Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

  www.gatesfoundation.org
  www.gatesfoundation.org

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Reviews in Seattle, WA

Updated November 10, 2014
Updated November 10, 2014
115 Reviews
3.3
115 Reviews
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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Susan Desmond-Hellmann
Susan Desmond-Hellmann
5 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

77 Employee Reviews Back to all reviews

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  1.  

    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
  2. 8 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 an 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
  3.  

    Really enjoyed my experience as an intern

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

    I worked at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as an intern (less than an year)

    Pros

    As an intern, I was provided with a clear project and goals for the summer. I was invited to meetings with senior leadership and got to present my recommendations to the team. The office space was amazing, very green and a great atmosphere. Seattle is also amazing in the summer time.

    Cons

    There isn't a clear program structure for summer interns to get full-time jobs at the Foundation. There is some bureaucracy which makes it hard to get things to change quickly. I was also told that people are passive aggressive though I didn't see that myself.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Allow interns to get full-time job offers

    Recommends
    Approves of CEO
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  5. 6 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
  6. 6 people found this helpful  

    Rewarding in some ways, but tough environment with few growth opportunities

    • 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 5 years)

    Pros

    Great mission, great place to learn about a wide variety of topics, brilliant and fun colleagues. Get to be creative in what we fund although this is getting harder as the foundation becomes more bureaucratic. New CEO is fantastic, hope she rubs off on the rest of the foundation quickly. Very flexible in where we do our work (easy to work from remotely). Great benefits.

    Cons

    Manager capabilities are very mixed. Too much time spent working and rehashing strategies. Growth opportunities and promotions are very political. Ethically questionable and unsupportive HR department. Lack of transparency and consistency around why people are hired into which positions and promoted into others; it all seems very arbitrary. Culture and values are more rhetoric than actual.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  7. 8 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 (more than an 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
  8. 9 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 (less than an 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
  9.  

    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 (more than an year)

    Pros

    Job satisfaction. Great workplace. Great people

    Cons

    No Cons as i can think of.

    Recommends
  10. 5 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 (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
  11. 6 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 (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

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