The Gates Foundation poached Washington STEM CEO, then donated $ 100,000 to a nonprofit to find a replacement

The headquarters of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle. (Photo GeekWire / Kurt Schlosser)

In June, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it had hired Angela Jones, the renowned CEO of Washington STEM, the state-wide educational nonprofit that connects underserved students with education and STEM opportunities.

Jones, with over 25 years of administration and outreach experience in elementary and higher education and who previously served as vice president of Eastern Washington University, was seen as a valuable addition to the huge pool of talent from the foundation. Jones is now director of the Washington State Initiative at the Gates Foundation.

Angela Jones, former CEO of Washington STEM. (Photo by Brian Wells)

But it turns out that the foundation’s successful hiring of Jones wasn’t a total loss for the smaller nonprofit. In exchange, Washington STEM received $ 100,000 grant of Gates to help fund the search for Jones’ replacement.

“As we were to see Angela leave, they wanted to support us in this transition,” said Migee Han, Washington STEM’s head of development and communications. “Gates management was very respectful.”

A spokesperson for Gates confirmed that the grant was intended to ease the transition. “The foundation has provided Washington STEM with a general operating support grant to be used as needed to ensure a smooth leadership transition,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

This is a change in Amazon’s recent playbook when it hired Roshanak Roshandel from Seattle University as Senior Product Manager for Alexa Experience. Roshandel was the chairman of the university’s computer science and software engineering department.

After the tech giant snatched Roshandel, it donated $ 3 million to the school to help create an endowed chair to lead its computer science department.

At the time, Mike Quinn, dean of Seattle University’s science and engineering department, said the endowed chair would help build the reputation of the school’s computer science department.

“The Amazon Endowed Chair of Computing will continue to enhance the visibility and prestige of the IT department nationally and internationally as it continues to grow rapidly in size and quality,” Quinn said in a statement to GeekWire.

The Gates move, similar to Amazon’s hiring of Roshandel, highlights how talent can cluster at the top when large organizations buy talent from smaller ones, a reality rampant in everything from business to baseball.

But in these two cases, it was not a total loss for the smaller, less wealthy organization. Amazon and Gates executives wanted to ensure that existing working relationships extend beyond talent transfer. Washington STEM has worked closely with Gates for years, Han said. And he will continue to do so.

“We were sad to see Angela go,” Han said, adding that the transition grant was discussed when Jones was recruited. “But we had to request it,” she added. “It didn’t come out of nowhere.”

And the money will help Washington STEM continue to recruit top talent, she said. “We are currently in the research process. “

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