Chemonics International Reviews

Updated August 18, 2015
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3.7
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Susanna Mudge
21 Ratings

Pros
  • Excellent training, professional development opportunities, and opportunities for travel and overseas assignments (in 12 reviews)

  • You can learn great project management skills and there are lots of opportunities to travel (in 11 reviews)

Cons
  • Poor work/life balance as a result (in 20 reviews)

  • Long hours; income stream is not diversified so it is subject to fluxes in USAID funding; beginning pay is low (but that changes within a year or two) (in 13 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

65 Employee Reviews

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  1. Great work translates to growth

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook

    Pros

    Chemonics has mastered how to carry out large scale international development and global health projects effectively. They invest heavily in strong systems, and hire smart, creative people to carry out the work. Over many years, they have built up a reputation for outstanding performance with great development impact and consistently high scores on contractor performance reports. Teams across the company work together well, and think boldly about how to solve the world's biggest challenges like food security, health, education, environment, and poverty. This formula has proven successful again and again, and Chemonics continues to experience strong growth as successful projects translate into winning proposals and growth, which provides opportunities for staff. The policy of investing in professional development and promoting internally whenever possible leads to a strong, well-trained workforce and a long pipeline of future leaders. The company is 100% owned by employees through an ESOP, so all profits flow to an employee retirement plan.

    Cons

    People at Chemonics are driven by the mission and work hard. You have to know when to say no and protect your work/life balance by not taking on too many challenging assignments.

    Advice to Management

    You're doing a great job. Bold thinking and sound investments led to expanding our work in global health and education. Keep investing in technical capacity and systems as we grow, and keep hiring bright, dedicated people at both the entry level and experienced professionals.


  2. Helpful (1)

    Associate B

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

    I have been working at Chemonics International full-time

    Pros

    Very smart employees, potentially some great travel opportunities and training programs, executive leadership is personable and knowledgeable of all levels of the organization.

    Cons

    Associates are overly competitive with one another. Too much focus on growing the business and not enough focus on development impact at the local level.

    Advice to Management

    Try to foster a more collaborative and caring environment for new employees.


  3. Helpful (3)

    Passionate People, Great Learning Platform

    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Chemonics International full-time

    Pros

    A company dedicated to developing professional skills needed in development. Large company with many divisions that support each other, yet teams are small enough to receive meaningful feedback from supervisors. It's a great place where learning is encourages alongside hands-on experience.

    Cons

    No obvious "cons" to report Workloads are heavy for all employees, but recognition is given fairly and regularly.


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  5. Helpful (1)

    development machine

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Project Management Associate in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Project Management Associate in Washington, DC
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Chemonics International full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    working with passionate and talented people in a large and successful company that provides opportunity for professional development and growth. to be as large as it is, they run an honest business and seem to believe in what they do

    Cons

    work/life can be difficult. you are expected to work late, even if it's not said out loud. it can be difficult to advocate for yourself and even more difficult to say "no" when you're overworked. Finding mentors can be difficult as well

    Advice to Management

    provide more streamlined management guidelines since they vary by division and person, making it much easier to move up in some sectors of the company than others.


  6. Helpful (1)

    Director

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    Upper management shows an interest in giving their employees all the tools to succeed. The culture is open and fun. Options are available to travel on exciting projects to various places to display your soft skills. A great place to work on international development.

    Cons

    Nothing but great praise for the company. The people are very passionate on all aspects. I have no cons for the company.

    Advice to Management

    Keep the great work going on bringing folks with great minds to the company and providing a great environment to work.


  7. Helpful (3)

    Great place to start working in int'l development

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Senior Manager in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Senior Manager in Washington, DC
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Chemonics International full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    Great training and professional development program Good program and support system for entry level employees Opportunity to move to different positions throughout the company Lots of travel if one is on a project management unit (PMU)

    Cons

    Feel like a second class citizen if one is not on a project management unit or working on proposals No support for people who come in at a manager level Competitiveness among junior PMU staff is rough.


  8. Helpful (2)

    One size does not fit all, and it's entirely up to you to adapt and conform.

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Associate
    Current Employee - Associate
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook

    I have been working at Chemonics International full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    All kinds of different people, from different backgrounds. A decent amount of diversity. By getting involved in Practices, able to learn about different areas of interest, and meet experts from those fields.

    Cons

    One of the largest problems is communication: how, when, to and from whom is information communicated. On-boarding process was not smooth - including not explaining definition of roles, responsibilities, managers and supervisors. First few weeks seemed frenetic, chaotic, and disorganized - and that's par for the course. Timelines regarding expectations (both from the manager and subordinate) are not clearly set - including how long it should take to reach a certain level of independence or ownership on tasks. PMU work is highly administrative. This is discussed at length prior to joining the company, but opportunities for technical engagement are few and far between. Engagement in technical areas requires participation in New Business opportunities in addition to existing tasks, which lends to little work/life balance.

    Advice to Management

    The sense of transparency and open-doors sometimes seems like a facade. If a lower-level person has a real concern to voice, the right structures are not necessarily in place to enable communication and protect that person.


  9. Helpful (3)

    Oh, Chemonics

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Director in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Director in Washington, DC
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at Chemonics International full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    You're like a deeply flawed lover. "I'll try harder, I promise. I don't want to hurt you." Sure, sure you don't. Sometimes, I wonder if you even know what you're doing. You seem to know the right people. But aren't the top dogs a little...too focused on themselves and their posse? Oh we're not hoodwinked. Most of us. We know.

    Cons

    As stated many times, work/life balance. It exists for people who already have children, yes.

    Advice to Management

    An organizational development specialist consultant firm should be brought in.


  10. Helpful (6)

    Good company but doesn't know how to retain talent

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at Chemonics International full-time

    Pros

    Good opportunities, good training programs, good mentorship programs, opportunity to move around within the company, plenty of travel opportunities.

    Cons

    Departments, divisions and regions are running too independently from each other and thus the culture, promotion opportunities, etc. is decided by very few people and up to individual preferences. HR has very little say in terms of enforcing consistency across the company and ensuring people who are "favorites" actually are qualified for promotion or senior staff are not given undue flexibility. This results in: - SVPs (themselves inexperienced and having benefited from the lack of standards for promotion or HR oversight) doing whatever they want - promoting buddies and those that go to happy hour with them - Experienced, dynamic, multi-lingual, multi-talented mid-level managers leaving the company - Useless staff hanging on for dear life to their positions for 15, 20, 25 years - many in support divisions, when they have neither the motivation, dynamism, skills (have B.A.s and no language skills and have never worked anywhere else) to really contribute. They work from home several days a week, show up to claim other people's work once in a while, and are just dead weight for the company as they take home huge salaries in the process and don't contribute accordingly to new business or anything else. - On the other hand, kids with 5 years of experience or less, or no other professional experience getting arbitrarily promoted to key senior positions (like new business) with no idea what they are doing - this frustrates qualified staff and results in the company loosing strong people.

    Advice to Management

    Figure out your management structure! Inexperienced staff in key jobs or old timers who have lost all motivation and spend their time relying on their managers' work for huge salaries is not the way to go. Invest in highly motivated, capable, multi-lingual staff who bring industry experience. It's really a shame to let these people bring the company down.


  11. Helpful (10)

    Best education in international development and more

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Director in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Director in Washington, DC
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Chemonics International full-time

    Pros

    Chemonics offers the best education in international development project management and business development in the industry - hands down. The company's competitors regularly - and begrudgingly - hire current and former staff because they know Chemonics employees are versatile and well trained. Chemonics offers a fast-paced, youthful, and collegial environment where everyone is encouraged to learn and staff are given the opportunity to try almost every aspect of the company’s work. It also offers ample opportunities to travel overseas, so the work is never mundane for long. During my tenure at the company, I have held several different positions, worked in multiple divisions, traveled to dozens of fascinating countries, and lived overseas long-term. As in any company, one’s supervisor has a major influence on job satisfaction, but at the end of the day your job is what you make of it and Chemonics offers many internal job opportunities, so most motivated and talented employees can get out from under a poor supervisor. It is true that the recent levelling-off of funding for international development has hit Chemonics and the international development industry hard, resulting in staffing reductions, slower growth even today, and fewer promotion or job opportunities than in the period from 2005-2010 when funding for development sky-rocketed. But, what was once a smorgasbord of opportunity is now more akin to the environment when I joined and the reality in many other industries in the U.S. It is worth maintaining perspective – there are few companies in the U.S. where you can do more good and see more of the developing world than at a company like Chemonics. Also, in response to the recent comments of a former employee who posted that they thought Chemonics was "the most unethical company in DC" and that it "lives by cheating its main client, USAID", I must say that have worked at Chemonics for more than a decade, as an associate, manager, and director, in the home office and overseas, and I can state without reservations that this is categorically untrue. My experience is that Chemonics’ upper management and nearly all its employees strive to be ethical at all times. Keep in mind that Chemonics as a company and its employees work in some of the most corrupt and hostile environments in the world - so ethical dilemmas with government counterparts, local subcontractors, beneficiaries and stakeholders, etc. happen all the time. With that context in mind, I think Chemonics' track record of excellent client service speaks for itself. The systems at Chemonics, the government's regulatory structures and environment, and the never-ending audits make it not only difficult to "cheat" and get away with it, there are clear disincentives for even trying. One only need to look at the demise of AED to see that being unethical does not pay. I will also add, that in my many years at Chemonics no one has ever asked me directly or indirectly to do something that I thought was unethical or was "cheating" our client. Lastly, the reviewer’s comment suggesting that directors ask associates to falsify timesheets is surprising because anyone who has worked at Chemonics knows that associates rarely bill their time directly to clients and when they do it is always approved in advance by the client and then followed by submission of pre-determined deliverables for client approval. This makes it highly improbable, if not nearly impossible, for any employee, even if directed, to falsify a timesheet.

    Cons

    Work-life balance is a perennial challenge and improvements could be made, but if current or prospective employees are looking for a consistent 9-5 job then they should probably look elsewhere - Chemonics is not the place for people who are not willing to either work very efficiently or put in extra hours when the job demands it – which is often. Every company has some staff who are poor supervisors, where Chemonics' can continue to improve is in its systems for identifying and addressing senior staff (executives and directors especially) with poor personnel management skills. This could include providing staff with everything from regular and timely feedback, to leadership training, to re-assignments, or, in the worst cases, to termination. Recent improvements to the performance evaluation system, including biannual reviews for all staff focused on the organization’s values and the first ever 360 degree anonymous performance reviews for executive management, are a really good start.

    Advice to Management

    Pay matters. Last year's salary adjustment was a step in the right direction, but more should be done to bring associate and manager compensation in line with the industry and the cost of living in DC. Continue improving the performance management systems and culture, particularly for senior staff and executives because poor leadership and bad personnel management are the biggest drains on productivity, creativity, morale, and retention of talent. The world is changing. Invest in the future. USAID is a fantastic client in many ways, but its overall budget has plateaued, funding for traditional development organizations (for-profit and non-profit) is shrinking, and resources are shifting to new partners – especially local but others as well. The long-term growth of the company and health of the ESOP (beyond payment of the debt) will not happen as a USAID-only contractor. Get creative and invest strategically in new opportunities that could pay dividends in the future with new clients and with USAID too. Be more thoughtful about who gets promoted to senior levels – director and executive. Not everyone is able to be promoted to those levels so when someone does get promoted to a senior level it says volumes to junior staff about the skills, attitude, values, and experiences the company values. A strength can also be a weakness. Chemonics' promote-from-within model and culture has many benefits, but it also has its limits. Not every position in the company can be adequately staffed from internal resources. Hire new blood and talent, especially at the director level (and for some executive roles) to bring new ideas and networks and to challenge old assumptions.



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