Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Reviews | Glassdoor

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Reviews

Updated April 25, 2017
222 reviews

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3.3
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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Susan Desmond-Hellmann
Susan Desmond-Hellmann
63 Ratings

222 Employee Reviews

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

  • decision making either drawn out or not thought thoroughly through (in 17 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. "Great benefits and mission to engage in"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • 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.


  2. Helpful (3)

    "Horrible culture and lousy hiring"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • 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.


  3. Helpful (1)

    "Great mission but difficult decision making"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • 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


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  5. "Great mission and nice place to do meaningful work"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • 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


  6. Helpful (2)

    "Program Assistant"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • 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


  7. Helpful (17)

    "Great mission; poor culture"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • 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


  8. Helpful (2)

    "Program Officer"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • 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


  9. "Happy Happy"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Vienna, VA
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Vienna, VA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

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

    Pros

    Absolutely compelling mission and an opportunity to work with world-class people from all over the world in health, development and education. There is some turn over at the foundation and most professionals come in at a mid-point in their careers and stay for a few years before moving on to the next big thing.

    Cons

    Sometimes difficult to see the nexus between the work being done in Seattle and how it is actually affecting people in the "field." Management is improving - in particular with some recent hires of true managers in the fields the foundation works in.

    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Response

    Dec 1, 2016 – Head of Talent Acquisition and Talent Management

    Thanks so much for your review. I'm happy to hear that you feel management is improving since it is such a focus of the ELT right now.


  10. Helpful (1)

    "Great place to learn and grow"

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

    I worked at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Less than a year)

    Pros

    You get the opportunity to work with smart, passionate people to solve some of the world's biggest problems. Great "campus" feel in Seattle--I felt proud walking in to work every day

    Cons

    Feels very siloed--at a big organization, hard for all the teams and departments to talk to each other. Also, some people seem kind of complacent in their roles; you might not necessarily get a fast-paced startup feel here at such a big, bureaucratic nonprofit, but it varies based on what team you're on.

    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Response

    Nov 14, 2016 – Head of Talent Acquisition and Talent Management

    I so appreciate your review! It sounds like you had a great opportunity as a summer intern. Thanks for your insight around the areas for improvement - they are very helpful. Best of luck in your ... More


  11. Helpful (21)

    "Information Technology"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Seattle, WA
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Seattle, WA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook

    Pros

    - Benefits
    - Location
    - Employee resources

    Cons

    - Management/Leadership
    - Culture
    - Transparency

    Zero transparency, always saying the right things but doing the opposite.

    High-performing individuals get driven out and low-performing individuals get promoted.

    Management is only interested in managing upwards.

    Advice to Management

    Listen to the employees performing the work and make a concerted effort.

    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Response

    Nov 7, 2016 – Head of Talent Acquisition and Talent Management

    Thanks so much for your posting. I'm sorry that you had a less than positive experience. If you have specific feedback, I'd be happy for you to reach out to me directly. As you likely know, we are ... More


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