Most careers don’t end dramatically. You can rebound from a misstatement or miscalculation. No, careers die slowly. You head to the same place to do the same thing in the same way with the same people. Over time, you follow the same assumptions and weigh the same variables, ultimately coming to the same tired conclusions.
That’s the difference with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). It’s never the same. Home to the curious and client-driven, BCG bristles at convention. Instead, they pursue interdisciplinary connections and out-of-the-box possibilities that transform industries. That means they aren’t seeking MBAs who can just apply what’s accepted or trendy. Instead, they hire grinders who’ll get their hands dirty on the front lines and catalysts who can work together to design entirely new business practices.
A LOOK INTO THE FUTURE
You’ll find that same spirit in the MBA hiring class of 2020. From Harvard to Queen’s University, these MBAs personify BCG’s commitment to continuous growth. That includes Alejandra Ramirez, a NYU Stern grad from El Salvador. Hired a year ago, Ramirez operates out of the New Jersey office. She appreciates the variety of experiences and resources she has enjoyed — the kind that have made her a “better version” of herself.
“Every day, you are faced with different challenges that push your limits, and that ultimately drive you to expand your skills, knowledge, and network,” Ramirez observes. “The learning and development opportunities are truly endless.”
Ramirez herself was last working on a top-to-bottom transformation of a global retailer…whose products she uses regularly. In Chicago, Lucy Xiao-Vance has been busy developing a shareholder return strategy for an insurer. Over the past year, this INSEAD MBA credits BCG with giving her the “freedom and confidence” to tackle challenges that build her skillset and expose her to new interests.
“In a world where the only certainty is uncertainty and the only constant is change, most of us will have to adapt to new technologies, rules, roles, and careers,” Xiao-Vance tells P&Q. “I cannot think of a better training ground than BCG as it provides the support and encouragement needed to satiate my curiosity for various industries, topic areas, project types, and working styles. At BCG, I have had the privilege of working at the forefront of what the future holds for diverse businesses.”
COMFORT WITH DISCOMFORT
Varun Hippalgaonkar has taken a similar lesson from his first year at BCG. An Orlando native and Team Fuqua alum, Hippalgaonkar cut his teeth in a digital health startup, where he worked from inception to exit. Over that time, he donned “many hats,” eventually heading up sales and marketing. It was an experience that enabled him to transition to BCG, where regular shifts in industries, teams, and challenges require consultants who can quickly adapt.
“BCG has unlocked a comfort with discomfort,” he explains. “As BCG consultants, we often get to work on a variety of the most complex and challenging problems facing our clients across industries, topic areas, and geographies. This means that we are often solving problems where don’t have a playbook. Admittedly, it can be nerve-racking to ramp up on what feel like completely foreign topics and be tasked with developing high quality solutions. However, BCG has helped me realize that, with a supportive team, this discomfort and anxiety can transform into excitement and fun.”
Curiosity is one trait possessed by BCG consultants. Versatility is another. Before consulting, the Class of 2020 held leadership roles in industries as diverse as banking, real estate, transportation, non-profits, and the military. Before graduating from Harvard Business School, Tim Purdie worked in the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of Thailand as an offshore drilling engineer. At the same time, Gus Young served as head of operations for the Canada Emergency Medical Manufacturers. During COVID, he helped deliver over a million isolation gowns to various care facilties to protect hundreds of manufacturing and transportation jobs. That said, the Boston-based consultant kept equally busy as an MBA student at the University of Michigan.
“At Ross, I developed a mobile-app strategy for a Focus Brands company, helped a biotech raise Seed funding, invested in start-ups with a Social Venture Fund, and published an investment thesis on the alternative care space. These opportunities to apply learnings and make a real impact were the highlights of my time at Ross.”
A TRIBUTE TO A FATHER
Young considers himself a non-traditional student, likely due to his political science major and minor league hockey career — which required he and his wife to re-locate nine times in three years. You could add Christina Bachtina to the non-traditional list. Born in the Ukraine and raised in Florida, Bachtina was a first generation student whose parents sometimes struggled to assimilate to the United States. As a result, the Chicago Booth MBA often found herself alone in navigating issues like financial aid. However, her journey came full circle at BCG, where she took on a case involving a therapy for diabetes — a disease that took the life of her feather right after she’d graduated from business school.
“My experience navigating the healthcare system with him was what pushed me to want to work in healthcare,” Bachtina admits. “I was initially afraid to take the case because I wasn’t sure if I was emotionally ready to handle something so close to home. My fears were alleviated when I saw the care and consideration that both the client and BCG show for the patients who are going to benefit from this treatment. The focus of the case truly was on patient benefit and how to get this remarkable drug to the most people possible.”
The Class of 2020 racked up an enviable list of achievements before BCG too. At the Concussion Legacy Foundation Canada, Queen’s University’s Andrew Lue helped spearhead the passage of Rowan’s Law, a series of measures designed to protect young athletes from head injuries. Before earning an MBA at Fuqua, Jose Barrientos planned and managed a $3.2 billion dollar IT expense reovery proces at Citigroup. In addition, MIT Sloan’s Rukmini Sarkar filmed what she describes as “the world’s cheesiest documentary” for orangutan conservation. And let’s just say Alejandra Ramirez has long been preparing for the demands of a BCG consultant.
“One of the greatest accomplishments in my career has been leading a cross-functional team, spread across Latin America, through the brand re-launch of a major Latin American airline,” she writes. “The scale of the project was massive, and we got to see the results of our work immediately. Through the process, I brought to the table a collaborative approach to problem-solving and an enthusiasm for change.”
BAPTISM BY FIRE…IN THE COLD
Ramirez wasn’t always a strategy whiz. She also graduated from culinary school and worked as a pastry chef. Andrew Lue spent five years as a defensive back in the Canadian Football League before returning to business school. James Lambert also played football growing up…but it didn’t help him with the physical fitness test he was required to pass to become a Marine Corps Officer. He failed the three mile run five straight times. So Lambert applied a different strategy, enlisting an ROTC student to get him in tip top shape. And the decision worked out better than this Kellogg MBA could’ve ever imagined…
“We got to know each other on those runs, started dating, and now twelve years later we’re married!”
Tim Purdie braved a similar rite of passage, one that required all the endurance he could muster over a four-day hike in Iceland with two friends. “I had never been hiking or camping before,” he notes. “I did not expect it to be the most physically demanding thing I’d ever done. We waded through freezing cold rivers and hopped across rock-laden streams while carrying all our supplies. I was cold, wet, and sore for days on end and thought about quitting several times. To keep moving, I kept my eyes on the horizon and took it one step at a time. I was motivated and rewarded by breathtaking views of glaciers, sunrises, and otherworldly landscapes. During this adventure, I learned to stop underestimating myself and how to address challenges incrementally instead of becoming overwhelmed by them.”
A REVELATION ALONG THE RIVER
Thus far, Purdie has found a home at BCG, where his teammates are as unabashedly wonkish as he is. “I love that BCGers enjoy learning new things, solving problems, and making an impact on the world. As an engineer, I’ve found that Excel can be a tool to do all three. So when I was at a case team dinner during my internship—and my Project Leader asked the table “What is your favorite Excel function?”—I knew I would fit in at BCG.”
That sense of fit started during the summer internship for James Lambert. He was stunned when he was assigned to a case where he’d help design the “workplace of the future” for a top tech firm. Initially, Lambert felt like an imposter. Thanks to coaching and training, he was quickly leading workshop discussions with client executives. By the same token, Varun Hippalgaonkar recalls an epiphany he had during his internship. After wrapping up an assignment, his team headed to the Chicago River to enjoy some gelato on a cool afternoon. It was here when he recognized one of BCG’s hidden strengths.
“While we were sitting there, I had the realization that none of us were from the same country,” he tells P&Q. “The two to my left were from Brazil and China, while the two to my right were from Thailand and Switzerland. When I called it out, the resounding response from the team was “this is pretty common at BCG.” I don’t know of many other workplaces where you get to regularly have moments like that.”
“WE ARE BCG AND WE WILL ALWAYS FIGURE THINGS OUT”
While Hippalgaonkar was struck by BCG’s diversity, Lucy Xiao-Vance points to the firm’s openness. That is epitomized by the PTO program, where team members have a forum to share their workloads and time away needs with case members. As a result, Xiao-Vance explains, teams can accommodate members and get the most from them.
“I vividly remember starting this job the week we were forced into a fully remote working model and found myself struggling to prioritize,” she recalls. “The PTO coach, Catherine Hughes, a seasoned consultant herself, assured me: “Don’t you worry—we are BCG, and we will always figure things out, and we figure things out together!” She helped me break down my to-do list and advised me on how to communicate with my teams about my work. I still use her advice today and share it with others.”
Of course, there is the “cool” factor at BCG too. Mary Kiarie, a MIT Sloan hire, likens the experience to being around the very best every day, knowing she “can learn something new from an ordinary conversation or interaction.” For Rukmini Sarkar, BCG cool translates to more than the time she raced an F3000 race car around an Abu Dhabi track. It is also having the chance to do something that you can’t even imagine, such as starting an MBA program in Saudi Arabia.
“I got to lead interviews with former deans of all the top business schools globally and build a financial model to determine what it takes to run a business school,” she tells P&Q.
Page 3: In-depth profiles of a dozen MBA hires at the Boston Consulting Group.