Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

  www.gatesfoundation.org
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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Reviews

Updated August 21, 2014
Updated August 21, 2014
122 Reviews

3.3
122 Reviews
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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Susan Desmond-Hellmann
Susan Desmond-Hellmann
1 Rating

Review Highlights

Pros
  • Great benefits and retirement package (in 14 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 10 reviews)

  • It's a very flat organization with very little to no room for professional growth (in 5 reviews)

More Highlights

Employee Reviews

Sort: Popular Rating Date
  1.  

    A-M-A-Z-I-N-G

    • 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

    Pros

    The dedication around the office is unbelievable. I've worked in a lot of charities before, and this tops them all. Great benefits and an improved world.

    Cons

    Very hierarchal culture; Nothing else

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  2.  

    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. 3 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 for more than a 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.  

    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
  6. 6 people found this helpful  

    Temp grants management

    • 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 as a contractor for 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
  7.  

    Nice company to work with

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

    I worked at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as a contractor for more than a year

    Pros

    Job satisfaction. Great workplace. Great people

    Cons

    No Cons as i can think of.

    Recommends
  8. 4 people found this helpful  

    Massive egos get in the way of the mission

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    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 for more than 3 years

    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 ManagementAdvice

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

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  9. 5 people found this helpful  

    Culture is intense. Mission is inspirational. Benefits are awesome!

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

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

    Pros

    - You will never lose your job because of the economy
    - You will be around the most passionate, intelligent, and dedicated people on the planet
    - The benefits are incredible especially if you have a family

    Cons

    - You will likely lose your job because of burnout or a random reorganization
    - Consultants will probably get the roles you want. If you're working in supporting the mission outside of the grant-making process (such as in IT, Finance, HR etc), you will feel a little left out from the grantee-facing work
    - Culture is highly political and heroic efforts are expected. Sometimes, you will wonder whether better planning could have prevented the heroic efforts

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Enjoy the job while you can. If you can make it past the five year mark, you deserve a standing ovation along with the cool gift. Being a manager at the foundation is probably the toughest job you will ever love

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  10. 1 person found this helpful  

    Very inspiring mission!

    • 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 for more than 5 years

    Pros

    Smart, passionate co-workers who strive to be a part of changing the world for the better.
    Challenging work, but the outcomes for people in need are very rewarding.
    CEO has reshaped the organization to significantly improve the culture.

    Cons

    Co-chairs can create an environment with "fear of judgment", limiting the dialogue necessary for risk-taking.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    The trend line on improving the culture is positive -- accelerate the momentum.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  11. 9 people found this helpful  

    You'll be glad your year is up.

    • 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 as a contractor for more than a year

    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 ManagementAdvice

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

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

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