Davis Nguyen Questions and Answers

Q&A with Davis Nguyen, ex-Bain Consultant and MCO Founder

Davis Nguyen Questions and Answers
Davis Nguyen
Davis Nguyen

ex-Bain Consultant and MCO Founder

Davis Nguyen is a self-starter, from getting himself from one of the worst public school systems in the U.S. to Yale on a full scholarship, to landing an offer with Bain & Company, to founding the consulting interview coaching company My Consulting Offer.

Find the answer to all the questions you have for Davis about his experience at Bain and how to land a consulting offer in this extensive question and answer session.

This interview covers 3 themes:

  • Working at Bain, 
  • The Bain recruiting process
  • Working in the management consulting industry.

Click on the + sign at the right of the topic you’re interested in to find the list of questions. Click the + on the question to find Davis’s answer.

Let’s get started!

Working at Bain

When did you decide you wanted to get a job at Bain?
Davis: I didn’t decide to apply to Bain or any management consulting firm until my final year of university. I didn’t even know what management consulting was until just before the application deadlines were right around the corner. I grew up in a low-income community where going to college wasn’t the norm and even getting into college was enough reason to celebrate. When I got to Yale and my classmates were talking about wanting to be bankers and lawyers, I thought to myself, “I know plenty of bank tellers making $11 an hour back home, I don’t think you need to go to Yale to be a banker.” That was how clueless I was about what career paths were available to me. My classmates were thinking about investment banking jobs on Wall Street and I thought they were talking about working at the local bank down the street. But I did know I wanted to be an entrepreneur one day because I’ve always loved creating opportunities for others ever since I was young. During my summer in college, I would find companies I wanted to work for that were early-stage startups, think 10 or fewer employees, led by founders and CEOs who had a strong record. I ended up being able to join 2 startups and I would later find out that one of the company’s CEO was a former Deloitte Consulting Partner. The CEO of the other startup had hired McKinsey teams while he was working at JP Morgan, so both had experience with management consultants. At the end of these summers, each of the CEOs and founders said, “Davis you are going to be a great entrepreneur. You have the care for people, the drive, and the hustle, but I think you should consider going to a place like Bain or McKinsey first and become a management consultant.”
These CEOs thought I would benefit from the training that consulting provides you, the network you gain, and the mental toughness you develop.
Looking back at my career now, my mentors were right. I hadn’t really thought of management consulting until that point, but given both CEOs were people I admired, who didn’t know each other but gave me the same advice. They were both people I considered mentors, I followed their advice and returned to campus my final year of study and looked into consulting. On my flight back to campus at the end of the summer, I researched the different firms I would apply to and was attracted most to Bain. When I looked up Bain’s list of alumni who were entrepreneurs, Andy Dunn (Bonobos), Adam Braun (Pencils of Promise), Payal Kadakia (ClassPass), Dave Gilboa (Warby Parker), and so on, I saw that Bain was just a training ground for so many entrepreneurs. I would have been lucky to have joined any firm–McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Deloitte, Roland Berger, and so forth–but I was lucky enough to get an offer at Bain. In short, it was my mentors who told me to go into management consulting. It wasn’t a grand plan I had all along.
What distinguishes Bain & Company from other consulting firms?

I’ll start by saying that all consulting firms are driven by their people and the training of those people.

The people are the assets.

That being said, there is one thing that distinguishes Bain from other consulting firms. That is the local staffing model.

The local staffing model means that you don’t travel as much, you work from people from your office, and as a result, you grow relationships with people who are in your office.

I think this is so unique to Bain that when I was back at the office on Friday, I knew about 400 of the 500 people in the office. I’d either worked with them on cases or on “Extra 10s” which are extracurricular clubs at Bain such as the poker club or a learning lunch where people share about their experiences.

This local staffing model was the reason I was able to make so many great friends while at Bain. I got to see them through the projects we were staffed on together and weekly activities.

What was your experience at Bain like?

My decision to accept an offer with Bain, as well as the decision to work in consulting, was one of the best decisions I could have made for my career.

I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Bain. I wouldn’t be a capable entrepreneur. I wouldn’t be a willing philanthropist. I wouldn’t be able to speak at TEDx.

My experience at Bain was fantastic. In fact, if you told me tomorrow I had to go back to Bain, I’d do it. I still have former Partners and Managers I worked with who have reached out to me for roles if I’d return to consulting.

But when you boil it down, I think there are 3 things that Bain does really well and made my experience fantastic.

  1. Training. When I was starting as an associate consultant, I was exposed to a variety of different projects. I worked in private equity, which allowed me to be able to expand on my knowledge of business, to develop the skill to learn as quickly as possible. It was like going through Navy SEAL training, but for your mind and your business skills.
  2. A peer culture where I met my best friends. The people I met at Bain will be at my wedding. Every time I travel to a new city, I check for my Bain cohort members or someone I met at Bain through various training events and connect with them. For example, when I was in Tokyo a few years ago, I reached out to some of the Bainies in Tokyo, who I met during global training. You can imagine doing that from around the world. It’s one of the best feelings to know you have a network everywhere you go.
  3. Mentorship. I’m still in touch with my group of mentors. I call them my “Jedi Master Council.” Some of them are now partners at Bain. Even those who have left Bain continue to support me to this day.
Why did you choose to work at Bain San Francisco?

The short answer is to get away from the cold winters.

I am from outside Atlanta, Georgia, so growing up I didn’t really know what winter was and after 4 years of living in New Haven when I was a student at Yale, I was done with winter and said “California here I come.” I ranked Los Angeles and San Francisco as my top 2 choices when Bain and other firms asked where I wanted to be.

I gave San Francisco the higher preference because I wanted to be an entrepreneur and figured that being in San Francisco would allow me to connect with other entrepreneurs and work in tech for my projects at Bain.

What made Bain San Francisco unique?

My rent was twice as much as what my friends in Texas and Atlanta paid and that was for a space the size of a closet! But Bain San Francisco surrounded me with people who were like-minded.

We have a joke that once you meet other Bainies around the world, you just know you are very similar, but there is something unique about the people who came to Bain San Francisco and chose to live there.

So I would say it was less about the office and more about the people who also wanted to work in tech, wanted to enjoy the food scene in SF, and also wanted to avoid winter while enjoying nature.

You also get to work on more tech projects in the Bain San Francisco office because Bain has a local staffing model and there are so many tech companies in the Bay Area.

Did anything surprise you about consulting once you started at Bain? Any positive surprises or negative surprises?

I’m pretty bad at answering this question because there were no surprises. 

Ever since high school, if I was going to start something new, I’d reached out to people who had come before me to learn as much as I could. If I was able to take an economics course in college, I asked for study notes, recommendations, and advice from older students.

I did the same with Bain and researched what to expect so I knew the long hours were coming, I knew there would be times when my love for Bain would be tested on a hard project, and I knew that there would be times when I’d have to travel.

So, I didn’t have any negative surprises.

The most positive surprise was the people. You hear a lot about the Bain culture, but honestly, I can’t stress it enough. Some of my best friends come from Bain. And even today, some of the people I hang out with the most are from Bain.

And I didn’t think I would have such great friends after college. Bain just became such an amazing place for me in terms of mentorship and in terms of friends.

Questions and Answers with Davis Nguyen

What industries did you work in while at Bain?

I did about 13 projects total during my time at Bain across mainly private equity, tech, biotech, and my favorite project which was in public education.

What was your favorite project while at Bain?

My favorite thing about Bain was its culture. “A Bainie Never Lets Another Bainie Fail” both professionally and personally.

It really meant people were invested in you.

I’ll share a story. Since I was in college, I have been a promoter and donor to Pencils of Promise, a non-profit that builds schools around the world.

Before Bain, I was a volunteer and during Bain continued to volunteer. In fact, a percentage of the profits from My Consulting Offer goes to Pencils of Promise each year.

While I was at Bain, I was a member of the West Coast Leadership Team for Pencils of Promise and was tasked with raising $30,000 to fund 3 new schools.

One Thursday afternoon, I sent an email out to the office explaining my goal and why I was a promoter of Pencils of Promise, and by the end of the following week, we had raised the entire amount.

What was your favorite part about working at Bain?

My favorite project at Bain was a 3-month project helping a low-income school system in the Bay Area figure out how to retain their best teachers.

As I mentioned earlier, prior to college and Bain, I came from one of the poorest communities in America. I grew up in a single-parent household and, like a lot of my friends, we lived below the poverty line.

I could relate to the challenges this school system faced because they were similar to those faced by the low-income school system I had attended.

The problem that we had to solve was how do you retain teachers when the salaries you can pay are a fraction of those other school systems like Palo Alto, where Facebook is, or Mountain View, where Google is? This school system was really struggling to retain teachers.

We were brought in as a pro-bono project to figure out how to turn that situation around.

This project was impactful because I got to sit down and interview over 100 different teachers about what keeps them in the school system or what made them leave. I got to build out programs and think about the strategic question – “How do you retain great talent when you can’t just offer them more money?”

After the project, I continued to be engaged and see the school system’s progress. I checked in with the clients to figure out how everything went after our recommendations were rolled out. In fact, during my time at Bain, I organized an annual event where we actually went down and mentored the kids and we even taught the teachers how to use Excel to keep track of their students’ progress and so forth.

Why should I work for Bain over McKinsey, BCG, or any other consulting firm?

For me, it would be the local staffing model and the culture that results from it.

It’s important to get to know the people at the firms you are potentially going to be working with, so I recommend you network during the recruiting process.

I could tell from the people I met, that Bain was where I wanted to be. After helping over 400 people get offers in consulting with My Consulting Offer, I’ve helped a lot of people turn down offers at Bain for other firms because Bain wasn’t where they would thrive.

Like picking a spouse or a university, what might be a good fit for one person might not be for another.

How do you get trained at Bain when you start? Is there some sort of learning academy?

Bain has global training programs for people at all levels within the firm. These programs bring people together to learn the skills for the job as you’re starting in consulting, and when you’re moving up to positions of more responsibility.

For example, as an associate consultant you attend Associate Consulting Training, orl ACT. 

During your first year at Bain (at least when COVID is not affecting the world), you travel to one of two places for ACT. You get to meet about a 100 other ACs, you get to bond with them, and you get to learn from them. But really, it’s more like a two-week spring break, similar to college, where did you get to learn and meet new people and have fun. It feels like college all over again. 

Yes, you learn how to build excel models and make beautiful slides, but the real value was meeting people from around the world.

Davis Nguyen for the Questions and Answers

What was your role on a day-to-day basis at Bain?

What your day-to-day role looks like at Bain and in consulting in general depends largely on the project you’re staffed on and what role you have on the team.

This is to say, your role is always changing. This is the appeal of consulting for a lot of people.

But what you are always doing is learning to break a problem down, learning to work on a team, and learning to manage your own time to help a client improve their business.

It doesn’t matter if you are the case team leader on the project, if you’re the consultant, or if you are the associate consultant, you are going to be responsible for a workstream. We call it “owning” the workstream.

On a Private Equity deal where a firm is deciding if they should acquire a Chinese sausage farm, you might be responsible for building a model to estimate the market size for the Chinese sausage market in North America. Or you might be working on a Merger and Acquisition project where you’re designing with the COO what the newly-merged leadership team will look like.

Did Your Mentor / PD Coach Pressure You To Specialize? If Yes, After How Many Months Did They Start Forcing You To Specialize?

The short answer is no. I was never specialized. And in fact, at Bain, particularly, you’re not forced to specialize until you reach the Manager level.

My mentors and PD coach at Bain always pushed me to try new projects and industries so I could get a breadth of experience versus specializing early on.

What Are The Normal Working Hours As A Consultant At Bain?

The hours you work at Bain will depend on the project and the team. For example, if the project has a fast turnaround time, you might work late nights. If the project is pro-bono, you might work fewer hours.

I’ll give you extremes and my norm.

While I was on the pro-bono project my average day started at 7 am since our team wanted to start early but we would be done around 5 pm so I cooked dinner each night and went to the gym in the evening.

When I was working on a 2-week private equity deal with multiple interested buyers, I worked from 6 a.m. until around 3 a.m. for those 2 weeks and had weekend work too. That was the extreme.

An average work schedule for my time at Bain started with a meeting at 8 a.m. and ended around 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday with Fridays ending at 5-6 p.m. I didn’t usually work on weekends. I only had 2 projects that had some weekend work that was very much needed.

How Fast-Paced And Intense Did You Find Your Typical Day At Bain?

At Bain, we have a Staffing Manager, who helps assign you to new projects.

You also get a weekly email of all the upcoming projects in your office as well as requests from other offices.

Since Bain uses a local staffing model, the projects will be all based in your office or at most a combination of close offices. For example, you might see a project that is a combined team of Los Angeles and San Francisco consultants.

Bain has a transparent culture. The company shares what projects are coming up and who the manager and partner on the project are, so if you want to learn more before having your meeting with the Staffing Manager, you could do some research. If you’re up for staffing soon, which happens when your current project is wrapping up or you are “on the beach” (your previous project ended and there wasn’t a project for you right away), it’s a good idea to keep your eye on upcoming projects.

Do You Get A Glimpse Of Incoming Pipeline Projects At Bain? Is Staffing Driven More By Your Relationship With A Partner Or A Staffing Coordinator?

Before I started at Bain and even when I was recruiting, I wondered, “Will I be able to keep up with the fast-paced and intense environment I kept hearing about in consulting?”

I’ll go ahead and tell you that you only have to worry if you are expecting to work a routine job where you sit there waiting for the next thing. 

While the pace is faster than your average job, you don’t start Day 1 running at the average pace. You start with the basics and are actually a loss to the firm (they pay you a lot but you don’t contribute at your value). This is expected as you learn the job and ramp-up. This also happens at the beginning of new projects. You’ll be in a lot of training and then when you finally get your project, you start off with a small piece of it where someone is double-checking your work. Once you are more comfortable, each project or phase of the same project you get to own more and more of the final recommendation.

The way to think about it is similar to working with a gym trainer the first time. You might think, “Wow this person is going to work me until I can’t get up tomorrow.” But really, they start you off slow and build up over time. You might start with a 45-minute workout before you work up to the 2-hour intense workout with cardio. 

I have had a lot of people we’ve helped at My Consulting Offer ask me whether they’ll be able to keep up. After four-five months on the job, they usually ask me, “Davis, it gets harder right?” because they adapt to the pace and actually want more. I usually laugh, forward them the email when they asked me if a career in consulting would be too much, and tell them to use the time to do something like learn a new skill or get to know people at the firm. 

On the rare occasion that someone’s first project is fast because they just need people to run right away, firms usually correct for this in your second project because to ensure you get the proper training. Also, they don’t want you to burn out right away.

How Often Do You Work With The Same Client Or On The Same Type Of Problem With Different Clients?

This depends largely on the available projects. For example, a large client might hire a Bain team for most of the year. In this case, you can have a chance to do three 3-month projects with the client. But if they take a break during holidays, for example, then you might be staffed to a new client. 

Some clients have projects going on year-round, though the teams may change as well as the business units within the company that is sponsoring the work.

You might work on a go-to-market case for the U.S. team, for example, and then roll into a project for a go-to-market strategy for their European product launch.

Davis Nguyen in front of an audience for the Questions and Answers

The Bain Recruiting Process

What was the Bain recruiting process like?

The Bain recruiting process, similar to other firms, was that you needed to “get the interview” with your resume and cover letter and also “pass the interview” with your case interview skills.

I didn’t know much going into the recruiting process unlike a lot of my peers who had gone to university knowing they wanted to graduate with a consulting offer.

I had 3 weeks to prepare for when I decided to recruit for consulting, which is a very short period to learn how to pass case interviews.

[Davis talks more about how he learned how to case in such a short period of time here].

Can you talk about the selection process at Bain? How much weight is given to the case Interview vs. the behavioral Interview?

There is a reason that consulting firms only take about 1% of people who apply and that is because they want people who are ready to do the job and get results for the clients.

To get an offer at Bain, you need to be able to demonstrate you can be a great consultant. You might be a great culture fit, but if you can’t think like a consultant as demonstrated by the case interview you won’t get the offer. 

The opposite is also true. You can be a great problem solver, but if you aren’t a people person and Bain can’t put you in front of a client, you won’t get an offer either.

You need both the ability to solve problems like a consultant and demonstrate you have the skills to communicate with clients. Both are learnable skills because in consulting we believe in a growth mindset.

What makes the best candidate stand out in an interview?

The best candidates are those who:

  1. Truly want to work in consulting. They’ve done their research, have the right motivations, and express those motivations in their interviews.
  2. Demonstrate they can think like a consultant through the case interview process.
What common mistakes have you seen students make during an interview that immediately disqualifies them?

The consulting interview process is unlike any other interview process, but you can come in ready by preparing ahead of time. 

I can’t tell you how many people apply to consulting and expect to be able to pass the case interview when they haven’t even practiced one before.

Learning to pass the case interview is a learnable skill but you have to put in the time to learn it before your interviews.

What goes through a partner’s mind when interviewing candidates. Are they looking at where they can place this person or how can they use them? Does this affect the final decision?

The main question that a partner asks when having that final round interview with you to decide if you get the consulting offer is, “Do I feel comfortable putting this person in front of my client?”

The partner has spent years, if not decades, building this relationship with his or her client. They need to know they can trust you in front of that client.

If you can’t demonstrate the client readiness, problem-solving skills, and the coachability that a great consultant needs to have, then the partner will not risk his or her relationships on you.

Davis Nguyen TED doing Questions and Answers

Working in the Management Consulting Industry

How do consultants divide the workstreams among team members?

For the work you do at Bain, how the work is split among team members depends on the project and the team structure.

For example, you could have a big team with 10 people on the team working on a project with a very tight deadline. Or you can have the same case done over six months by a smaller team. 

Normally what happens is the partner on the project will define the problem that you’re trying to solve. Then the manager or case team leader will break out the different workstreams and work with the team to decide who owns what part of the project based on what the team needs, each person’s expertise, but also everyone’s personal development goals. For example, if you have never built an excel model, you might be assigned that so you can develop that skill.

In the beginning, you’ll probably just be given a workstream, because you’re trying to earn your reputation at the firm and you don’t know what you don’t know.

Especially as an AC (associate consultant) on your first project, you might start by learning how to build out a questionnaire and market survey. But by your second project, you might also add on the model that tracks the answer to the survey.

Consulting has an apprenticeship culture, so you’ll quickly gain more responsibilities.

For example, at one point, I owned 3 models, mentoring an intern, and managing a remote team in India.

What are the challenges of learning new functions and industries?

At Bain, they don’t force you to specialize early, so you’ll be learning about new functions and industries on just about every case. When get put into a role where you have to learn a new industry, let’s say biotech, and a new function, let’s say cost-cutting, what Bain and every consulting firm does is give you these internal knowledge packs called red books by some firms and blue books by others.

Essentially these are internal databases or learning portals that will get you up to speed on the work that the firm has done 1) with the client, 2) within the industry, and 3) within that function. So, you get to learn stuff. It’s boot camp.

One of the values of consulting is that over time you build a lot of knowledge based on past project experiences from everyone at the firm and that gets passed on. So, every Associate Consultant and every Manager should be able to perform the job better than the previous year’s Associate Consultant or Manager because of all this knowledge that we’ve gathered.

I really enjoyed reading those red and blue books so that is why at My Consulting Offer, I decided to create our industry guides.

Do you find the consulting toolkit, mindset, and approach rigid compared to those of startups (e.g., design thinking, lean startup)?

No. I found that I was better at thinking both analytically and creatively after Bain than I was before.

The definition of what it means to be a consultant is to find the best approach, not the one that is the first in your mind. When you have a problem, you approach it with different hats to look at a problem vs. just proposing the same solution every time.

You can see this in the companies that are created by former consultants and also in the approach that management consultants take.

Consulting firms want to be ahead of current thinking so even before design thinking was popular, you could see it already in their offerings, though it wasn’t called design thinking. For an example, see the Bain ADAPT team offering.

If anything, being a consultant forces you to think differently about a problem than you might have otherwise and this is a skill you will have for life.

Business skills such as learning to read a financial report or understand how a sales funnel works are available, as well as soft skills such as how to present in front of a large audience, how to read people’s emotions in a room, or how to persuade someone to adopt your way of thinking.

What can’t be taught is mainly mindset. 

Carol Dweck talks a lot about having a growth (you believe you can grow) vs. fixed mindset (you don’t believe you can grow) and that can’t be taught. 

If you think you can’t improve, you are probably right. A lot of hard and soft business skills can be taught, but if you don’t believe that you can learn, then you’ve already put barriers in the way of your growth.

What Type Of Professional And Personal Skills Does It Take To Be Successful For This Position?

If you enjoy problem-solving, always being challenged, working with people who are smarter than you, or you don’t know what you want to do long-term, consulting is a great career path for you.

How passionate about business and consulting were you during your time at Bain? How passionate are you now? How passionate are highly successful consultants?

I started this by saying I’m a workaholic. If I like something, I want to get really good at it, from poker to public speaking to my work. Before starting at Bain, I didn’t know how much I would love consulting since I hadn’t done it before and the closest thing to consulting was case interviews.

But once I had my first project, I knew I would enjoy it for all the reasons I heard about during recruiting, from learning new skills, working in a smart team, and exploring interesting topics.

I enjoyed it so much that when Friday came and I went home, I was curious about aspects of my clients’ businesses. I’d spend the weekend working when it wasn’t expected of me.

For example, for a project on building a go-to-market plan for a life-saving drug, I was curious about the mechanics of the drug even though I didn’t need to know about them for the project. I bought two science books on the subject from Amazon and spent the weekend reading about it.

Today, I still love it and do it from time to time when a business (usually a startup) comes to me for advice. If the mission, scope, and compensation are right, I still love solving business problems.

I find that most, but not all, highly successful consultants love the job and would spend that extra hour or afternoon on the weekend to get smarter about topics so they can help their client.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t consultants who just look at it as a job. There are plenty of great consultants I work with who leave their laptops untouched once they shut off for the weekend. It’s similar to what you see with Andre Agassi and tennis. Sometimes people might be good at something but not enjoy it.

As for business, I love thinking about it to a fault. Even today, I bring up business ideas at dinner with friends. To me thinking about business is like a chef thinking about food, you can’t help but think about it even when you are not actively cooking.

A lot of people go into consulting but not many stick with it. What sort of person is suited to consulting as a long-term career?

This really differs. And you won’t know if consulting is for you and if you want to be a partner until you’ve worked in the industry for a while. 

I actually asked this question a lot when I was at Bain. I asked pretty much every single partner and associate partner I met this question. I’ll tell you that not many people I started knew whether they wanted to be a partner. Maybe two people knew. It’s hard to say because the job had a lot of ups and downs. 

Even at the senior manager, principal, and partner level, people leave consulting.

I think whether you’re suited to consulting for a long-term career boils down to 4 things. 

  • Is the lifestyle is okay with you? If you’re okay with working long hours and traveling a lot (during normal times, not during a pandemic), then it might be. This isn’t for everyone because some people want to know they can have dinner with their significant other or sleep in their own bed.
  • Are you okay with change? In consulting, you’re switching clients and developing different types of skill sets. You’re always learning 

Some people want stability. They want to be able to work with the same people every day. In consulting, you don’t get that. Even at the partner level, you are working with different people across different teams.

  • Are you okay being the voice behind the throne? A lot of people who are in consulting, even at the partner level, will leave to become CEO, COOs, general managers, chief strategy officers, chief revenue officers for companies like eBay, Facebook, or Google because they want to see the direct impact of their work. 

If I ask you, “Who are some famous CEOs?”, you might be able to name a few. But if I asked, “Who are some famous management consultants?” you’d probably draw a blank. Consultants are the voice behind the throne but not on the throne.

  • Are you someone who will always be ready to learn? There’s always new technology coming out, new dashboards, new problems to solve. So you’ll always be pushed to learn, especially at the partner level, where you’re basically learning how to sell new projects. Again, someone can really enjoy being an analyst in charge of the data, or a manager leading a team, but if you don’t enjoy selling projects as a partner, you won’t be able to stay in consulting forever. 

I find that the people who stay in consulting longest love the work. If they didn’t, they would burn out before they made it to a senior position.

A lot of people leave because of one of the reasons above.

Approximately what percentage of pre-MBA & MBA candidates are pushed out after a couple years due to the “up or out” policy?

The “up or out” policy is all about continual growth. You have to keep learning and growing and moving up to stay in consulting. You can’t just decide to be an associate consultant for the rest of your career and never get promoted.

The percentage of people let go depends on the cohort and firm needs. I’ve seen Bain cohorts (people who start at the same time) where 100% were offered promotions and I’ve seen cohorts where less than 15% were offered promotion to the next level. 

But remember, this is also a combination of many factors such as, “Does this person want to stay?” If they don’t, they might not have wanted to go for the promotion so the number is skewed. 

It also depends on whether there’s a need for this person in this office. Sometimes people do get promoted but they are needed in another office. For example, someone might be going for a partner promotion in tech but there are already a lot of tech partners in that city. They might be offered a promotion in another office city that needs a tech partner.

What advice do you give people who are starting to work at Bain or other consulting firms?

The biggest advice I give everyone is to take care of their health. 

Eat healthy, because when you’re working a late night and you get a big dinner budget, you’re going to want to buy that steak, or you’re going to want to buy that lobster, or you’re going to want to buy that sushi or whatever you’re craving – even pizza. 

But really, taking care of your health by eating a salad and chicken is important. Go to the gym regularly. Find a hotel that might not be the best hotel, but has the best gym. For me, that made my experience at Bain sustainable. I was able to come to work full of energy because I prioritized working out and eating healthy.

A lot of people don’t do that. I joke that if you look at pictures of me before, during, and after Bain, it’s like three different weight sets.

No one will look out for your health better than you can and it’s the most important thing.

When did you know it was time for you to leave?

I always knew I wanted to work in education, especially when I was on the education project at Bain I shared in a prior question. When a friend and mentor of mine who I’d worked with prior to Bain offered me a position with his startup in education technology, I wanted to join him.

I would have been happy to stay at Bain longer but since my goal was to leave Bain to work in product, marketing, and strategy for a startup before founding my own company, this was a great opportunity. It checked all the boxes I’d set for myself about the job I’d be willing to leave Bain for:

  1. A company doing work I believed in.
  2. A team as amazing or more amazing than the teams I’d worked with at Bain.
  3. A position that would help me grow in my next role.
  4. A position that would help me become an entrepreneur more than staying at Bain.

This opportunity matched all those so I decided it was time.

You previously worked for Susan Cain who is an advocate for empowering introverts in the workplace. What is the experience of being an introvert in consulting?

I am not surprised that people would think that consulting is a heavy extroverted environment.

Bain did a worldwide Myers-Briggs personality test across all levels at the firm from interns to partners to find the distribution. Overall, Bain had more extroverts, but there wasn’t a heavy skew – so think 60/40. On your team, you can expect to find both personality types and a great manager will know how to leverage the strengths of each.

There is also training that you receive about how to work with different personalities in the workplace that I still use today at My Consulting Offer.

For example, my managers knew that I prefer to have processing time before a meeting. I also made it clear I preferred to have time to read relevant documents, craft my responses, and then go into the meeting instead of just having the meeting right then and there.

Consulting is a team-based work environment so a good manager will take into account the differences that come from managing a team.

Put another way, I’ve never heard anyone say, “I quit consulting because I am an introvert.”

Is there anyone you recommend I speak to next to better understand how I can work at Bain?

If you aren’t in the My Consulting Offer program already, talk to a team member such as a former Bain Recruiter to see if you would be a good fit.

Still have questions?

If you have more questions about what it’s like to work at Bain & Company, leave them in the comments below. Davis Nguyen, My Consulting Offer’s founder, will answer them.
Other people interested in working at Bain & Company found the following pages helpful:

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Working at Bain

Davis: I didn’t decide to apply to Bain or any management consulting firm until my final year of university. I didn’t even know what management consulting was until just before the application deadlines were right around the corner.

I grew up in a low-income community where going to college wasn’t the norm and even getting into college was enough reason to celebrate.

When I got to Yale and my classmates were talking about wanting to be bankers and lawyers, I thought to myself, “I know plenty of bank tellers making $11 an hour back home, I don’t think you need to go to Yale to be a banker.”

That was how clueless I was about what career paths were available to me. My classmates were thinking about investment banking jobs on Wall Street and I thought they were talking about working at the local bank down the street.

But I did know I wanted to be an entrepreneur one day because I’ve always loved creating opportunities for others ever since I was young.

During my summer in college, I would find companies I wanted to work for that were early-stage startups, think 10 or fewer employees, led by founders and CEOs who had a strong record.

I ended up being able to join 2 startups and I would later find out that one of the company’s CEO was a former Deloitte Consulting Partner. The CEO of the other startup had hired McKinsey teams while he was working at JP Morgan, so both had experience with management consultants.

At the end of these summers, each of the CEOs and founders said, “Davis you are going to be a great entrepreneur. You have the care for people, the drive, and the hustle, but I think you should consider going to a place like Bain or McKinsey first and become a management consultant.”

These CEOs thought I would benefit from the training that consulting provides you, the network you gain, and the mental toughness you develop.

Looking back at my career now, my mentors were right.

I hadn’t really thought of management consulting until that point, but given both CEOs were people I admired, who didn’t know each other but gave me the same advice. They were both people I considered mentors, I followed their advice and returned to campus my final year of study and looked into consulting.

On my flight back to campus at the end of the summer, I researched the different firms I would apply to and was attracted most to Bain.

When I looked up Bain’s list of alumni who were entrepreneurs, Andy Dunn (Bonobos), Adam Braun (Pencils of Promise), Payal Kadakia (ClassPass), Dave Gilboa (Warby Parker), and so on, I saw that Bain was just a training ground for so many entrepreneurs.

I would have been lucky to have joined any firm–McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Deloitte, Roland Berger, and so forth–but I was lucky enough to get an offer at Bain.

In short, it was my mentors who told me to go into management consulting. It wasn’t a grand plan I had all along.

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I’ll start by saying that all consulting firms are driven by their people and the training of those people.

The people are the assets.

That being said, there is one thing that distinguishes Bain from other consulting firms. That is the local staffing model.

The local staffing model means that you don’t travel as much, you work from people from your office, and as a result, you grow relationships with people who are in your office.

I think this is so unique to Bain that when I was back at the office on Friday, I knew about 400 of the 500 people in the office. I’d either worked with them on cases or on “Extra 10s” which are extracurricular clubs at Bain such as the poker club or a learning lunch where people share about their experiences.

This local staffing model was the reason I was able to make so many great friends while at Bain. I got to see them through the projects we were staffed on together and weekly activities.

My decision to accept an offer with Bain, as well as the decision to work in consulting, was one of the best decisions I could have made for my career.

I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Bain. I wouldn’t be a capable entrepreneur. I wouldn’t be a willing philanthropist. I wouldn’t be able to speak at TEDx.

My experience at Bain was fantastic. In fact, if you told me tomorrow I had to go back to Bain, I’d do it. I still have former Partners and Managers I worked with who have reached out to me for roles if I’d return to consulting.

But when you boil it down, I think there are 3 things that Bain does really well and made my experience fantastic.

  1. Training. When I was starting as an associate consultant, I was exposed to a variety of different projects. I worked in private equity, which allowed me to be able to expand on my knowledge of business, to develop the skill to learn as quickly as possible. It was like going through Navy SEAL training, but for your mind and your business skills.
  2. A peer culture where I met my best friends. The people I met at Bain will be at my wedding. Every time I travel to a new city, I check for my Bain cohort members or someone I met at Bain through various training events and connect with them. For example, when I was in Tokyo a few years ago, I reached out to some of the Bainies in Tokyo, who I met during global training. You can imagine doing that from around the world. It’s one of the best feelings to know you have a network everywhere you go.
  3. Mentorship. I’m still in touch with my group of mentors. I call them my “Jedi Master Council.” Some of them are now partners at Bain. Even those who have left Bain continue to support me to this day.

The short answer is to get away from the cold winters.

I am from outside Atlanta, Georgia, so growing up I didn’t really know what winter was and after 4 years of living in New Haven when I was a student at Yale, I was done with winter and said “California here I come.” I ranked Los Angeles and San Francisco as my top 2 choices when Bain and other firms asked where I wanted to be.

I gave San Francisco the higher preference because I wanted to be an entrepreneur and figured that being in San Francisco would allow me to connect with other entrepreneurs and work in tech for my projects at Bain.

My rent was twice as much as what my friends in Texas and Atlanta paid and that was for a space the size of a closet! But Bain San Francisco surrounded me with people who were like-minded.

We have a joke that once you meet other Bainies around the world, you just know you are very similar, but there is something unique about the people who came to Bain San Francisco and chose to live there.

So I would say it was less about the office and more about the people who also wanted to work in tech, wanted to enjoy the food scene in SF, and also wanted to avoid winter while enjoying nature.

You also get to work on more tech projects in the Bain San Francisco office because Bain has a local staffing model and there are so many tech companies in the Bay Area.

I’m pretty bad at answering this question because there were no surprises. 

Ever since high school, if I was going to start something new, I’d reached out to people who had come before me to learn as much as I could. If I was able to take an economics course in college, I asked for study notes, recommendations, and advice from older students.

I did the same with Bain and researched what to expect so I knew the long hours were coming, I knew there would be times when my love for Bain would be tested on a hard project, and I knew that there would be times when I’d have to travel.

So, I didn’t have any negative surprises.

The most positive surprise was the people. You hear a lot about the Bain culture, but honestly, I can’t stress it enough. Some of my best friends come from Bain. And even today, some of the people I hang out with the most are from Bain.

And I didn’t think I would have such great friends after college. Bain just became such an amazing place for me in terms of mentorship and in terms of friends.

Questions and Answers with Davis Nguyen

I did about 13 projects total during my time at Bain across mainly private equity, tech, biotech, and my favorite project which was in public education.

My favorite thing about Bain was its culture. “A Bainie Never Lets Another Bainie Fail” both professionally and personally.

It really meant people were invested in you.

I’ll share a story. Since I was in college, I have been a promoter and donor to Pencils of Promise, a non-profit that builds schools around the world.

Before Bain, I was a volunteer and during Bain continued to volunteer. In fact, a percentage of the profits from My Consulting Offer goes to Pencils of Promise each year.

While I was at Bain, I was a member of the West Coast Leadership Team for Pencils of Promise and was tasked with raising $30,000 to fund 3 new schools.

One Thursday afternoon, I sent an email out to the office explaining my goal and why I was a promoter of Pencils of Promise, and by the end of the following week, we had raised the entire amount.

My favorite project at Bain was a 3-month project helping a low-income school system in the Bay Area figure out how to retain their best teachers.

As I mentioned earlier, prior to college and Bain, I came from one of the poorest communities in America. I grew up in a single-parent household and, like a lot of my friends, we lived below the poverty line.

I could relate to the challenges this school system faced because they were similar to those faced by the low-income school system I had attended.

The problem that we had to solve was how do you retain teachers when the salaries you can pay are a fraction of those other school systems like Palo Alto, where Facebook is, or Mountain View, where Google is? This school system was really struggling to retain teachers.

We were brought in as a pro-bono project to figure out how to turn that situation around.

This project was impactful because I got to sit down and interview over 100 different teachers about what keeps them in the school system or what made them leave. I got to build out programs and think about the strategic question – “How do you retain great talent when you can’t just offer them more money?”

After the project, I continued to be engaged and see the school system’s progress. I checked in with the clients to figure out how everything went after our recommendations were rolled out. In fact, during my time at Bain, I organized an annual event where we actually went down and mentored the kids and we even taught the teachers how to use Excel to keep track of their students’ progress and so forth.

For me, it would be the local staffing model and the culture that results from it.

It’s important to get to know the people at the firms you are potentially going to be working with, so I recommend you network during the recruiting process.

I could tell from the people I met, that Bain was where I wanted to be. After helping over 400 people get offers in consulting with My Consulting Offer, I’ve helped a lot of people turn down offers at Bain for other firms because Bain wasn’t where they would thrive.

Like picking a spouse or a university, what might be a good fit for one person might not be for another.

Bain has global training programs for people at all levels within the firm. These programs bring people together to learn the skills for the job as you’re starting in consulting, and when you’re moving up to positions of more responsibility.

For example, as an associate consultant you attend Associate Consulting Training, orl ACT. 

During your first year at Bain (at least when COVID is not affecting the world), you travel to one of two places for ACT. You get to meet about a 100 other ACs, you get to bond with them, and you get to learn from them. But really, it’s more like a two-week spring break, similar to college, where did you get to learn and meet new people and have fun. It feels like college all over again. 

Yes, you learn how to build excel models and make beautiful slides, but the real value was meeting people from around the world.

Davis Nguyen for the Questions and Answers

What your day-to-day role looks like at Bain and in consulting in general depends largely on the project you’re staffed on and what role you have on the team.

This is to say, your role is always changing. This is the appeal of consulting for a lot of people.

But what you are always doing is learning to break a problem down, learning to work on a team, and learning to manage your own time to help a client improve their business.

It doesn’t matter if you are the case team leader on the project, if you’re the consultant, or if you are the associate consultant, you are going to be responsible for a workstream. We call it “owning” the workstream.

On a Private Equity deal where a firm is deciding if they should acquire a Chinese sausage farm, you might be responsible for building a model to estimate the market size for the Chinese sausage market in North America. Or you might be working on a Merger and Acquisition project where you’re designing with the COO what the newly-merged leadership team will look like.

The short answer is no. I was never specialized. And in fact, at Bain, particularly, you’re not forced to specialize until you reach the Manager level.

My mentors and PD coach at Bain always pushed me to try new projects and industries so I could get a breadth of experience versus specializing early on.

The hours you work at Bain will depend on the project and the team. For example, if the project has a fast turnaround time, you might work late nights. If the project is pro-bono, you might work fewer hours.

I’ll give you extremes and my norm.

While I was on the pro-bono project my average day started at 7 am since our team wanted to start early but we would be done around 5 pm so I cooked dinner each night and went to the gym in the evening.

When I was working on a 2-week private equity deal with multiple interested buyers, I worked from 6 a.m. until around 3 a.m. for those 2 weeks and had weekend work too. That was the extreme.

An average work schedule for my time at Bain started with a meeting at 8 a.m. and ended around 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday with Fridays ending at 5-6 p.m. I didn’t usually work on weekends. I only had 2 projects that had some weekend work that was very much needed.

At Bain, we have a Staffing Manager, who helps assign you to new projects.

You also get a weekly email of all the upcoming projects in your office as well as requests from other offices.

Since Bain uses a local staffing model, the projects will be all based in your office or at most a combination of close offices. For example, you might see a project that is a combined team of Los Angeles and San Francisco consultants.

Bain has a transparent culture. The company shares what projects are coming up and who the manager and partner on the project are, so if you want to learn more before having your meeting with the Staffing Manager, you could do some research. If you’re up for staffing soon, which happens when your current project is wrapping up or you are “on the beach” (your previous project ended and there wasn’t a project for you right away), it’s a good idea to keep your eye on upcoming projects.

Before I started at Bain and even when I was recruiting, I wondered, “Will I be able to keep up with the fast-paced and intense environment I kept hearing about in consulting?”

I’ll go ahead and tell you that you only have to worry if you are expecting to work a routine job where you sit there waiting for the next thing. 

While the pace is faster than your average job, you don’t start Day 1 running at the average pace. You start with the basics and are actually a loss to the firm (they pay you a lot but you don’t contribute at your value). This is expected as you learn the job and ramp-up. This also happens at the beginning of new projects. You’ll be in a lot of training and then when you finally get your project, you start off with a small piece of it where someone is double-checking your work. Once you are more comfortable, each project or phase of the same project you get to own more and more of the final recommendation.

The way to think about it is similar to working with a gym trainer the first time. You might think, “Wow this person is going to work me until I can’t get up tomorrow.” But really, they start you off slow and build up over time. You might start with a 45-minute workout before you work up to the 2-hour intense workout with cardio. 

I have had a lot of people we’ve helped at My Consulting Offer ask me whether they’ll be able to keep up. After four-five months on the job, they usually ask me, “Davis, it gets harder right?” because they adapt to the pace and actually want more. I usually laugh, forward them the email when they asked me if a career in consulting would be too much, and tell them to use the time to do something like learn a new skill or get to know people at the firm. 

On the rare occasion that someone’s first project is fast because they just need people to run right away, firms usually correct for this in your second project because to ensure you get the proper training. Also, they don’t want you to burn out right away.

This depends largely on the available projects. For example, a large client might hire a Bain team for most of the year. In this case, you can have a chance to do three 3-month projects with the client. But if they take a break during holidays, for example, then you might be staffed to a new client. 

Some clients have projects going on year-round, though the teams may change as well as the business units within the company that is sponsoring the work.

You might work on a go-to-market case for the U.S. team, for example, and then roll into a project for a go-to-market strategy for their European product launch.

Davis Nguyen in front of an audience for the Questions and Answers

The Bain Recruiting Process

The Bain recruiting process, similar to other firms, was that you needed to “get the interview” with your resume and cover letter and also “pass the interview” with your case interview skills.

I didn’t know much going into the recruiting process unlike a lot of my peers who had gone to university knowing they wanted to graduate with a consulting offer.

I had 3 weeks to prepare for when I decided to recruit for consulting, which is a very short period to learn how to pass case interviews.

[Davis talks more about how he learned how to case in such a short period of time here].

There is a reason that consulting firms only take about 1% of people who apply and that is because they want people who are ready to do the job and get results for the clients.

To get an offer at Bain, you need to be able to demonstrate you can be a great consultant. You might be a great culture fit, but if you can’t think like a consultant as demonstrated by the case interview you won’t get the offer. 

The opposite is also true. You can be a great problem solver, but if you aren’t a people person and Bain can’t put you in front of a client, you won’t get an offer either.

You need both the ability to solve problems like a consultant and demonstrate you have the skills to communicate with clients. Both are learnable skills because in consulting we believe in a growth mindset.

The best candidates are those who:

  1. Truly want to work in consulting. They’ve done their research, have the right motivations, and express those motivations in their interviews.
  2. Demonstrate they can think like a consultant through the case interview process.

The consulting interview process is unlike any other interview process, but you can come in ready by preparing ahead of time. 

I can’t tell you how many people apply to consulting and expect to be able to pass the case interview when they haven’t even practiced one before.

Learning to pass the case interview is a learnable skill but you have to put in the time to learn it before your interviews.

The main question that a partner asks when having that final round interview with you to decide if you get the consulting offer is, “Do I feel comfortable putting this person in front of my client?”

The partner has spent years, if not decades, building this relationship with his or her client. They need to know they can trust you in front of that client.

If you can’t demonstrate the client readiness, problem-solving skills, and the coachability that a great consultant needs to have, then the partner will not risk his or her relationships on you.

Davis Nguyen TED doing Questions and Answers

Working in the Management Consulting Industry

For the work you do at Bain, how the work is split among team members depends on the project and the team structure.

For example, you could have a big team with 10 people on the team working on a project with a very tight deadline. Or you can have the same case done over six months by a smaller team. 

Normally what happens is the partner on the project will define the problem that you’re trying to solve. Then the manager or case team leader will break out the different workstreams and work with the team to decide who owns what part of the project based on what the team needs, each person’s expertise, but also everyone’s personal development goals. For example, if you have never built an excel model, you might be assigned that so you can develop that skill.

In the beginning, you’ll probably just be given a workstream, because you’re trying to earn your reputation at the firm and you don’t know what you don’t know.

Especially as an AC (associate consultant) on your first project, you might start by learning how to build out a questionnaire and market survey. But by your second project, you might also add on the model that tracks the answer to the survey.

Consulting has an apprenticeship culture, so you’ll quickly gain more responsibilities.

For example, at one point, I owned 3 models, mentoring an intern, and managing a remote team in India.

At Bain, they don’t force you to specialize early, so you’ll be learning about new functions and industries on just about every case. When get put into a role where you have to learn a new industry, let’s say biotech, and a new function, let’s say cost-cutting, what Bain and every consulting firm does is give you these internal knowledge packs called red books by some firms and blue books by others.

Essentially these are internal databases or learning portals that will get you up to speed on the work that the firm has done 1) with the client, 2) within the industry, and 3) within that function. So, you get to learn stuff. It’s boot camp.

One of the values of consulting is that over time you build a lot of knowledge based on past project experiences from everyone at the firm and that gets passed on. So, every Associate Consultant and every Manager should be able to perform the job better than the previous year’s Associate Consultant or Manager because of all this knowledge that we’ve gathered.

I really enjoyed reading those red and blue books so that is why at My Consulting Offer, I decided to create our industry guides.

No. I found that I was better at thinking both analytically and creatively after Bain than I was before.

The definition of what it means to be a consultant is to find the best approach, not the one that is the first in your mind. When you have a problem, you approach it with different hats to look at a problem vs. just proposing the same solution every time.

You can see this in the companies that are created by former consultants and also in the approach that management consultants take.

Consulting firms want to be ahead of current thinking so even before design thinking was popular, you could see it already in their offerings, though it wasn’t called design thinking. For an example, see the Bain ADAPT team offering.

If anything, being a consultant forces you to think differently about a problem than you might have otherwise and this is a skill you will have for life.

Business skills such as learning to read a financial report or understand how a sales funnel works are available, as well as soft skills such as how to present in front of a large audience, how to read people’s emotions in a room, or how to persuade someone to adopt your way of thinking.

What can’t be taught is mainly mindset. 

Carol Dweck talks a lot about having a growth (you believe you can grow) vs. fixed mindset (you don’t believe you can grow) and that can’t be taught. 

If you think you can’t improve, you are probably right. A lot of hard and soft business skills can be taught, but if you don’t believe that you can learn, then you’ve already put barriers in the way of your growth.

If you enjoy problem-solving, always being challenged, working with people who are smarter than you, or you don’t know what you want to do long-term, consulting is a great career path for you.

I started this by saying I’m a workaholic. If I like something, I want to get really good at it, from poker to public speaking to my work. Before starting at Bain, I didn’t know how much I would love consulting since I hadn’t done it before and the closest thing to consulting was case interviews.

But once I had my first project, I knew I would enjoy it for all the reasons I heard about during recruiting, from learning new skills, working in a smart team, and exploring interesting topics.

I enjoyed it so much that when Friday came and I went home, I was curious about aspects of my clients’ businesses. I’d spend the weekend working when it wasn’t expected of me.

For example, for a project on building a go-to-market plan for a life-saving drug, I was curious about the mechanics of the drug even though I didn’t need to know about them for the project. I bought two science books on the subject from Amazon and spent the weekend reading about it.

Today, I still love it and do it from time to time when a business (usually a startup) comes to me for advice. If the mission, scope, and compensation are right, I still love solving business problems.

I find that most, but not all, highly successful consultants love the job and would spend that extra hour or afternoon on the weekend to get smarter about topics so they can help their client.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t consultants who just look at it as a job. There are plenty of great consultants I work with who leave their laptops untouched once they shut off for the weekend. It’s similar to what you see with Andre Agassi and tennis. Sometimes people might be good at something but not enjoy it.

As for business, I love thinking about it to a fault. Even today, I bring up business ideas at dinner with friends. To me thinking about business is like a chef thinking about food, you can’t help but think about it even when you are not actively cooking.

This really differs. And you won’t know if consulting is for you and if you want to be a partner until you’ve worked in the industry for a while. 

I actually asked this question a lot when I was at Bain. I asked pretty much every single partner and associate partner I met this question. I’ll tell you that not many people I started knew whether they wanted to be a partner. Maybe two people knew. It’s hard to say because the job had a lot of ups and downs. 

Even at the senior manager, principal, and partner level, people leave consulting.

I think whether you’re suited to consulting for a long-term career boils down to 4 things. 

  • Is the lifestyle is okay with you? If you’re okay with working long hours and traveling a lot (during normal times, not during a pandemic), then it might be. This isn’t for everyone because some people want to know they can have dinner with their significant other or sleep in their own bed.
  • Are you okay with change? In consulting, you’re switching clients and developing different types of skill sets. You’re always learning 

Some people want stability. They want to be able to work with the same people every day. In consulting, you don’t get that. Even at the partner level, you are working with different people across different teams.

  • Are you okay being the voice behind the throne? A lot of people who are in consulting, even at the partner level, will leave to become CEO, COOs, general managers, chief strategy officers, chief revenue officers for companies like eBay, Facebook, or Google because they want to see the direct impact of their work. 

If I ask you, “Who are some famous CEOs?”, you might be able to name a few. But if I asked, “Who are some famous management consultants?” you’d probably draw a blank. Consultants are the voice behind the throne but not on the throne.

  • Are you someone who will always be ready to learn? There’s always new technology coming out, new dashboards, new problems to solve. So you’ll always be pushed to learn, especially at the partner level, where you’re basically learning how to sell new projects. Again, someone can really enjoy being an analyst in charge of the data, or a manager leading a team, but if you don’t enjoy selling projects as a partner, you won’t be able to stay in consulting forever. 

I find that the people who stay in consulting longest love the work. If they didn’t, they would burn out before they made it to a senior position.

A lot of people leave because of one of the reasons above.

The “up or out” policy is all about continual growth. You have to keep learning and growing and moving up to stay in consulting. You can’t just decide to be an associate consultant for the rest of your career and never get promoted.

The percentage of people let go depends on the cohort and firm needs. I’ve seen Bain cohorts (people who start at the same time) where 100% were offered promotions and I’ve seen cohorts where less than 15% were offered promotion to the next level. 

But remember, this is also a combination of many factors such as, “Does this person want to stay?” If they don’t, they might not have wanted to go for the promotion so the number is skewed. 

It also depends on whether there’s a need for this person in this office. Sometimes people do get promoted but they are needed in another office. For example, someone might be going for a partner promotion in tech but there are already a lot of tech partners in that city. They might be offered a promotion in another office city that needs a tech partner.

The biggest advice I give everyone is to take care of their health. 

Eat healthy, because when you’re working a late night and you get a big dinner budget, you’re going to want to buy that steak, or you’re going to want to buy that lobster, or you’re going to want to buy that sushi or whatever you’re craving – even pizza. 

But really, taking care of your health by eating a salad and chicken is important. Go to the gym regularly. Find a hotel that might not be the best hotel, but has the best gym. For me, that made my experience at Bain sustainable. I was able to come to work full of energy because I prioritized working out and eating healthy.

A lot of people don’t do that. I joke that if you look at pictures of me before, during, and after Bain, it’s like three different weight sets.

No one will look out for your health better than you can and it’s the most important thing.

I always knew I wanted to work in education, especially when I was on the education project at Bain I shared in a prior question. When a friend and mentor of mine who I’d worked with prior to Bain offered me a position with his startup in education technology, I wanted to join him.

I would have been happy to stay at Bain longer but since my goal was to leave Bain to work in product, marketing, and strategy for a startup before founding my own company, this was a great opportunity. It checked all the boxes I’d set for myself about the job I’d be willing to leave Bain for:

  1. A company doing work I believed in.
  2. A team as amazing or more amazing than the teams I’d worked with at Bain.
  3. A position that would help me grow in my next role.
  4. A position that would help me become an entrepreneur more than staying at Bain.

This opportunity matched all those so I decided it was time.

I am not surprised that people would think that consulting is a heavy extroverted environment.

Bain did a worldwide Myers-Briggs personality test across all levels at the firm from interns to partners to find the distribution. Overall, Bain had more extroverts, but there wasn’t a heavy skew – so think 60/40. On your team, you can expect to find both personality types and a great manager will know how to leverage the strengths of each.

There is also training that you receive about how to work with different personalities in the workplace that I still use today at My Consulting Offer.

For example, my managers knew that I prefer to have processing time before a meeting. I also made it clear I preferred to have time to read relevant documents, craft my responses, and then go into the meeting instead of just having the meeting right then and there.

Consulting is a team-based work environment so a good manager will take into account the differences that come from managing a team.

Put another way, I’ve never heard anyone say, “I quit consulting because I am an introvert.”

If you aren’t in the My Consulting Offer program already, talk to a team member such as a former Bain Recruiter to see if you would be a good fit.

Still have questions?

If you have more questions about what it’s like to work at Bain & Company, leave them in the comments below. Davis Nguyen, My Consulting Offer’s founder, will answer them.
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