Meet Bain & Company’s MBA Class of 2020: Xinwei (Michael) Xu

Xinwei (Michael) Xu

Hometown: Shanghai, China

MBA Program: The University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

Undergraduate School, Major: Lafayette College, double major in Economics & Business and International Affairs

Focus of current or favorite case: My current case involves designing and implementing digital transformation initiatives for the China-based operations of a large multi-national, fast-moving consumer goods company.

What word best describes Bain and why? The word is: “with”.

1. Bain works “with” the client rather than “for” the client – we really focus on co-creating the vision with our client and working side-by-side to achieve that vision. We don’t tell the client what to do, nor do we just take instructions from them.

2. The home office model means we are always “with” our colleagues. It is easy to befriend most people in the office and be super convenient when sharing industry know-hows and best practices from different projects. We are also grouped into different office “bays” and have regular bay-sponsored social events.

3. The heavy focus on sustainability means we always get to be “with” our family or significant others when needed. Bain’s weekly Case Team Survey Update pulse checks every member of the project team, whether personal commitments have been fulfilled and whether project is deemed sustainable.

Why did you choose to work at Bain?

1. I loved the people. Some of my best friends have worked for or are working at Bain. I also bonded with all of the Bainies I spoke with during the recruiting events.

2. I wanted to move back to China and work for a truly international firm that would appreciate my international education and perspectives. Bain’s heavy composition of multi-national corporate clients in China, as well as its huge portion of colleagues with global backgrounds, greatly appealed to me during the recruiting process.

3. Bain is recognized as a leading consulting firm in Consumer Products and Private Equity, which fit with my career interests and skill set (financial modeling and data analytics).

What did you love about the business school you attended?

1. Booth had a well-established, data-driven approach to curriculum design. We applied data analytics in almost all subjects, such as marketing, new product development, operations, and even organizational behavior. The practical training I’ve had in applying data analytics to business problems has allowed me to speak intelligently in my current project, in which I helped our client select the best Consumer Data Platform vendor and conduct precision marketing campaigns.

2. Booth also had a super comprehensive and practical curriculum on entrepreneurship, teaching you how to evaluate a business idea from the perspectives of both an entrepreneur and an investor. I have found uncanny resemblances in frameworks adopted in Bain’s consulting projects, especially in Bain’s due diligence projects.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned so far at Bain? PowerPoint shortcuts (Real Talk). I’ve also learned that you need to think like a CEO and like an entry-level employee at the same time.

In my current project, where I am helping the client implement concrete digital initiatives, I realized that thinking like a CEO alone would not help. I could not see the glaring holes in my initial plan for the client, until I started thinking of the day-to-day actions of an entry-level employee. More and more projects nowadays are longer duration implementation projects, which require concrete on-the-ground know-how and thinking.

Which manager or peer has had the biggest impact on you at Bain, and how have they made you a better consultant? Special thanks to my first manager at Bain, Ivy Fang, and my first teammate, Yuxin Fu.

Ivy helped me map out my spikes and shortcomings as a consultant and offered constant mentoring in my first project. Once a Consultant herself, she understood my strengths and struggles from the start. She created opportunities, such as leading client meetings, to fully unleash my presentation and people skills, while sacrificing her spare time to give me individual coaching on my shortcomings. The apprentice-style learning allowed me to quickly catch up with Bain’s frameworks and methodologies and enabled me to have a better understanding of the role a Consultant plays in a project.

Yuxin was my only teammate on my first project and tolerated my bombardment of elementary questions across a genre of subjects from PowerPoint toolbox to expense policies. She demonstrated to me what quality work looked like and never hesitated to unload my plate when I seemed to be struggling. Before Ivy made me a better consultant, Yuxin’s altruistic support is a key reason why I’m still at Bain today.

In what other ways have you felt supported at Bain and how has this impacted your PD? Bain has been extremely supportive of my career, even before I started full-time with the firm.

During my break between MBA and starting at Bain, Bain offered direct connections to non-profit organizations with volunteer opportunities. Thanks to the opportunity, I worked with a leading environmental organization and studied in-depth nature-based solutions to climate change. As ESG issues are becoming increasingly important in the business world today, the experience engrained in me valuable perspectives and knowledge on environment-related business problems and solutions.

After joining Bain Greater China, I have further experienced the supportive culture at the firm. Bain organizes monthly roundtables for new consultants to gather and share their experiences and relevant struggles as a group, offering concrete advice and tips from senior program managers.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work for Bain?

1. Be laser-focused during case interviews—Bain has an “Answer First” approach.

2. Learn to take care of yourself, physically and mentally. It is a demanding job, intellectually and physically. While the company offers a whole suite of resources to support you, you need to first set up mechanisms to take care of yourself. For example, each member of our entire team on the current project has a personal goal related to gym or fitness during the length of the project, and the project team honors that.

What has been your most meaningful achievement and how did it make a difference? I think my most meaningful achievement has been providing pro-bono career consulting for an immigrant single mother. This allowed me to realize that I derive more joy from helping others than helping myself.

While I was volunteering for a non-profit organization in New York, which provided career mentoring for under-educated and under-privileged people, I was paired with a Chinese single mother of a three-year old, who wanted to quit her factory job and find a better job to support her family.

When we first met, she stared at the ground, not willing to speak much to anyone, in neither English nor Chinese. During the five months that we worked together, however, not only did she learn the basic tools for job hunting — like resume, cover letter, and interview tips — she also started opening up with me about many of her personal struggles as an immigrant in the U.S. who did not speak great English. I then shared my own stories as a foreign citizen from China and introduced her to some Chinese communities in the city. In the end, she was able to join a higher-paying fashion company and become much more confident.

This experience made me realize that I wanted to be a career consultant, particularly in areas relating to social impact, because consulting provides me a platform to use my skills and knowledge to empower others to achieve their ambitions.

A fun fact about me people would be surprised to know is…While I go by a fairly common English name, Michael, as verified by the police system in China, there is no other person in the country who has the exact same name as mine written in Mandarin. Chances are I may have the most unique name in the entire world.


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