Bain has been very supportive in allowing me to pursue my passions outside the office.
I started my own business prior to joining Bain and very much enjoyed it. While I may return to a startup or a more entrepreneurial line of work in the future, I knew I needed to acquire a broader range of business skills first. I partly chose Bain because of its brand and the impressive array of clients and opportunities that brings. But I think the main factor was that I really enjoyed meeting all the Bain people. Above all, everyone I met raved about their job, which is really rare.
Bain is focused on getting things done and helping clients to do things differently to generate lasting results. At the end of a case, we always talk about the changes in our client's business that we helped make possible, not that we've just completed an interesting business case study. This ties into the kind of people Bain attracts: those with a very well-rounded skill set who are equally adept at getting to the right analytic answer as they are at building relationships with clients' team members to make sure the solutions are implemented.
My Bain experience
Having been here for about seven years, I am continually struck by the motivation of my Bain colleagues, both in and outside the workplace. They are a fantastically interesting group, and all exhibit that difficult balance of being high achievers on an individual basis while being great team players who are neither arrogant nor self-seeking. Work is really fun when you are part of such a supportive team of highly capable people.
Throughout my time here, I have taken full advantage of Bain's flexibility. I have spent about a quarter of my tenure on various different leaves of absence. I have used this time to pursue the charity work I do in Africa. While taking so much time off is fairly extreme, Bain has been very supportive in allowing me to pursue my passions outside the office.
I have set up and now run a charity in Africa comprising projects in six countries, ranging from Uganda to South Africa. I keep a fully kitted-out Land Rover there and use it to visit current and potential project sites and work with the charity's clients.
Bain has been incredibly helpful in terms of making this work. When setting up the charity, I worked part-time (three- and then four-day weeks) so that I could work through all the legal requirements. Now I find it works best if I take a couple of months off every 18 months or so to visit and help manage the active projects.
My favorite case
I recently worked with one of the largest oil companies' alternative energy division. They had set up this new division to look at all sources of alternative energy, from wind to solar to bio-fuels, and were grappling with how to manage this entrepreneurial venture within the framework of an enormous oil and gas company.
Our job was to guide the overall organizational process and help the client work through the decision-making responsibilities, such as what the division can do independently versus what the senior management of the company decides. Getting this right is imperative for the individual division to work effectively and efficiently.
The case was really interesting not just because of the topical business area, but also because I quickly became involved in significant strategic issues - for example, assigning who has the financial power massively dictates the future direction of this new division. As the case team leader, I had oversight across the six workstreams we had identified, but focused on driving the insights for the two most complicated ones and was the primary client contact on a day-to-day basis.
A final thought
What surprises me most about Bain is that I am still here. I had thought that after about three years I would move on. However, at each stage in the job I have faced completely different challenges that have allowed me to continually learn and stay engaged as a consultant.
My main tip for applicants is to be yourself and realize that the best job you can get is one that suits your personality and where you fit in, wherever that may be. Don't try to be something you are not in interviews. Use the interview as a two-way process to test whether Bain is a place where you would want to work and whether you meet people you would like to have as colleagues.