GETTING A JUMP ON A NEW BOSS
By and large, newly hired Bainies will have four to six formal mentors in addition to colleagues and trainers, Bevans says. “That’s close to 10 formal relationships to help you adjust and hopefully one of them is the one you click with. We give you a lot of options to build those relationships as part of our model.”
Along with guidance and networking, the home office offers other benefits. For one, Munford says, it is easier to do reconnaissance on potential managers and teammates. “Let’s say that I am going to work for ‘Fred,’” she postulates. “I can go to people who worked for Fred and say, How does Fred like to work? What are some of Fred’s expectations on communication? I can get ahead of that; I’m able to adapt and be more successful early on rather than going through the full onslaught of storming, forming, and norming that often takes time.”
Munford also notes that many of her mentors are informal: people with whom she shares lunches or joins for diversity group discussions. They act as cheerleaders when she notches a success, teachers when she has questions, and advisers when she needs perspective. Even more, they create a sense of community.
“FEEDBACK IS A GIFT”
“It’s invaluable in being able to connect with people across the office in a personal way,” she says. “There are tons of people in this office that I hang out with on the weekends that I’ve never done a case with. I consider them some of my really good friends. You get a real sense of camaraderie and belonging. When I returned to Bain after my internship, I was asked how it felt to be back. I said it was like going back to summer camp to see all my friends!”
This home office model also fosters feedback culture that spurs a true meritocracy. Consultants are hardly neglected at Bain. The firm is regularly sharing feedback with consultants on how to grow and improve. At the same time, consultants are given a big voice at every level. Bevans cites a bi-weekly case review, a “pulse check” from consultants outlining what they need more of (or less of) on every case. Consultants also complete an annual worldwide survey, where they share their views on the job, office, and firm overall. In addition, consultants evaluate their managers every six months. “Managers get an extensive upward feedback survey on their management style,” Bevans says, along with benchmarks for peers in the office and peers globally.”
Such evaluations also feed that sense of humility that unites the firm, adds Wu. “Bain has an amazing support system and everyone is looking to set you up for success. Embrace the idea that “feedback is a gift” and let go of the fear of not being the best all the time. Leverage the feedback you receive to develop yourself professionally and personally.”
WHAT GIVES YOU ENERGY?
For some, the best aspect of the Bain experience involves quality of life. During the recruiting process, Munford admits that she was skeptical of the firm’s pitch about respecting life outside Bain. Since then, she has been pleasantly surprised that it is more commitment than sales shtik.
In every one of my cases, there has been a real respect for those pieces outside of work. If you need to get back to Atlanta on a Wednesday night because your mom is in town, there is an allowance. There’s a philosophy of, ‘If it’s important to you, then it’s important to us.’”
Bevans isn’t particularly fond of the term, work-life balance. Instead, he focuses on a more sustainable model: a four quadrant grid that includes work and life juxtaposed against gives energy and takes energy. “It’s not about work-life balance,” he emphasizes. “It’s about structuring your life and career in a way that allows you to do more of the things that give you energy. It’s encouraging people to find the parts of their job that give them more energy and start having the conversation with the staffing manager about that.”
THE WISDOM OF “ANSWER FIRST” AND THE “1% SOLUTION”
Bain is structured around a generalist model, where consultants are exposed to an array of industries and issues. This makes them better rounded, while enabling them to import unique strategies from areas they might not consider if shuttered in a specialization. This makes Bainies open to the possibilities, namely the 1% possibility. A popular term in the firm, the 1% possibility means that consultants must never discard an idea initially perceived as impractical – or assume another ideas is a sure-fire winner.
Hickey learned this lesson first-hand in one of her earliest cases. “Our Private Equity diligence group has conducted analysis on such unique areas as spray foam insulation, and not only did I get excited learning about this niche industry, but our team made significant impact at the client because we were open to the 1% possibility that it could work.”
By the same token, Biewer has become an advocate for Bain’s patented “answer first” approach. Here, consultants open with a question that focuses on the main aspiration or complication. From there, the consultant tenders an early hypothesis, which is followed by reasoning that is refined after further research and engagement with the client.
“At first, I often struggled to come up with an answer without doing substantial research,” Biewer confesses, “but I now enjoy using this very powerful approach. Coming up with a hypothesis without having all the necessary information significantly increases efficiency in getting to the right answer.”
AN IMPRESSIVE ALUMNI ROSTER
For some members of the 2017 Class, Bain & Company will be a launching pad – the same one that produced luminaries like former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman, and Zynga founder Mark Pincus. That’s no accident. Think of Bain as a living laboratory for sharpening the analytical skills needed to tackle the toughest issues and the people skills that invariably build consensus and drive action.
Jessica Hollins, a Columbia Business School alum working out of the Toronto office, hopes to someday apply the lessons from Bain to growing her own company. “Working at Bain gives you the skillset to structure the seemingly unstructured problems and quickly get to an answer, which is invaluable in a start-up environment,” she states. “I hope to leverage the skills I will have refined in that area to really make an impact at a smaller company that’s growing fast and needs someone who just knows how to get stuff done.”
In contrast, Bain is the destination and results are the mission for Biewer. “I joined Bain with the aspiration to eventually become partner at the firm, and at this stage in my life, the value proposition for a long-term career at Bain remains the strongest. Thus, I’m aiming to significantly increase my industry and capability knowledge while developing genuine and enduring relationships with clients.”
So why should a promising MBA choose Bain? The answer is easy for Munford: It’s the people. “I was recently telling a group of recruits at Duke that I’ve always been friends with people I work with, but Bain is probably the first place where I work with my friends. The work isn’t easy – it’s challenging and that’s why we do it. We really thrive in challenging situations and part of that is because we have the right people – people you really trust and want to be with – around us.”
Bevans takes a different tact with the type of MBAs who belong at Bain: “If you’re excited by the prospect of solving something that the c-suite of a Fortune 500 company couldn’t solve on their own,” he says “this is a great place for you.”
That said, he frames the Bain advantage as a great return where students have the best chance to make a difference. “On the back end of a six figure investment and two years of no income, students owe it to themselves to go someplace where they can truly have an impact with the work that they’re going to do every day,” he says. “And they should do that at a place where they will be supported unlike any other place they could go”
For Bevans – a Harvard MBA who is going on his 22nd year at Bain – the worst mistake any MBA can make is settling. “A lot of students go through motions and are happy to get a better-paying job or a job in the industry that they want to work in. I think they should place a really high bar wherever they go. Why train for a marathon if you’re just going to run a 5K?”
For read the profiles of newly-hired MBAs, including their advice on how to get into the firm, click on the links below.
|Consultant||Bain Location||Hometown||MBA Program|
|Peter Biewer||Zurich||Saarbrücken, Germany||London Business School|
|Alicia Ciccone||Houston||Brooklyn, NY||Stanford GSB|
|Bruno Hartman Bonocielli||Sao Paulo||Curitiba, Paraná||MIT (Sloan)|
|Sarina Hickey||San Francisco||Singapore||Harvard Business School|
|Jessica Hollins||Toronto||Calgary, Alberta||Columbia Business School|
|Margaret Munford||Atlanta||Jackson, MS||Duke (Fuqua)|
|Valentina Rudik||Moscow||Moscow, Russia||London Business School|
|Pablo Sanchez Servitje||Mexico City||Mexico City, Mexico||MIT (Sloan)|
|Raiko Shareef||Sydney||Malé, Maldives||INSEAD|
|Adanna Ukah||Chicago||Iowa City||Northwestern (Kellogg)|
|Kaitlyn Whitley||London||Toronto, Canada||London Business School|
|Mengyi Wu||Singapore||Beijing, China||INSEAD|
To learn about Bain & Company, click here.