There’s a saying at Bain & Company that “A Bainie never lets another Bainie fail.” It’s a part of the consulting firm’s culture that is one of the first things MBAs in the Class of 2017 noticed when they started at Bain. Forget the ‘dog-eat-dog’ ethos of banking or the ‘throw ‘em in the deep end’ essence of entrepreneurship. Instead, Bain is the embodiment of the business school ideal, where teams collaboratively draw upon each person’s unique talents.
“It’s an extremely supportive environment,” says Raiko Shareef, an INSEAD grad who works out of Bain’s Sydney office. “The first thing we do on a case is talk about individual working styles, and how best we can work with one another, followed by a discussion of our non-work commitments, and how we can help each other keep to those.”
MBAs TREATED AS FUTURE LEADERS OF THE FIRM
This “all in this together” temperament stems from Bain’s apprenticeship model. According to Keith Bevans, a partner and head of consulting recruiting, Bain “invests in every single person that we hire like they’re the future leaders of the firm.” That’s especially important, Bevans notes, since the firm is growing rapidly and focuses on building its leadership team through business school and undergraduate hires.
To transmit the firm’s values, Bain relies heavily on modeling and mentorship. “We can train you really well, but you’re going to learn a lot from the mentors and the people you work with,” Bevans explains in an interview with Poets&Quants. “Having a home office model that allows you to see the world and get international experience while still being part of one group makes it feel very different to work here.”
Pablo Sanchez Servitje noticed the difference right after starting in the Mexico City office. “It´s hard to think of another place where top talent and firm leadership will invest so much in mentoring you with the shared goal of developing you into one of the best in almost any sector that you chose,” shares the MIT Sloan MBA.
A PLACE TO SOLVE “BIG HAIRY CHALLENGES”
Margaret Munford, a Duke MBA from the Atlanta office, describes Bain as “a place to come if you want to solve big harry challenges with people that you really enjoy.” This aligns perfectly with MBA programs, which Bevans considers the perfect testing ground to cultivate an open-minded yet disciplined thought process.
“The top MBA programs are diverse on every dimension imaginable,” Bevans adds. “Taking time out to challenge your worldview makes you a better advisor because you can appreciate that what doesn’t seem to make sense on the surface actually makes a lot of sense. You become a better business person by being able to really dig into business problems, moral dilemmas, investment positions, and double bottom line problems. Our clients are hiring us to solve problems on a global basis. Having worked with different stakeholders and constituencies, MBAs appreciate what that means and how that affects variables that may not be visible in an Excel model.”
So what sets apart MBAs who join Bain? For Bevans, the difference stems from how hires can achieve an effective balance in client situations. “We’re bi-lingual,” he says. “We can speak c-suite and we can speak front line. We can do the analysis and convince the most senior executives that it is the right answer. Then, we can go to a store, for example, and get them onboard by breaking it down into a way that they understand and can agree with. The opposite applies too. They can share their experience of what might work better and we can accommodate that. Frankly, the Class of 2017 fits right in that mold.”
A PLACE WHERE YOU CAN DO EVERYTHING
This year, Bevans discloses, the firm hired “north of 400 consultants,” with the past summer representing the largest summer associate class ever. Not surprisingly, Bain is the destination for many of the best and brightest MBAs. In fact, 90% of 2017 summer associates who received an offer ultimately returned to Bain to work full-time. It isn’t just summer associates who make it into the firm, however.
Sarina Hickey, for one, held internships in private equity and health policy. Before that, she confesses, “I worked in investment banking, started three companies, spent time at IDEO, and did internships in private equity and health policy.” Although she enjoyed each experience, she couldn’t pinpoint a career direction until one fateful encounter. “Over dinner one night, my section-mate insightfully suggested that I could do all of those jobs in one place –Bain!”
You can say that again. Right now, you’ll find the Class of 2017 working on projects ranging from helping a higher education institution expand to building a tele-health solution from the ground up. Such demands require the most diverse talent on the market. While you’ll find Bainies from every walk of life, the real difference is how they approach their jobs, says Munford. “Bainies are incredibly smart people and do not care if anyone thinks they are the smartest person in the room. There is a real humility that lives within the Bain culture. We take our work seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
FROM CLIMBING MOUNTAINS TO HOLDING STATE OFFICE
Take Peter Biewer, an LBS grad who works out of the Zurich office. Outside work, he is a compulsive gardner who goes “straight to the garden to replant trees or cut hedges” when he visits his parents. Shareef calls himself an “evangelist” for fried chicken and brunch. Bruno Hartman Bonocielli, a MIT Sloan grad based in Sao Paulo, is passionate about eSports (and hopes to get a case in the field). Munford has the same idea; she is angling for an assignment in Oklahoma after visiting 49 of the 50 states in America.
If you’re taking a vote on the most fascinating member of the 2017 Class, put your money on Valentina Rudik of the Moscow office. “Even though I work in consulting now,” she says, “I graduated with a major in quantum physics and planned to become a scientist afterwards. At school, though, I was dreaming about becoming a surgeon, while, in reality, I was preparing for a professional career in music. I still play violin from time to time and regularly drag my friends to karaoke clubs.”
The class can also make plenty of claims to fame. Stanford’s Alicia Ciccone performed the world premiere of Aperture in Shift with her younger brother in Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall. Kaitlyn Whitley, an LBS grad in Bain’s Toronto offie, spent a summer working in Dublin on The Tudors, a popular drama on Showtime. In Mexico, Sanchez Servitje was elected to be a substitute representative to his state legislature – when he was just 26 years old!
Not to be outdone, Mengyi Wu, who works out of the Singapore office, claims to have climbed the greasy pole at La Tomatina, an August festival where 20,000 people throw an estimated 150 tons of tomatoes at each other. That’s child’s play compared to Hickey, who has reached the mythical summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Then again, Rudick describes her biggest achievement as scaling the 18,500 foot high Mount Elbrus with seven of her Bain colleagues. “Our commitment to teamwork and group achievement helped us overcome the pain and difficulty we experienced during our final ascent,” she says.
IF THE CLIENT WON’T USE IT, IT’S NOT THE RIGHT SOLUTION
Rudick’s trek exemplifies the three operating principles which governs how Bain evaluates partners, managers, and consultants. These principles include a passion for results, a team-oriented mindset, and a strong sense of humility – all virtues that the Class of 2017 possesses in excess, Bevans observes.
Indeed, the first principle – results – is manifested in the thrill that Bainies feel when their clients succeed. And it doesn’t just apply to the project as a whole, Bevans stresses. “When I say clients, I don’t just mean the logo. I mean the individual executives and managers working with the front line. They must be really excited about being part of those people succeeding.”
That said, results must be sustained for a project to be successful at Bain. One lesson that Munford has learned is that consultants must operate like they’ll be using the solution themselves. “You can make a beautiful model, but if the client isn’t going to reference it later for use, then it’s not the right model,” Munford states. “Always think from the client perspective, respectfully challenge their thinking and assumptions to push the envelope, but ultimately you should build everything with what the client needs and will use.”
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