Results-driven and Fun-loving. Client-centered and socially-conscious.
An individualized approach that blends CEO know-how with down-to-earth delivery.
The firm hired to simplify the complex, clarify the developing, and deliver the audacious — the tasks that often elude the sharpest minds and best intentions of the world’s top companies.
Those are just a few ways you could describe the people, culture, and mission at Bain & Company. You could tack on creative, outgoing, and versatile for good measure. However, Michael Xu would use a simpler word to embody the Bain spirit. A 2020 MBA from Chicago Booth, Xu goes full-on Bainie by choosing with — a humble preposition that introduces and connects a critical element to something already established. For Xu, with operates on many levels at Bain, including the firm’s reason for being: client services.
“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.”
A “WITH” CULTURE
With also personifies in the firm’s structure. Bain operates off of a home office model. Unlike some home offices, Bainies aren’t relegated to working alongside the same people. Instead, the Bain home office acts more as a support system. Here, consultants can develop chemistry with managers and peers, enjoying both formal and informal support from mentors, champions, and guides. All the while, they remain close to a staffing manager and professional development champion looking out for their growth.
“The home office model means we are always “with” our colleagues,” Xu adds. “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.”
Xu himself works out of the Shanghai office, one of Bain’s 63 offices across 38 countries. Beyond client relations and corporate structure, Xu applies with to a high quality of life and work. That’s hardly surprising. Earlier this year, Bain & Company ranked #1 in the 2021 Vault Consulting 50, the gold standard survey of the consulting industry. Notably Bain scored among the top firms in nearly every Quality of Life and Employment dimension, including Relationships with Supervisors, Client Interactions, and Exit Opportunities. That doesn’t count survey respondents’ bullish views on Firm Leadership, Firm Culture, and Training. Over the past year, Bain even raised its scores in 15 of the 21 dimensions measured by the Vault Consulting 50 — a credit to the firm’s with culture.
“The heavy focus on sustainability means we always get to be “with” our family or significant others when needed,” Xu adds. “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.”
“ALWAYS BE LEFT WANTING MORE”
You’ll find Xu’s enthusiasm echoed by 2020 MBA hires after their first year at Bain. Take Ilana Walder-Biesanz, a Stanford GSB MBA who joined the Houston office last fall. In a firm known for throwing high fives in the office and staying together for karaoke after work, she has found her peers to be a “fun” bunch.
“I used to believe client services firms like Bain were very straight-laced and serious,” she admits. “Of course, we can dress up when needed, but amongst ourselves we are quite entertaining.”
Samantha Scott Banks, a Northwestern Kellogg grad who took a 30 minute jaunt to Bain’s Chicago office last fall, has been struck by the exciting opportunities she has enjoyed thus far.
“The work at Bain is hard, but you work with many great people and on some amazing cases. No matter how tough the work is, you will always be left wanting more. I wake every day excited because I know I am going to learn more and be challenged in some way.”
“A BAINIE NEVER LETS ANOTHER BAINIE FAIL”
Many times, culture is code for people — or the values they practice every day. Thus far, Kelly Lombard has found the culture to be filled with teammates who bend over backwards to help each other.
“We have a saying at Bain that “a Bainie never lets another Bainie fail,” and I have experienced this sentiment first-hand while working remotely,” writes the Wharton MBA. Whether it’s staying late to help a teammate or everyone gathering for a Zoom happy hour on a Friday, people are more than willing to invest the time and effort needed to make Bain a great place to work.”
Now working out of the New York City office, Lombard is accustomed to a team-driven environment. A veteran of the U.S. Navy, he once trained Kenyan soldiers to defuse explosives before their peacekeeping mission to Somalia — an effort he considers to be one of the biggest achievements of his life.
“After over a month of living and training together, the Kenyan students in training all passed their course,” he writes. “A year later, I returned to Kenya as a part of President Obama’s security team and encountered one of my Kenyan students. He told me how our training enabled him to defuse numerous IEDs in Somalia, saving his teammates. It was one of the proudest moments of my life.”
A NAME UNLIKE ANY OTHER
Think dismantling bombs is scary? Lombard has also been trained on advance skydiving techniques…by members of the Red Bull skydiving team! Priyasha Chaturvedi’s interests are more down-to-earth. A Cornell Johnson MBA working out of the Chicago office, Chaturvedi loves to sing — something that came in handy at Bain.
“I was in two acappella groups in college and have continued pursuing singing in different forms, such as the MBA band at Cornell, the Indian Classical Facebook Live concert series, and the Bain Band during my summer internship at Bain Chicago. My Summer Associate class even performed our own rendition of “Old Town [Bain] Road.”
Ilana Walder-Biesanz tackles music from a different artistic perspective. She “moonlights” as a professional opera critic and helps guide a Bay Area opera company, Ars Minerva, as a board member.
“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.”
In a country of 1.4 billion people, Xinwei Xu can claim something truly unique. “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.”
Next Page: 5 in-depth profiles of MBAs hired by Bain & Company last year.