Chemonics International
3.2 of 5 86 reviews Washington, DC 1000 to 5000 Employees

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Once a paradigm of development, now a husk of its former self

Associate (Former Employee)

Pros- Great exposure to government contracting and consulting
- Opportunity to participate in advanced roles to build your career, particularly in business development
- Tremendous travel opportunities, including short-term and long-term assignments
- Relatively young workforce
- Good trainings on government compliance, communications, and business-specific roles. Chemonics training is certainly unparalleled
- Relative focus on client satisfaction
- Great exposure to a range of technical areas and services
- Great location!

ConsSuccess at Chemonics is not contingent on an enabling work environment. Rather, I believe your success is tethered to the exposure you get through your project and project manager. Once the company was a pleasure to work at but in the last year and a half it has been reduced to a shell of its former self. Much of the talent the company had has left by this point, including many critical individuals (Chemonics disbanded their compliance department - given that they are a government contractor, it seems silly to push compliance expertise towards individuals who have had no prior experience or interest in government compliance..especially for high value contract decisions). The company does not do a good job in fostering career growth for individuals - you are required to prove yourself by dealing with issues and problems which arise in your project, but if you have a fairly smooth-running team then you will not get the necessary exposure to grow your career. If your manager is useless, they will use your inexperience as a shield to cover their own mistakes. Individuals will exploit your weaknesses for their own personal agendas, and this behavior seems to have become more of a norm rather than an exception. I've noticed that your perceived achievements are seldom remembered but your perceived mistakes will mar your career from beginning to end (however, sometimes it will also work the other way around).

I also believe the company also has a tendency to promote "favorites" so that the higher ups can perpetuate the status quo. I don't think you'll find many companies where many senior managers/executive team members lack advanced degrees. Furthermore, individual incompetence is protected by people with close relationships to the higher-ups. There are a close-knit group of powerful individuals at Chemonics with a lot of political mobility to make decisions on their own, including who gets a promotion and when, despite a candidate's inexperience in a given arena. Cut-throat corporatism, nepotism and questionable decisions abound resulting in slimmer opportunities for career growth. Work-life balance is also notoriously bad, and most employees take issue with what they refer to as the "Chempire."

Chemonics set inconceivably high sales targets in order to launch a largely unsuccessful "employee stock ownership program." This ESOP initiative is partially to blame for the companies recent hemorrhaging of money, and I am not confident that Chemonics will regain its prior position as a competitive implementer of USAID projects. Recent corporate reshuffling will undoubtedly affect the company's ability to implement projects, and I think over time the company will become a "generalist" implementer of smaller projects than the juggernaut it once was and hopes to still be.

Lip service is paid to successful development, although I will concede that there is less pressure towards billability than at some competitors. As a result of Chemonics' recent failures, pressure has diverted towards winning new business - but there are evident flaws in the company's approach to business development and project implementation which may be rooted in the managerial failings of the company. Not to mention the gutting of its home-office technical expertise.

Advice to Senior ManagementThe company's dismissal of important divisions - particularly practice specialists (gender, health, d&g, etc) - will result in Chemonics becoming a generalist implementer. As a result of gutting the technical talent, Chemonics is less likely to win high-value bids and will continue to win lower-value ones until technical expertise can be restored. Chemonics needs to look objectively at what their actual value proposition, and it is not in the implementation of technically complex projects. This also means that the company should stop targeting 100% of USAID RFPs because it leads to market saturation and causes the company to come across as bellicose in an industry that is supposedly humanitarian/altruistic. Looking toward other clients is also useful, but this is an expensive approach as Chemonics would have to buy the expertise. Your best bet is to temper your new business expectations, focus on sales, and, unfortunately, allow employee contracts to expire when projects end - with a decent severance package. That is the tough bottom-line you'll need to save the company, rather than walking people to the door when the opportunity arises.

I would start looking towards creating a more merit-based approach and designing concrete milestones for career advancement at Chemonics. You have a lot of talent that goes to waste, and a lot of people who appear to do more work than they do. I understand the difficulty in this current climate, but the company needs to create a more fostering environment for employee career growth rather than relying on the adage that "Chemonics is a sink or swim place."

No, I would not recommend this company to a friend – I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company

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    Lots of chances to learn and grow

    Anonymous Employee (Former Employee)

    I worked at Chemonics International

    Pros: Saw lots of flexibility in the kinds of work people can choose… Cons: can be stressful sometimes when you work on proposal teams. More
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    nice colleagues and working environment

    Research Assistant (Former Employee)
    Washington, DC

    I worked at Chemonics International as an intern for less than a year

    Pros: excellent training courses for employees Cons: no complete internship programs available Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend More
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