Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Reviews

Updated March 25, 2015
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3.3
121 Reviews
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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Susan Desmond-Hellmann
Susan Desmond-Hellmann
8 Ratings

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 Pros and Cons

Employee Reviews

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  1. 3 years at Gates

    • 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

    Great mission and motivated people. Everyone is truly there because they believe in the work that the foundation is doin

    Cons

    It is a difficult place to have a career. Promotions are rare. The skills you learn aren't necessarily transferrable to other companies.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    I would advise management to invest in their employee's growth and to consider promoting from within.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  2. Great in a lot of way, not so great in some important ways

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

    I have been working at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

    Pros

    -Opportunity to work for an organization that is dedicated to improving the lives of others
    -Environment where everyone feels passion for the mission
    -Continual learning opportunities
    -Amazingly talented and motivated colleagues
    -Participating in conversations with great thinkers and subject-matter experts
    -Very good compensation and benefits

    Cons

    -Culture of perfectionism
    -Inconsistent experience across the foundation in terms of job satisfaction (brilliant minds do not always translate into great managers)
    -Lots of fire-drills and seemingly unnecessary churn
    -Tools and systems are not as sophisticated as needed to support programs/operations
    -Continual change and tendency towards complexity
    -Extremely challenging to find work/life balance
    -Llimited opportunities for career progression

    Doesn't Recommend
    Approves of CEO
  3. Besides Rigor, Collaboration, and Optimism, and Innovation - you could add Humility. It is lacking a great deal...

    • 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

    Want to get things done? Its who you know and how you stroke their ego. Benefits are great.

    Cons

    Still an "Old Boys Club", as in "It's who you know". Positions in leadership rarely get opened up to staff and others outside of the org. It is given to people who are the most vocal, stroke peoples egos, and play the political games.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Perhaps try and be a little more transparent about what you do.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
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  5. Deputy Director, Strategy Planning and Management

    • 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

    Inspirational place to work - great people, brilliant minds

    Cons

    Highly focused on perfectionism. Sometimes difficult to move work forward

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
  6. great experience

    • 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

    great learning and networking opportunities

    Cons

    limited growth trajectory from an administrative perspective

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    continue to expand upon your career growth philosophies

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
  7. 14 people found this helpful

    Good place to work but not the best place to work.

    • 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 3 years)

    Pros

    Best benefit package.
    Great retirement benefits.
    Some awesome pool of smart super intelligent people.
    People from diverse background understand and follow the mission.
    Great campus.
    Get to meet with Bill & Melinda, Mr. Bill Sr., and also Warren Buffet.

    Cons

    Not the best place to work.
    Hurts to see that many people don't even follow the mission. Apparently 'All lives have equal value', is not practiced by each manager. Amazing to see that your title speaks so much about the behavior and treatment from high level people, especially in your own team. You will be the luckiest if you end up in a team that has a great manager.

    No growth opportunities. If u apply for other roles within the organization, you become the most unfavorable person on the team.

    A lot of perception which is highly biased and doesn't work in your favor. If they don't want you they will find a reason you ensure you are gone. Double standards are hurtful to see. Hoping that with the new CEO, things will change for better.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Ensure your management follows the mission. A few bad managers spoil the whole mix.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  8. 7 people found this helpful

    Contribute to the greater good, but make sure you take care of yourself

    • 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

    Pros

    The mission is fantastic. The benefits are amazing. If you are on a good team, the colleagues are great. Most people have their heart in the right place.

    Cons

    It's a large group of type-A personalities in one space. Tools don't always work together. Can be very bogged down with red tape and the culture can be fraught with minefields. Some teams are quite dysfunctional.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  9. 16 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
  10. 13 people found this helpful

    Love the foundation, but IT is a nightmare

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

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

    Pros

    The co-chairs are inspirational, and the mission is one of the most impressive things one can be part of. Amazing benefits package, and low pressure on defined work hours. The foundation has perhaps the most architecturally impressive building in Seattle, and it's beautiful to walk into every day. Well-dressed men and women doing important and very difficult things. Super cool to eat lunch in the Atrium and overhear conversations about solving some of the world's most intractable problems. Amazing cafeteria. Professional atmosphere.

    Cons

    I only worked in IT, so I'll limit my comments to that area. The only opportunity to get promoted is if people leave; the CIO told us, "Don't expect upward mobility here." (super-inspirational, right?) IT is run as poorly as any IT organization I've seen, and I've seen many... it's 100% a "don't-make-any-mistakes-or-else" culture, there is absolutely no risk-taking encouraged or allowed. Nothing can get done without multiple meetings. Everything is consensus-driven, which might make sense in other areas of the foundation but doesn't serve IT or our customers around the foundation. Work that I've accomplished in days at other places takes months here. Every bad cliché about an old, slow IT department applies, and the reputation of IT around the foundation is awful. The most frustrating part is that the individual people are talented, and could handle a different culture, but the CIO not only has no vision or ability to drag the culture forward; after five years, he's the reason for the problems. If this were a sports team, performance this bad would result in the head coach being fired.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Replace the CIO, and then have the new CIO replace at least half of the people the next level down. Nothing less will help the foundation's IT drag itself into the 21st Century. The rest of the foundation deserves better from an IT organization at a place with Bill Gates' name on the door.

    Doesn't Recommend
    No opinion of CEO
  11. 18 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

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