Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Reviews in Seattle, WA | Glassdoor

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Seattle Reviews

Updated October 13, 2017
156 reviews

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Seattle, WA

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

156 Employee Reviews

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Pros
  • Great benefits for full-time employees, not interns or part time (in 37 reviews)

  • Great mission, fabulous people and actively working to get better all the time, with the resources to do it (in 30 reviews)

Cons
  • Work life balance might be difficult (in 17 reviews)

  • Extreme bias btwn full time and contract employee (in 15 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. Helpful (6)

    "Great Benefits, Tough Environment"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • 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
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

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

    Pros

    Terrific mission, great benefits, lots of opportunity to do good work. Looks good on the CV.

    Cons

    A perfectionist culture, (everything is "over-worked"). This probably comes from the style and preferences at the very top (and hence is unlikely to change). The CEO is trying to improve management capabilities (as distinct from scientific and leadership capabilities), but this is slow going. Arrogance is still a big problem in some quarters.

    Advice to Management

    CEO level: keep at it!
    President/Director level: have some humility and perspective. Listen to Sue, she has the right ideas.


  2. Helpful (1)

    "Strong mission, hard culture"

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

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

    Pros

    Smart colleagues, mission, pay, benefits, physical space, impact on the world. Some marginal improvements in the culture. CEO ethical and has good ideas. Bill and Melinda are inspiring and the work is really important.

    Cons

    I’ve been at the foundation for 10 years and the lack of collaboration at exec level remains a challenge. Lot of good talk about culture but everyone knows that senior execs throw each other under the bus and go to Bill to get funding. Loss of top operations leaders (COO earlier, CFO leaving soon), who modeled the right collaborative behavior and culture attributes, has been disheartening. Commute to/from east side getting worse and worse.

    Advice to Management

    Keep trying because employees really want more improvement.

  3. "Anonymous"

    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
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

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

    Pros

    Great benefits and pay for non-profit. Outstanding mission and smart, committed colleagues.

    Cons

    Very politically charged environment that leads to poor morale and attrition. HR has little influence in helping to change the culture but perhaps with Sue's leadership things will improve over time.

    Advice to Management

    Focus on hiring leaders who are humble, possess a healthy EQ and are passionate and committed to serving the mission


  4. Helpful (2)

    "Nowhere else like here"

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

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

    Pros

    Today I had an amazing lunch conversation at Gates with a colleague talking about how one of our grants is enabling the largest mapping of social networks ever attempted - across nearly 800 villages in Honduras - to accelerate the speed and adoption of transformative health outcomes. I looked up and realized similar inspiring and innovative conversations were happening all around me. Smart, creative, passionate, committed colleagues, all leaning in to changing the world at scale. Yes, there are challenging days yet that's often the case when trying to do big things that matter. It's a real privilege to be here.

    Cons

    Under Sue (CEO), the foundation is making huge strides forward in everything from culture to management and from simplification to fun. Yet, there are still managers and leaders here not fully on the bus, so the place can feel uneven. Best to understand the nature and dynamics of the team you are joining beforehand.

    Advice to Management

    Keep the pedal to the medal on changing not just the world around us, but enabling us to become the best version of ourselves too.


  5. Helpful (1)

    "Excellent Company"

    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 3 years)

    Pros

    The mission, the BENEFITS, the travel, and the people - it is an amazing place to work.

    Cons

    Most people in administrative roles are over qualified for their job. There isn't a clear career path at the organization.

    Advice to Management

    Support the administrative staff in opportunities to connect with the mission.

    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Response

    Sep 8, 2017 – Head of Talent Acquisition and Talent Management

    Thanks so much for your feedback.


  6. Helpful (8)

    "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.

    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Response

    Sep 8, 2017 – Head of Talent Acquisition and Talent Management

    Thanks so much for your review. It's always very helpful to hear from former leaders about their experience at the foundation. I hope you are engaged with the Alumni Network. Depending on when you... More


  7. 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

  8. Helpful (23)

    "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


  9. "MBA Intern"

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

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

    Pros

    Great access to smart people, deeply compelling problems, more resources than anywhere else in non-profit space

    Cons

    Really big, slow-moving, hierarchical. Can feel like people are territorial about status/owning grants.

    Advice to Management

    You're doing the right thing focusing on culture. The people care so deeply, but the systems, behaviors, and norms aren't the best.


  10. 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


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