Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Reviews | Glassdoor

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Reviews

Updated July 19, 2017
230 reviews

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3.4
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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Susan Desmond-Hellmann
Susan Desmond-Hellmann
70 Ratings

230 Employee Reviews

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Pros
  • Great benefits for full-time employees, not interns or part time (in 36 reviews)

  • Great mission, fabulous people and actively working to get better all the time, with the resources to do it (in 28 reviews)

Cons
  • The issues that are worked on are so important that work life balance can be a struggle (in 17 reviews)

  • Decision making is often hamstrung by politics (in 17 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. Helpful (3)

    "Potential to be a truly premier employer"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Director in Seattle, WA
    Former Employee - Director in Seattle, WA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation full-time (More than 10 years)

    Pros

    High caliber staff; mission-driven organization that is having global impact; challenging work that provides career development opportunities; exceptional benefits; very competitive base pay for most roles; workplace amenities.

    Cons

    High workload and ineffective prioritization by leadership and managers creates employee burnout/frustration and failure to focus on highest priorities (org wide challenge); ongoing turnover of execs on operations side; inability to figure out business and resourcing model for global strategies; ongoing strategy changes/new directions require employees to be highly change agile and comfortable dealing with ambiguity, reorgs, new managers, etc.; terrible commute for Seattle employees due to Mercer/S. Lake Union congestion

    Advice to Management

    Continue to turn the boat with cultural transformation work that emphasizes trust, respect, transparency and creating (positive) energy; find ways to simplify work and systems rather than creating additional complexity; develop and hold managers accountable for leading teams and developing direct reports; keep ego/arrogance in check; build muscles around prioritizing work and identifying work that will not be done or will be done at a slower pace given resource constraints - communicate broadly when these leadership decisions are made.


  2. Helpful (1)

    "Great mission poor culture"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Deputy Director in Seattle, WA
    Former Employee - Deputy Director in Seattle, WA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    Purpose driven organization, smart colleagues, amazing benefits. Some improvements recently in the culture.

    Cons

    Low trust culture, backstabbing at senior levels which undermines confidence that culture improvement efforts actually matter. big talk about diversity but senior staff especially ELT has few women and there has been a mass exodus of senior women at DD and above levels - especially women of color. presidents and directors are real decision makers on budget with few incentives for them to collaborate across their areas.

    Advice to Management

    Walk the talk on diversity especially women and people of color at senior levels. Empower the CEO to make decisions instead of just talking about culture. Keep trying, I guess

    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Response

    Jun 24, 2017 – Head of Talent Acquisition and Talent Management

    Thanks for the review. Depending on when you departed, you might not be aware of the work we are doing around Diversity Equity and Inclusion. While we always want to do better around retention, our... More

  3. Helpful (4)

    "Director"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Director in Seattle, WA
    Former Employee - Director in Seattle, WA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    It is the best of all worlds; mission driven, in a time in history that is unique, where our mission is understood and has such an opportunity for impact at scale; enough resources and investments to gain personal experience and personal growth; In the middle of defining and building a great internal culture;

    Amazing benefits, fulfilling work, good people, emerging values.

    Cons

    Get stuck in old stories, emphasize the complexity and difficulty in the work rather than the opportunity, put self care behind the mission and in turn lessen our impact.

    Advice to Management

    Keep going, look for opportunity to invest in our good people, seek humility and courage.

    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Response

    May 12, 2017 – Head of Talent Acquisition and Talent Management

    Thank you so much for your review. I really appreciate your helpful insight and most particularly the need for employees' self care. If you have any thoughts on how best to help our employees do... More


  4. Helpful (19)

    "Horrible culture and lousy hiring"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Seattle, WA
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Seattle, WA
    Doesn't Recommend
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Great benefits and competitive salary.

    Cons

    This is not a company that lives by a set of principles. If you ask any employee, what are the principles you think that operate here - most likely answer will be "selfishness" - which is counterintuitive when you look at the mission. Arrogant self-promoters and middle management with no values is the norm here. There is a belief in "rock star" syndrome which deters collaboration and stifles "growth mindset." The place is inundated with political hawks who are there to score points at the expense of the mission. Humility is not appreciated nor rewarded.

    Advice to Management

    1. When hiring, don't just look at the shiny credentials - ask yourself what kind culture he/she is going to bring into the organization?
    2. Bring objective criteria into the hiring process - you can look at the "bar raiser" program that Amazon uses to make sure bad apples who don't meet the bar don't get in.
    3. Retain elements of culture that promote employee well-being but get rid of the elements that promote hubris. E.g. Parental leave policy is compassionate. Indiscriminate business class travel is not. Neither are expensive meals and lunches - these things promote entitlement and arrogance. If you get rid of them, you will likely attract the people who really care about the mission vs. those who are there to make a quick buck.
    4. Get rid of office spaces based on leadership level - this promotes hierarchy and encourages power mongering. Let everyone share the office space. Your directors can use a dose of humility.
    4. Actively promote a culture which minimizes the hierarchy and promotes open communication across levels of management. No one should feel threatened or insecure to speak up just because their boss is in the room. This happens A LOT at Gates.
    5. Make it mandatory for employees reporting to managers to provide 360 feedback. This is the only way you will get a balanced view of how the managers are doing - your system right now is being abused by managers who strategically pick where they want to get their feedback from. Just doing this will increase accountability on the managers to do the right things.
    6. Remove all friction for employees to move within the organization - Doing this will help in a couple of ways: First, you will know how good or bad a manager is very quickly. Managers who are good will retain their workforce, and who are bad will lose them quickly. Second, your employees will find great satisfaction in moving across the organization and learning about a new set of issues that you are trackling.
    7. Make strategy reviews once in 3 years. Replace annual strategy reviews with annual operational reviews with reporting of agreed upon metrics unless in exceptional circumstances. This will drive more accountability for directors minimize outrageous time invested in preparing for these internal reviews vs. focussing on beneficiaries.
    8. Have a goal to have at least 50% of global leadership from countries with these acute problems who are also well qualified. Too many white males running the show now, which is very unfortunate.

    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Response

    May 12, 2017 – Head of Talent Acquisition and Talent Management

    Thank you so much for your posting and your well thought out recommendations to management, several of which are already being implemented or discussed. I'm particularly passionate about how to hire... More


  5. Helpful (2)

    "Great mission but difficult decision making"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Deputy Director in Seattle, WA
    Current Employee - Deputy Director in Seattle, WA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    You can't beat the mission. I love that what I do contributes to a better world. People are incredibly nice and arguably too nice because it makes decision making difficult.

    Cons

    Tasks are inefficient. To get anything accomplished, you need to have multiple coffee conversations with multiple stakeholders.

    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Response

    Apr 24, 2017 – Head of Talent Acquisition and Talent Management

    Thanks so much for your feedback. I'd love to chat with you about your experience and the decision making challenges you seem to be having. Would you be willing to have a meeting with me to discuss... More


  6. Helpful (1)

    "Great benefits and mission to engage in"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Program Assistant in Seattle, WA
    Current Employee - Program Assistant in Seattle, WA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation full-time (More than 8 years)

    Pros

    Benefits, location, time off, shared mission

    Cons

    There is a very heavy, liberal political cloud that encompasses everything, despite the foundation's official "neutral" stance.

    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Response

    Mar 13, 2017 – Head of Talent Acquisition and Talent Management

    Thanks so much for your review.


  7. Helpful (1)

    "Great mission and nice place to do meaningful work"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Senior Program Assistant in Seattle, WA
    Current Employee - Senior Program Assistant in Seattle, WA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation full-time (More than 8 years)

    Pros

    Great compensation and benefits
    Working on improving culture

    Cons

    Limited career development opportunities
    People tend to have an entitled attitude

    Advice to Management

    Managers need to learn how to be better people managers.

    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Response

    Mar 13, 2017 – Head of Talent Acquisition and Talent Management

    Thanks so much for taking time to post this review. We have found that there are a lot more career development opportunities than what most may realize. Sue and the ELT are very focused on ensuring... More

  8. Helpful (23)

    "Great mission; poor culture"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Senior Program Officer in Seattle, WA
    Current Employee - Senior Program Officer in Seattle, WA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    Work on large-scale, transformative solutions to gnarly global challenges. There is no other place that does this kind of work at this scale. People are very smart (& they know it!).

    Cons

    The culture is very bad and management is very slow to implement change. A recent employee survey quoted the culture as one of "sharks and vultures." There is also an unspoken hubris centered around the 'white savior' complex that manifests itself in the outsized influence we have in the global development space. This is due, in part, to the lack of diversity in hiring both ethnically and academically. It is not a humble organization and it does not hire a lot of humble people b/c the outspoken, self-promoters are rewarded and thus, that behavior is reinforced. I have seen my colleagues plagiarize the work of our grantees, take credit for work they did not do (through benign 'lack of acknowledgement'), relentlessly self-promote, and hide failures in order to protect their reputations - all so, they can be visible. Additionally, there are few opportunities to get promoted despite the plethora of jobs. In one instance, I heard a manager say that "we hire for a job; not a career."
    Even many long term staff admit that the only reason they stay is b/c of the "golden handcuffs." The salary and benefits are so generous that it makes it hard to leave, especially in Seattle where there are few other options where you can go to do mission-oriented work and still make a corporate salary.

    Advice to Management

    Make the effort to actually walk the halls and talk to your employees. Especially those who may not be visible or known in the organization. I don't see sr. leadership and managers proactively doing anything other than talking about it in all staff meetings and then, delegating implementation to everyone else. It would be good for them to lead through action.
    Train managers to be managers. Full stop. Just b/c you are a Ph.D. scientist, a communications guru or economist from the World Bank does not mean you will be a good manager.
    Get rid of the bonus system. The salaries at the Foundation are very generous. The bonus system just encourages and perpetuates the aforementioned bad behavior. Use the money on making transformative changes for the world.
    Hire for more diversity! Diverse ethnicities; diverse academic backgrounds; diverse employment backgrounds.
    There is a noticeable split between how introverts and extroverts are treated. Those who speak the most and loudest, get the attention and rewards.
    Get rid of the matrix.
    Learn and incorporate best practices from other big, complex organizations.
    Provide a safe avenue for employees to talk about the culture.
    As a data-driven organization, it would be worth looking into the data on health & wellness from the Vera Whole Health Center "Health & Wellness" coaching program. I think that shed a lot of insight on the well-being of employees.
    Reward people for staying off-line during non-business hours. Small signals like that can wonders.
    Review and overhaul HR. It might be worthwhile to do an employee survey to see how HR is really serving the employees vs. serving leadership.

    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Response

    Jan 31, 2017 – Head of Talent Acquisition and Talent Management

    Thank you for taking the time to share this honest feedback with us. As you know, our work is founded on the belief that all lives have equal value, and we aim to create a workplace that lives up to... More


  9. Helpful (3)

    "Program Assistant"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Program Assistant in Seattle, WA
    Current Employee - Program Assistant in Seattle, WA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Less than a year)

    Pros

    opportunities for growth, great compensation, amazing facilities, great people to work with

    Cons

    better knowledge management system and processes

    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Response

    Jan 31, 2017 – Head of Talent Acquisition and Talent Management

    Thanks so much for your review. It's always helpful to hear from our new employees. I would hope that you could reach out to your leadership around the needs you and your colleagues have around... More


  10. Helpful (3)

    "Program Officer"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Program Officer, Global Development in Seattle, WA
    Former Employee - Program Officer, Global Development in Seattle, WA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    Stimulating environment and excellent place to work if you have a fantastic manager and autonomy. You'll find people who love the foundation and those who don't, and the differentiating factor is very often your manager and portfolio.

    Cons

    You'll hear mixed reviews of managers. There is too much inward focus on strategy. The organization could use more soul and a more earnest ear to hearing outside criticism.

    Advice to Management

    Reflect more on how public policy changes the environments the foundation works in.

    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Response

    Jan 5, 2017 – Head of Talent Acquisition and Talent Management

    Thank you so very much for your thoughtful review of the foundation. We are continuing to work on our leadership and management expectations to ensure that all employees have a great manager to... More


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