Born in Seattle and educated at Seattle University, Christina Liu has deep connections to the city’s business community. After earning a scholarship and completing a degree in economics, Christina worked at Premera and Safeco Insurance in pricing, then at Starbucks and Expedia in finance. At the foundation, Christina consults with foundation partners, explaining numbers and trends to guide the foundation’s financial decisions. Christina talks about persistence in solving long-term problems, giving people from around the world a voice, and spying certain people in the halls.
I went to a Jesuit university where they instill the values of service and giving back to community, which is very much aligned with the values of the foundation. I was fortunate to have received a scholarship and wanted to give back in some way. The foundation was a perfect fit. I’ve always admired them.
The problems we solve aren’t traditional finance problems. Because the problems we address are ones that no one has really tried to solve before, we ask different questions: How to do you measure success? The foundation’s goals are ambitious and difficult and require persistence, patience, and a willingness and ability to understand different cultures. But the foundation offers freedom and flexibility to create new ways and processes to work on the problems we face. It’s not just crunching numbers.
A very important thing to know is that the Gates aren’t just providing money and support. The foundation provides a voice for the people around the world who most often go unheard.
Folks have to be flexible here. The foundation is still growing and you have to roll with the changes.
There’s always something going on here at the headquarters. We have speakers from all over. Jimmy Carter was here, Mark Kennedy Shriver from Save the Children was here, Bono from U2. You see Bill and Melinda sometimes. I see Bill Gates, Sr. quite a bit and . . . [points at man outside the interview room] Oh, look. There’s Bill Sr. right there.
The highest caliber of people work here. It’s a dynamic group of folks with multiple degrees and amazing skill sets and a wide variety of life experiences. But it’s not just their backgrounds that are impressive. It’s the things they do outside of work as well. Many are deeply involved in community and service work. Folks here just naturally reach for the stars.
The person who succeeds at the foundation is open to new ideas and has both the intellectual discipline and patience needed to go after a problem and find a solution. Problems aren’t going to be solved overnight. Successful employees understand that the problems we are tackling have existed and persisted for a long time. It can take ten, twenty, thirty years even to begin to see change in some of the areas we work—sometimes longer.
People hear that I work in finance at the foundation and joke about sacks of money with dollar signs. Even though there’s a lot of money here, we are good stewards. We’re very accountable, from the large purchases down to office supplies. Photographs on every wall remind you of why you’re here—to help people less fortunate than you.