On the job as an Associate Consultant at Bain & Co

Ella Thompson studied LLB/BSc (physics) at University of Otago and is now an Associate Consultant at Bain & Co.
Jaymes Carr
Jaymes Carr
Team GradAustralia
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What's your job title? How long have you worked in your current position? 

I’m have been an Associate Consultant at Bain & Co since February of last year.

What is your employer’s mission/goal?

Bain’s mission statement is to help our clients create high levels of economic value so that together we can set new standards of excellence in our respective industries.

What do you do on a daily basis? Have you worked on any projects that you’re particularly proud of?

Consulting is a job that can change on a day to day basis – we do whatever we need to to solve our clients’ biggest strategy problems and challenges.  This means that some days you may be out in the field getting a deeper understanding of the service you are working to improve, or liaising with global experts to build out specific archetypes of how similar businesses work in other markets,or working with your Bain team on how best to present the issue and emerging solution to the client.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your role?

The most challenging part of working at Bain is frequently being in the deep end. Our clients have obviously worked within their industries for longer than we have, and know their businesses at a much more detailed level than we can reach the timeframe of a case engagement (on average around 12 weeks).  This means that we need to be good at distilling a lot of complicated information and asking the really critical questions.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your role? Please be as specific as possible.

Seeing the outcomes of our strategy work out in the real world. It’s pretty exciting to be out with friends on the weekend and see an advertisement for a product launch that you worked on.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Auckland, New Zealand.

Where were you educated and what did you study? Please specify your graduate degree. 

I went to the University of Otago in Dunedin, studying an LLB/BSc (physics). 

What attracted you to that field of study?

I chose law and science because I really enjoy getting to the root of a problem and applying that to real life.  Both fields are focused on navigating a set of principles and getting to the best possible answer.  Consulting is like that too, only the set of problems that you are dealing with are much more diverse, and as a result, you need to use a broader set of tools (though you’ll find you’re still constrained by physics and the law).

What personal qualities are required for success in your position?

The most important quality in consulting is absolutely coachability.  Being open to asking for help, or really taking on board constructive feedback is such an effective and essential way to get better at what you are doing and improve your work.

What’s one thing it might surprise people to learn is advantageous in your job?

A lot of people assume that you need a commerce background to get into consulting, but in my experience, coming from a non-financial background can actually work in your favour. It means that you’ll approach problems using a slightly different lens, and that your team will be able to provide the client with a more diverse perspective. 

What are the limitations or downsides of your job?

Consultants travel a lot, and while that can be really exciting at times, it can also be difficult to be away from your friends, family, or partner.  I’m lucky to have a boyfriend who is also in consulting, and we’ve been staffed in the same place for most of the last year, but, if or when that changes, it will be tricky to adjust.  On the plus side, you come home every weekend, and the staffing team are very good at taking your location preferences into account in the long haul.

If you could give three pieces of advice to your younger self at university, what would they be?

  • Get involved with things that you’re really passionate about.  It’s easy to get too strategic about extra curriculars and join up because you think it’s what companies are looking for.   Don’t – doing that is just a recipe for making yourself busy and miserable, and it’s actually not something that helps from a recruitment front.  Get really involved in what you care about and you’ll do much better!
  • Make the scary choice as often as you can. You honestly have hardly anything to lose when you’re at university, and that’s the time to push yourself into trying things that take you outside of your comfort zone.  Go on exchange, take a semester off and do something awesome, enter an essay competition you’re never going to win, anything really.
  • Don’t work too hard.  Once you’re working in professional services, you learn out of necessity how to really effectively triage your work and take the 80/20 approach to productivity.  Learn that a little earlier, and you’ll find it incredible how much time you have to do those things that you were passionate about and to make those scary choices.

What inspires you? 

That is a tough question! I think the thing I find the most inspirational is when people are just obviously living life exactly as they’ve imagined it.  I love the saying that you shouldn’t ask what the world needs, but rather what makes you come alive, because the world needs more people like that.

 Learn more about working in this field, jump to career path in professional services or the consulting sector overview.