Working in the Gates Foundation’s European Office on Government Relations and Public Policy, Anja Langenbucher serves as the foundation’s European ambassador. Born in Germany, Anja studied in France and Germany, earning a PhD in economics. Prior to the Gates Foundation, Anja consulted for the European Commission, and served the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development as well as the World Bank/IFC, where she managed investments in agribusiness companies across the globe. Anja talks about the efficiency of the foundation, the benefits of even a junior position, and the paradox of being an “alpha” leader.
Throughout my career, I’ve worked for development organizations, but at the foundation, we simply have more tools and resources. It’s more ambitious, less bureaucratic, and operates in a private sector way. And the Gates star power pulls it all together.
The foundation’s culture is based on responsibility and accountability. We are results-driven. Much of our thought goes into strategy, then we hold ourselves accountable for the investments we make. We don’t take shortcuts.
Reality check: it is a lot of work.
In the UK, the Gates name is established. In other regions, we have to do more work to make the distinction between Bill Gates, Microsoft, the Gates Foundation, and the connotations each name brings.
Our reputation is our biggest asset.
Our people are very high caliber, driven, and energetic, which is a great combination that you don’t find often. They’re experts in their fields—agriculture, health, communications, advocacy, government, private sector—and they have invested years and years in their work. They know their research down to the last digit.
It’s a complex matrix of people here and you need to be good at working together across teams. To a certain degree, we look for alpha leaders, but that’s a bit of a paradox: it may help you get the job, but once you’re here, you need to be team player.
People who are interested in working for the foundation should look closely at the website and find out what area they’re interested in. That being said, you don’t always get hired at a position/level you are used to and people have to be willing to take a junior-level job, even with a master’s degree. But it also matters much less because even in a junior position, you still may find yourself traveling to Africa with Bill.
We are all energized by the mission.
I’m at the foundation because I can make the most difference here. Our platform really enables us to initiate things. Bill is all about trying out things—he’s incredibly motivating.