Meet Bain & Company’s MBA Class of 2020: Ilana Walder-Biesanz

Ilana Walder-Biesanz

Houston, TX

Hometown: Portland, Oregon

MBA Program: Stanford GSB

Undergraduate School, Major:

Olin College of Engineering, Systems Engineering

University of Cambridge, European Literature

Focus of current or favorite case: I am currently staffed on a metals company project focused on commercial excellence. It’s an especially cool case because it cuts across capabilities (strategy, org design, customer experience) and markets (if it contains metal, we’re probably thinking about it).

What word best describes Bain and why? Fun. I used to believe client services firms like Bain were very straight-laced and serious. Of course, we can dress up when needed, but amongst ourselves we are quite entertaining. 

Why did you choose to work at Bain? Consulting attracted me because of the chance to work on a wide variety of projects and gain experience across industries. I also like the geographic flexibility of consulting; it will make managing my career alongside my girlfriend’s career much easier.

I chose Bain because of the relationships I built with people throughout the recruiting process. The time and support people gave me even before my interview process proved to me that Bain’s culture is collaborative and supportive.

What did you love about the business school you attended? I enjoyed a lot of the electives I took because they were so hands-on. We role-played difficult conversations, delivered engaging presentations, and drafted policy memos. We practiced skills instead of simply learning content. On a more personal note, I met my girlfriend at the GSB – so she’s undoubtedly what/whom I love most from the experience.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned so far at Bain? Bain has taught me not to be intimidated by unfamiliar problems. On my current case, I did a series of sprints building out high-level strategies for various markets. At the beginning of each sprint, I knew nothing about the markets in question, and the depth of knowledge I could build up in such a short time pleasantly surprised me.

Which manager or peer has had the biggest impact on you at Bain, and how have they made you a better consultant? I’m surrounded by amazing people here, so it’s unfair to make me choose. One who has been with me from the start of my Bain journey is Alicia Ciccone, a senior manager here in Houston. She was the first Houston Bainie I ever met. We share a love of classical music, and she talked me through how she has made that a part of her life alongside her consulting career. Now, she’s my professional sponsor and advises me on everything from small decisions (“How long should I stay on the same case?”) to big questions (“What are my career path options at Bain?”).

In what other ways have you felt supported at Bain and how has this impacted your PD? Bain has so many structures in place to support professional development. My professional sponsor and my mentors are among the Houston office’s most successful women, and it has been super helpful to hear them discuss how they’ve shaped their careers at Bain so far. There are also networks of support through affinity groups. I attend Texas BGLAD (our LGBTQ network) events, a good forum to talk to people across levels and functions who share some of my life experiences. Building those connections has been especially valuable in a time when I haven’t been able to meet many coworkers in person.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work for Bain? The Bainies you connect with throughout the recruiting process are rooting for you. Don’t be nervous about asking them tough questions and requesting their interview prep help.

What has been your most meaningful achievement and how did it make a difference? I’m on the board of a small San Francisco-based opera company, Ars Minerva. We have only been around since 2013, but we’ve mounted five top-notch shows to great critical acclaim. We’ve paid our artists fairly since day one, and we’re expanding in interesting new directions now, such as forming collaborations with choruses and museums and scoring publishing and licensing and online events. All of these serve the mission of bringing forgotten gems of Baroque opera back to life – rescuing brilliant scores from archives where they’ve been sitting ignored for hundreds of years.

A fun fact about me people would be surprised to know is… I moonlight as a professional opera critic.


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