I've been fortunate enough to take a circuitous career path, starting at Bain and recently returning to Bain. I worked for Bain in Boston for three years out of undergraduate, then joined a leading private equity firm for two years (in the US) before taking on an MBA. I entered my MBA intent on pursuing private equity (PE) in Asia and was lucky to do just that during my summer internship. At the end of it I realized that while private equity is a fantastic career and can offer tremendous challenges and reward to the right people, the day to day job wasn't aligned with my personal priorities.
What I enjoyed most about the PE job was working with management teams to determine the best path of growth or optimization; not as much the acquisition execution process. What I looked for in my day to day for energy was working with and leading large and diverse teams. And what I valued was true geographic mobility and diversity of daily tasks. This lined up far better (for me personally) in consulting, in the short term and hopefully in the long term as well. So I rejoined Bain and recently enjoyed my first international Bain posting in our Dubai office.
"In the third year of my first stint at Bain I chose to do a six month externship at Converse (the shoe and apparel company) based in Boston and owned by Nike."
This was an intentional way to try working in retail, for an internal strategy group, and for a dream company of mine (Nike). It was a great experience and I learned a lot, including that at that particular point in time I wasn't interested in leaving Bain for that type of opportunity. Bain then was very helpful in supporting my pursuit of private equity and was pivotal in helping me secure my job. This go around Bain could not have been more supportive of my desire to get overseas quickly and has helped me land in Dubai.
Outside of PE I have had several great cases. One was the high level redesign of an organizational structure for a top global consumer packaged goods company. This was true strategy in its purest form and we were working with very senior global executives. As a new client for Bain it was also a challenge and opportunity to prove our capabilities. This has been a regularly repeating relationship client for Bain ever since.
At Bain you learn a lot of different analytical tools and about a variety of industries and functions. But what has been more important to me is the softer side of the job. At Bain you get to work for so many different supervisors in such a short period of time, and in such a variety of circumstances. From this I've observed from both good, and less good, leaders the attributes of the type of leader I want to be. This is not the same in all settings, and perhaps the most valuable lesson is how critical it is to adapt to the circumstances and the people around you.
What I also learned from Bain, or perhaps better said- in my absence from Bain- is that for me there are clear diminishing returns to happiness when working above a certain threshold. It's important to me to be at a place like Bain where the leaders from the top down care about you as a whole person, not just an employee, and where the firm provides resources to allow you to achieve balance (at work e.g. with things like recruiting, mentoring, etc., and out of work) and career flexibility when it is needed.