Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Reviews | Glassdoor

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Reviews

Updated January 19, 2017
52 reviews

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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Susan Desmond-Hellmann
Susan Desmond-Hellmann
6 Ratings

52 Employee Reviews

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Pros
  • This company is known for it's great benefits (in 33 reviews)

  • BMGF has a great mission - can be very inspiring to contribute (in 25 reviews)

Cons
  • The issues that are worked on are so important that work life balance can be a struggle (in 16 reviews)

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

More Pros and Cons

  1. Helpful (9)

    "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


  2. 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


  3. Helpful (13)

    "Horrific culture, great benefits"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Senior Program Officer in Seattle, WA
    Former Employee - Senior Program Officer in Seattle, WA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Positive Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

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

    Pros

    Benefits ( one year paid paternity/maternity leave; free health care)
    Access (influential individuals)

    Cons

    Leadership and employee base lacks cultural competence, particularly in light of the communities the organization works in. There is an overall lack of people of color. Employee surveys explicit reflect that there is a culture of fear, arrogance, and white is right. McKinsey and Deloitte clones run the organization. Look at the lack of racial diversity of the organization, especially within leadership. How does one justify this?

    Advice to Management

    Admit that you are a white is right organization.
    Change this- retain your skilled employees of color (the majority of whom are required to be ten times more qualified than the white employees)hire more employees of color and treat them well. Hire some leadership members who aren't so arrogant. Recognize that while gender is important, race and ethnicity absolutely are critical.

    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Response

    Aug 24, 2016 – Head of Talent Acquisition and Talent Management

    “Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughtful feedback with us. We believe, our employee workforce should reflect the rich diversity of the global populations we serve, including in ... More


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  5. Helpful (21)

    "Anonymous"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    Pros

    I worked with some wonderful people.
    I had some great supervisors until I got a bad one.
    The mission.
    The benefits.
    I learned so much!
    Saw President Carter and Jane Goodall!!

    Cons

    I was overworked and then thrown away when I got an awful supervisor. It was a horrible demeaning experience, one that I will never forget. I was there for over 6 years and I was very dedicated. It was an amazing learning experience but terrible as well.

    Advice to Management

    If you have long term staff, don't let some one who just started managing them treat them terribly and then get rid of them. Try moving them to another supervisor.
    You need to help to lower the stress level.
    Listen to your staff, care about them and think about how they connect to the mission.
    Above all have a deep respect for EVERYONE.
    Remember All Lives Have Equal Value.

    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Response

    Aug 29, 2016 – Head of Talent Acquisition and Talent Management

    I'm sorry that you had a supervisor that created a demeaning situation for you. Please feel free to reach out to me directly if you'd like to share more details. Best of luck to you in the future ... More


  6. Helpful (16)

    "Senior Manager, HR"

    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
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation full-time

    Pros

    -Get to work with smart and dedicated colleagues
    -Good base pay (no bonuses) and outstanding benefits including 15% annual contribution (company paid) toward retirement
    -Interesting and challenging work in service of the mission

    Cons

    -Leadership is several degrees removed from the day-to-day work so they don't understand the challenges and therefore are unable to provide sound solutions to remove barriers
    -Workloads are very high and expectations are often unrealistic that often contributes to poor morale and retention
    -Several reorgs in any given year that cause havoc and confusion
    -Very little commitment to developing and retaining staff across all disciplines (this has been an ongoing issue for many years)

    Advice to Management

    -Survey the staff, and implement their feedback
    -Commit to developing and retaining staff enabling the foundation to deliver on its strategies in service of the mission

    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Response

    Jul 15, 2016 – Head of Talent Acquisition and Talent Management

    I appreciate you taking the time to post about your experience at the foundation. While we are pleased that you found the work interesting, I am sorry that you experienced challenges during your time ... More


  7. Helpful (2)

    "Seems inspiring, but internal politics prevent impact"

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

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

    Pros

    -Admirable mission
    -Passionate colleagues
    -Work with experts in your field and people doing interesting things
    -Good benefits

    Cons

    -Very political and bureaucratic, like working in a dysfunctional government department
    -Stuck in an "ivory tower", force implementation of strategies because leadership "think" they will work, without really gathering data or information from practitioners in the field
    -Lots of turf wars and political backstabbing
    -Because there is virtually no internal promotion, all leaders are from outside the Foundation. Many are experts in their field, but many are not, so combine a lack of expertise with a lack of competence.
    -Often tone deaf around how initiatives are playing out in the field
    -Has a reputation in the field of being unpredictable and prone to goose chases

    Advice to Management

    Clean house among leadership

    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Response

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

    Thanks so much for your feedback about your experiences as a Program Officer here. While, it's always difficult to hear about your negative experience, I appreciate your point of view and would ... More


  8. Helpful (7)

    "Assistant"

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

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

    Pros

    The benefits cannot be overstated, they are unbelievably generous. The mission and resources available to "drive toward impact" (a very gatesian term) is noble and lofty. You may also get to work with some of the smartest, humblest, and nicest people in the world and learn so much.

    Cons

    It is more likely that you will work alongside people who are just trying to do their job and stay under the radar. Too many reorgs, too many bad managers, and too much political lobbying for too few promotions from within the organization. Program staff can only get so far and then they just get more work and more responsibility dumped on them and support staff have nowhere to go. When opportunities do arise, it is always a cattle call and survival of the fittest. The most politically well-connected win the day. Skill, experience, competency, commitment don't always mean anything.

    Advice to Management

    Seek out those you don't see who have been here the longest and ask them what they think. Don't reward people just because you like them, and please stop rewarding people with management positions when they clearly can't manage people. Bad people managers stifle growth, morale and creativity. The very traits I would think you would want to draw out of your very valuable and costly human resource.


  9. Helpful (11)

    "Senior Program Officer"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Senior Program Officer in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Senior Program Officer in Washington, DC
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook

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

    Pros

    Sharp colleagues. Most ventures are honorable, close-to-the-heart kinds of endeavors. Red carpet everywhere you go to represent the foundation. Great perks.

    Cons

    Little to negative concern for staff, which hampers zest, confidence and innovative thinking.

    Advice to Management

    Stay close to the the world problems the foundation seeks to impact, not to the internal politics and quest for recognition and more internal relevance.


  10. Helpful (5)

    "Con"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation full-time

    Pros

    Good salary and benefits, etc

    Cons

    No ability to progress and bad managers


  11. Helpful (25)

    "I would not go back to BMGF if they paid me a million dollars/year."

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

    I worked at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation full-time

    Pros

    The pay and benefits are outstanding. There is certainly a feeling of "cache" when you work at Gates, the people you meet are incredibly intelligent, the travel can be exhausting but so satisfying.

    Cons

    I would not go back to BMGF if they paid me a million dollars/year. This is an organization that is so poorly run, that wastes *unbelievable* amounts of money, that "re-orgs" departments every time someone sneezes (laying off long-term employees, moving people around like chess pieces). Top-heavy, cliques, does not care about the human beings who work there; we were all just bodies and brains to play with.



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