectic lifestyle, not as much creative freedom.

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    3 people found this helpful  

    good foundation, great mission, questionable internal politics

    IT Engineer (Former Employee)
    Seattle, WA

    ProsGreat mission, loved the fact that you felt your work everyday impacted others who are less fortunate. The benefits, even as a contractor are great, snacks / drinks on site, wonderful location, right next to the space needle. Great compensation for my position, I have heard this is similar throughout the organization, at lots of levels. On-site cafeteria is amazing, probably on par with Microsoft campus, if not better.

    ConsBizarre internal politics, team A will let team B fail just so they can claim 'they told you so', things I've never seen in corporate america or anywhere really. A lot of times as a contractor you will be dangled a carrot (of a full time position) that will never materialize (minor critique).

    Advice to Senior ManagementGet rid of the 'old boys club' mentality, focus on the people and the mission, not keeping your buddies protected. Overall, I think these are minor issues to contend with and nothing that won't be worked out over time. I think the vast majority of people at the foundation are bright and talented and contribute to the overall focus moving forward.

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend – I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company

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    4 people found this helpful  

    It is a very different place from the organization that I started working at

    Anonymous Employee (Former Employee)

    ProsNo matter where in the organization, you feel like you are part of something that is intent on making changes from next door to all over the world.
    Location is near South Lake Union, right next to Seattle Center so you are near lots of activities.
    Good food onsite.
    Open working environment with the technology to back it up.
    I have a lot of great memories there.

    ConsSilo'd Teams, a great deal of opportunity for improvement in communication departments.
    As the size has grown larger, the culture has changed, politicking is what gets you ahead instead of whether you are moving the team ahead.
    Risk is equated with bad, things are said to encourage it but...
    Hiring from outside is the norm, once you are in.

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend – I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company

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    4 people found this helpful  

    It's better than you've heard

    Associate Program Officer (Current Employee)
    Seattle, WA

    ProsWorking at the Gates Foundation provides an opportunity to be on the leading edge of work in your field with very smart colleagues, generous salary / benefits, and immense resources. People are, by and large, there because they're passionate about what they're doing. The Foundation is working very consciously to improve both their external and internal reputation. The connections you make while working there will take your career in amazing directions.

    ConsSeattle culture infiltrates the Foundation. There's a lot of talking and there can be annoying turf issues. Expensive outside consultants are used too often and consultant-speak unintelligible to normal humans is ubiquitous (e.g. "boil the ocean", "surface learnings", "convening"). It is a family foundation, too, which means that an extraordinary amount of energy and time are devoted to getting and keeping the "co-chairs" engaged in your work. If they don't get or agree with the direction of where you're going, it doesn't happen. There is a definite bias toward technology solutions, even where they aren't appropriate. And it is easily the most narcissistic place I have ever worked. "Tell us more about us! Tell us how bad we are! We want your open and honest feedback!" My biggest frustration is the lack of internal mentors or conscious career development. That and "the matrix"-- which alludes to the number of people you need to involve in anything you do. It's been humbling. Know that it is not a "dream job".

    The best way to get there is to be great at what you do in your field. I ignore anyone who hits me up on LinkedIn because they've "always wanted to work at the Foundation!". That starts happening a lot once you begin working there.

    Advice to Senior ManagementInvest in a formal alumni network. Focus on career development, knowing that you are building a powerful force for change even beyond your employees' tenure at the Foundation. (Career development is not the same thing as professional development.)

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend – I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company

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    1 person found this helpful  

    Great professional experience, but the Gates Foundation is often a "use or be used" work environment.

    Anonymous Employee (Former Employee)

    ProsThe Gates Foundation offers the opportunity to work on a wide variety of challenging problems and collaborate with subject matter experts at the top of their game. Good work-life balance if you are willing to push back a bit on the constant demands.

    ConsToo much reliance on contractors, so the programmatic teams are regularly losing institutional knowledge and needing to constantly train new temporary employees. Additionally, with the high-pressure, fast-paced environment of the Gates Foundation it is easy to lose work-life balance.

    Advice to Senior ManagementRather than relying so heavily on contractors, consider a floating pool of FTE professionals that can fill gaps as needed. No need to waste time and resources on constantly training new contractors.

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend

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    3 people found this helpful  

    Competitive Environment with very Smart Co-Workers

    Program Coordinator (Former Employee)
    Seattle, WA

    ProsEveryone can agree that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation does world changing work. I have worked there in two different capacities two different times in the last 9 years and the culture of highly competitive, extremely intelligent people remain. The company still operates as a young organization in that it embraces new ideas and it's always evolving. People who dislike change would not be happy here. The benefits can't be beat and the environment is stunning in the new campus. They encourage working from home and remote work, which is helpful in the sometimes intense and stressful office environment.

    ConsThis is a company of academics, there is not a lot of silliness or fun happening at this organization, which makes sense due to the importance of their mission. There is a competitive feeling throughout the company that can feel oppressive, but they still embrance a sense of creativity and change. They constantly re-org often with little to no notice or reasoning behind the changes which is pretty jarring, so you have to be someone who can embrance change easily to thrive in this environment.

    Advice to Senior ManagementShare change before it happens with employees.

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend – I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company

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    1 person found this helpful  

    A very unique environment

    Program Officer (Current Employee)
    Seattle, WA

    ProsOpportunities to learn every day, exposure to the best and brightest in the staff and the people the Foundation brings in to collaborate, awesome mission, beautiful campus, culture of continuous improvement

    ConsOn occasion the egos and politics can get to be a bit much. A relatively young organization still working on its internal processes

    Advice to Senior ManagementTrust the people you hire and be sure to wall the talk

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend – I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company

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    Feel good about where you work

    Anonymous Employee (Former Employee)
    Seattle, WA

    ProsSatisfying to work at a place where even if you're not doing the work on the ground, the work you do enables it in some way.

    ConsThere is a fine line between pride of enabling good work and arrogance. There seems to be quite a bit of the latter and that was disappointing.

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend

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    16 people found this helpful  

    Useful observations for people considering a job at the foundation

    Financial Manager (Current Employee)
    Seattle, WA

    Pros• It is a fast-paced and constantly evolving place. If you don’t enjoy being an active part of a changing environment or dealing with uncertainty, this can be a stressful place. If you thrive in dynamic environments, you will find lots of opportunity to shape how the organization does business.
    • The foundation is in a lucky situation to attract highly capable people. If you used to be the top performer on your team in your prior job, don’t be surprised if you’re suddenly surrounded by people who are equally smart, dedicated and high performing. It is up to you whether you choose to check your ego at the door and get excited about working with such a peer group or whether you get intimidated and feel like others are out-shining you. Contrary to some other comments, I haven’t seen much backstabbing going on, but I can imagine that some people used to feel more exceptional before joining the foundation and end up interpreting their new environment as less friendly than it really is.
    • The diversity of people’s careers is impressive – many have deep scientific backgrounds, others are business people or have worked in policy-related jobs. The workforce is very international, though it would be good to continue to grow the share of people coming from developing countries. Having the openness and flexibility to work effectively with a broad spectrum of people is crucial for someone to enjoy working at the foundation.
    • There is a substantial amount of bureaucracy involved in the foundation’s work, and given the incredible number and size of investments that are being made every year, this is no surprise (for comparison, think about a corporate procurement department that processes $3-4bn in contracts every year, many of which go to overseas organizations and involve complex issues such as IP, clinical trials, etc.). The foundation’s business processes are maturing continuously and I’ve seen considerable progress since I joined. To be frank, working here is not all about inventing new ways to save kids in Africa, it is also about doing the necessary due diligence and paperwork that goes into making responsible long-term investments.
    • I got a sense that manager effectiveness and career development were not prioritized in the foundation’s early years. In the last couple of years, however, we’ve seen strong awareness of these topics among senior management, accompanied by very concrete steps taken to address them. The foundation is moving gradually toward a mature business that figures out how to manage its talent more effectively. I’ve been very satisfied with my superiors since I joined, but can understand that others were perhaps less lucky and found themselves working for a boss whose strengths were in vaccine science and not people management.
    • Benefits are excellent. Pay is very good for a non-profit, though it may be higher in the private sector for certain job profiles. However, if these are important factors in your decision to work for the foundation, you should probably ask yourself if you really belong here.

    ConsSee under PROs
    Many aspects of working at the foundation have a positive and a negative side. I attempted to explain in a balanced way and posted them above.
    Personally, I am very satisfied with my job at the foundation and would say that the pros clearly outweigh the cons.

    Advice to Senior ManagementContinue the process of maturing the organization and recognize that changes need time to settle before benefits occur. Too much change can exhaust and confuse people while taking away valuable bandwidth for interaction with partners. Keep focusing on manager effectiveness when hiring and promoting. Try to create more space for people to work on exciting projects outside the hierarchy (Google’s 20% time could be an inspiration for this) and avoid unproductive second-guessing by senior management. Review the role and contributions of consultants and contractors to spend money more effectively and reduce dependency on non-foundation staff for critical activities.

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend – I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company

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    1 person found this helpful  

    Great mission, too many strategy changes

    Project Coordinator (Former Employee)
    Seattle, WA

    ProsThe foundation has tremendous benefits and incredible people and a laudible mission

    Consthe culture is largely ego driven, hierarchial and the strategy changes constantly.

    Advice to Senior ManagementStart leading and inspiring instead of show-boating

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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – Why Work for Us?

We are inspired by the mission, All Lives Have Equal Value, and compelled by the opportunity to make an impact -- before, during, and after our time at the foundation. Experienced, and highly engaged, we set… Full Overview

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