Development Alternatives Reviews

Updated August 7, 2014
Updated August 7, 2014
30 Reviews

3.5
30 Reviews
Rating Trends

Recommend to a friend
Approve of CEO
(no image)
James Boomgard
11 Ratings

Employee Reviews

Sort: Popular Rating Date
  1.  

    Organization committed to developing countries and to maintaining a community

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

    I worked at Development Alternatives as a contractor for more than 3 years

    Pros

    People are committed to each other and genuinely try to work toward common goals. Home office project management staff are very supportive of field staff. I have worked in many organizations with home office and field staff and this organization does it the best.

    Cons

    Because the organization is so tied to its big governmental clients, it can be overly political. It feels like the organization keeps trying to reinvent itself and it has growing pains.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Management by consensus isn't always the answer. There are strong managers who are capable of making decisions independently, let them.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  2.  

    Unable to escape the US Gov contractor mentality

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Project Coordinator  in  Bethesda, MD
    Former Employee - Project Coordinator in Bethesda, MD

    I worked at Development Alternatives full-time for more than a year

    Pros

    If you work in the field, its incredible. 6 moths abroad taught me more than years in a home office. I experienced none of the Cons below in the field. I count my move from the field to the home office for "job security" as one of the worst choices I have ever made, as it sapped my faith in the whole Development Sector (read: Industry).

    Cons

    1. Avoid becoming a "Project Coordinator." This level where the most burnout happens. Poor management, long hours, high expectations, extremely high competition, and low pay drive out a lot of talented folks. This is also where most "cuts" are.

    2. Co-Workers can be cut-throat. Let's face it, this field attracts rising stars. The unfortunate reality is people here often rise at the cost of others. Because of this, my department was a gloomy, quiet place where no one spoke and people kept files on each other. One co-worker even saved all of his correspondences on a removable drive because, "You will need to cover your [butt]."
    To illustrate this point: On day ONE, I was chewed out for following a faulty set of instructions my co-worker gave me. Although he had the opportunity to step in and assume responsibility, he stayed silent. When approached later, he said, "That should teach you to always verify." Things only got worse from there!

    3. DAI can be "clickish." Long hours usually means your only friends are your co-workers. It doesn't help that most people moved to the DC are from places like Dubuque, Iowa, knowing no one in the area. The first friends they often make are the cubicle moles next to them. Longtimers (read: those that have survived for 9 months) often cluster together, dismissing "greenhorns" who have the life expectancy of Infantry at D-Day. I don't blame them! If you managed to find a group of colleagues that won't feed you to the sharks for brownie points, I'd stick to them like glue too!

    4. Its about making money stupid. DAI will beat the mantra of "we're a business that operates like a non-profit." Funny thing is, I never saw the level of blame shifting, betrayal, fact-hiding, and general A-type snobbery in the name of personal advancement and profit ... in the FOR-PROFIT sector(read: not in the Development Industry). The mission is about making money at Home Office. Your mission is professional advancement in a field where everyone is as good or better than your are. That means one thing: If you treat this like your run of the mill, mom & pop non-profit, you will be eaten alive.

    5. This will all suck your soul away. People at Home Office actively delude themselves into thinking they are doing "good for the world" while "accidentally" forwarding email chains with other peoples' mistakes to managers, filing in blanks in auditable material before the RIG shows up, taking out higher insurance policies on people going to "safe" areas in Afghanistan (only to see them brutally murdered months later), falsifying time cards, and I could go on. If these are the people who grease the wheels in our country's philanthropic efforts... well no wonder International Development is so jammed up!

    -

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    1. Ethics. Ethics. Ethics. Teach your managers to do the right thing. Corruption and scandal works its way downwards, not the other way around!
    2. Just because you can manage a portfolio, doesn't mean you can manage people, and vice versa. Separate your managers from your leaders. Give your leaders the supervisory role and your managers the role of bean counter. You'll see less people quit because "my boss sucks."

    Doesn't Recommend
  3.  

    If you want to become a development worker to help people, DAI is not the place for you.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Regional Director
    Former Employee - Regional Director

    I worked at Development Alternatives full-time for more than a year

    Pros

    Great salary and benefits. Work-life balance is talked of but not respected.

    Cons

    Company values are not my values for development work. DAI is one of the 'beltway bandits' of DC. They secure these huge USAID contracts to do great-sounding work overseas. Once overseas, this for-profit company charges as much as they can get away with to the US government project, helping very few people except themselves, while racking up millions of dollars in consultancy fees and expensive hotels for visiting US-based project staff who do next to nothing. I worked on one such project - expecting to improve the lives of the people in the country where I was based - but all the money went to business class airfare and expensive hotels for the endless stream of 'consultants' who were paid $3000 a day to do next to nothing. I left out of disgust for what the US government allows by these big for-profit companies hired to do not-for-profit work. If you have any integrity and respect for what good development can be, avoid these big beltway bandits like DAI.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    DAI's work outputs should be measured frequently through quality indicators. I saw little to no proper evaluation measures in place.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Positive Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  4. We want your feedback – Are these company reviews helpful to you?  Yes | No
  5.  

    A relatively good place to enter the world of international development

    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee  in  Bethesda, MD
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Bethesda, MD

    I have been working at Development Alternatives full-time

    Pros

    The company is staffed by good people who are truly committed to the mission of the company. No matter who strapped for resources the teams are, they usually manage to pull it out in the end.

    Cons

    1. Compensation - there are salary bands and the median of each band represents the industry standard. The stated policy to managers every year when they are making salary recommendations is to keep people below the median. Not cool.
    2. Too much investment in Afghanistan projects. The way that junior staff were practically forced into agreeing to travel to Afghanistan - I repeatedly witnessed managers making determination about junior staff members' capabilities based on whether or not they were enthusiastic about being expected to travel to Afghanistan for months at a time.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Stop treating project management as if it is separate from technical implementation. On your government contracts that you are hired to implement, you are expected to not only achieve the technical aims, but to do so without stepping out of the government's lines. So treating the administrative management and compliance like an afterthought that the high and mighty technical experts can ignore and push off on to an understaffed administrative and compliance team is not necessarily a good idea. Every member of a project team in the home office and in the field has a responsibility towards project management and until you hold them accountable for audit findings or unallowable determinations, they will continue.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  6.  

    Change Fatigue

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

    I have been working at Development Alternatives full-time for more than 5 years

    Pros

    These are many bright, hardworking people, who do a lot of excellent work when left to get down to business. There are many good middle managers, and a strong ethos in some groups.

    Cons

    The reorganization was a great way to systematize the different parts of the business to ensure we get the most out of them. One of the groups has become a graveyard for long term employees who have a lot of deep thoughts, go to conferences, long for the good old days of big, slow, fatty development contracts in a less competitive time, and produce little in the way of support to projects or new business.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Hold people to account! Chronic underperformance, simply 'bowing out' of work you don't want to do needs to be noted and followed up.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  7. 1 person found this helpful  

    Falling apart at the seams.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee  in  London, England (UK)
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in London, England (UK)

    I have been working at Development Alternatives full-time for more than a year

    Pros

    The people - the employees (not management) in the London office are an outstanding group. Motivated, passionate and friendly.
    Benefits - these are generally good with private healthcare, subsidised gym membership etc.
    Culture - dress down Fridays and cake Fridays are a favourite. People are genuinely friends with each other and pub trips are regular.

    Cons

    Career progression - was mind-numbingly slow before and now after the recent re-structure is non-existent.
    Career progression 2 - under the new structure specialising in an area is very difficult. You will be expected to work on different bids in different areas - creating jack of all trades master of none workforce.
    Pay - DAI are notorious for expecting you to work very hard for next to no money. You can expect to be paid 15-20% more at a competitor for the same job.
    The management - completely out of touch with employees. They are very stuck in their ways, do not listen to advice/input (even when they ask for it), communicate terribly with the teams and are unwilling to change.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    If you are going to ask for input/advice then listen to it! Otherwise you can expect the high employee turnover to continue. It is all very well asking yourselves why they left for a competitor, but when you look after yourselves much better than you look after your employees, it won't matter how relaxed and friendly the work environment is. If people see no progression, a (comparatively) very low salary, increasing workloads with no resource expansion and an uncaring management, they will continue to leave. After the recent restructure, you can expect this to speed up rapidly.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  8.  

    Few folks who work hard and passionate pulling for the entire company, but mostly disorganized crew

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

    I worked at Development Alternatives as a contractor for more than 3 years

    Pros

    Bearing in mind how limited resources DAI operates with, impression left by projects operated globally is usually exceeding expectations mostly due to people engaged who always tend to go a step further for some reason.

    Cons

    Not exactly a friendly team, sometimes way too competitive internally, bound by lousy internal procedures interpreted with significant differences from one segment of the company to another, usually poorly guided and lacking an overall picture.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    More honesty and openness communicating, at least with folks on a payroll. It is neither a kinder-garden nor a correctional facility you're running.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  9.  

    Good learning experience

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Senior Program Associate  in  Bethesda, MD
    Former Employee - Senior Program Associate in Bethesda, MD

    I worked at Development Alternatives full-time for more than 3 years

    Pros

    I had great, supportive co-workers who were always willing to problem solve together. It was a great learning experience during which I was able to travel to three different countries and witness program implementation first hand.

    Cons

    There were times that it felt like it was impossible to progress beyond the administrative level.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Invest in the highly motivated, young staff members who are dedicated to the mission. Help them advance.

    Recommends
    Disapproves of CEO
  10.  

    Development alternatives

    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at Development Alternatives

    Pros

    Learnt a lot at this organization

    Cons

    the organization was foud to be unorganized

  11.  

    Very talented and knowledgeable professionals working in the international development scene.

    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at Development Alternatives

    Pros

    Variety of programs and projects, from a diverse set of development sectors from education to governance.

    Cons

    A lot of competition and not enough leeway to work in the offices you desire.

Worked for Development Alternatives? Contribute to the Community!

Your response will be removed from the review – this cannot be undone.