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by Stephan Maldonado | April 09, 2019


“Bain is the best place to work. The people are so amazing. [We have] great, supportive coaches and mentors to help you learn and grow. Bain really cares about their employees and is committed to training and growing their people. [We] work hard, but we know how to laugh...I enjoy working with my colleagues, and we truly have fun together.”

This is just one of many similar responses we received from the consultants at Bain & Company who took our most recent survey of the industry’s best consulting firms. Bain—which ranks No. 2 in the 2019 Vault Consulting 50—is an exemplar of a positive and enriching workplace culture. It has a reputation as the “fun” firm among the Big Three and is No. 1 in Vault’s ranking for the Best Consulting Firms for Firm Culture.

Bain’s emphasis on culture endures among its most recent cohort of new consultants, according to an in-depth profile recently published on Poets & Quants. In “Meet Bain & Company’s MBA Class of 2018”, P&Q senior writer Jeff Schmitt profiles 12 of Bain’s MBA hires from the Class of 2018 and speaks with Bain partner Keith Bevans about the philosophies that define and differentiate the firm’s culture.

“Bain places a premium on people, ones who are….passionate, perceptive, and prepared. Committed to growing from within, Bain invests heavily in developing talent, always parsing out new challenges to stir their creativity and push them to get better,” writes Schmitt. “It is a place that demands being yourself as much as producing results, an equal mix of empowerment and accountability where MBAs are always supported and never alone.”

Bain hired hundreds of MBAs from the Class of 2018, selecting their cohort from more than 60 full-time MBA programs. This year, Bevans tells P&Q that they will hire 500 consultants. These essential takeaways from the Poets & Quants profile on the Class of 2018 should serve as a roadmap for this year's round of prospective MBA hires.

Bain hires hail from a diversity of backgrounds.

If you’ve ever been nervous that the path your career took before your MBA wasn’t well-suited for one of the Big Three…well, don’t be. “From bouncers to ballerinas”, as Schmitt phrases it, Bain’s most recent cohort of MBA hires hail from an incredibly diverse range of backgrounds. In Schmitt’s profile alone, there are former literary students, dance enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, and, yes, a former bouncer.

Bain’s newest hires maintain their personal passions while developing new ones—honing their skills in analytics and beyond while also bringing a wealth of life experience and personality to their respective teams.

Thrive as an individual, thrive as a professional.

As one of our own survey respondents said, Bain provides “accelerated professional development that is unmatched anywhere, with the smartest, most down-to-earth people.” Another contends that “professional development is key. A richness of growth and opportunity –professionally, personally, and socially—beyond what I could have imagined.”

It’s no wonder that Bain is No.1 in Vault’s rankings for Informal Training and Mentorship and No. 3 for Formal Training; a culture that places a “premium on people” is bound to create an enriching environment of learning to grow those people.

As Annie Robertson Hockey, an MBA hire in Bain’s San Francisco office, tells Poets & Quants, "It’s more than professional development at Bain. It is also development of you as a person. There is an emphasis at Bain on thriving…if you are thriving as an individual, you’re going to thrive as a professional.”

From a focus on mentorship to unparalleled externship and transfer opportunities (the firm ranks No.3 for both Exit Opportunities and Internal Mobility), Bevans firmly believes Bain is grooming the general managers of the future.

Culture still eats strategy for breakfast.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” writes Schmitt. “That maxim has been the go-to warning for MBAs…Of course, this bit frames culture and strategy as separate menu items…In reality, they are an inseparable pairing, reinforcing and rejuvenating the other…”

There’s a reason Bain has consistently ranked No. 1 for Firm Culture since 2010. As Keith Bevans tells Poets & Quants, “Bain is the type of place where people want to get to know each other…It is less about having a rock band or a soccer team. It is more about finding ways for people to spend time with each other and build relationships that extend long beyond their time at Bain…the relationships extend beyond that because you’re more than just colleagues.”

The investment Bain places in people extends beyond its emphasis on professional development. It is a firm that forges relationships, both within teams and around the globe. The inclusive culture and diversity of talents and experiences foster an “innate sense of community”. While cultures differ across offices, that spirit of camaraderie is alive throughout the entire firm.

Textbooks don’t teach you everything.

Practical experience is paramount to the development that occurs at Bain, and Bain consultants are expected to hit the ground running. Real work on client projects begins almost immediately, and through this, new hires develop the skills to deliver the client-tailored approach on which Bain prides itself. While this learning harnesses and deepens what you learn during your MBA, it occurs far beyond the pages of the textbook.

Faye Cheng, an MIT Sloan MBA, tells Poets & Quants, “real-world data is messy and ambiguous, and a lot of what we work on is so cutting-edge that the best data set or analysis that exists is the one we are actively helping to create…this is simultaneously daunting and empowering… At the end of the day, the best answer is not necessarily the one that’s textbook perfect, but rather the one that is feasible and tailored to the client’s particular needs.” Adds Schmitt: “At Bain, the learning simply accelerates for MBAs after graduation…and never stops.”

Technology is the future.

As a word of both precaution and inspiration, Bevans tells Poets & Quants that the future of consulting—and, by extension, MBAs—lies in the perpetually changing landscape of technology. “When the boundaries of what is realistic change, you have to be a bigger thinker than you were two or three years ago…a lot of MBAs are intrigued by tech and some of them are not. Practically speaking, we are moving to a time where saying you are not a tech person is not an acceptable answer… What I think MBAs aren’t thinking about his how pervasive technology will be in every sector of the economy…”

Some important food for thought for the class of 2019.

Click here to read the entire Poets & Quants profile. Visit Bain & Company’s Vault profile for the full list of its latest rankings. For the rest of 2019’s best consulting firms, visit Vault’s complete rankings page.