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Day in the life of a consultant at Bain & Company

Bain consultant Olivia Brown

Bain consultant Olivia Brown

I work at Bain & Company, the global business consulting firm, in its New York office. Having spent the last three and a half years working in Bain’s London, Melbourne and Johannesburg offices, with some stops in Boston and Sydney along the way, I’m settling into my second year as a consultant in this vibrant city.

Prior to joining Bain’s London office in 2010 as an associate consultant, I spent just over a year working for healthcare NGOs and exercising my language skills. These experiences convinced me that I needed a solid grounding in business skills before I could make a real impact in this space, and Bain provided that opportunity for me.

Almost four years in, I’ve worked across industries as well as continents, and been challenged every step of the way. Now, as a consultant, I am responsible for solving a significant piece of each problem we tackle for our clients. For example, I’m currently working on a new product launch strategy for one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world. The healthcare landscape is changing rapidly, both domestically and globally, and in order to maximize the upcoming launch, the client needs to understand how these changes will affect their new product.

Here’s an example of a pretty typical day as a consultant on this case:

8:35 a.m. – Leave the gym on W38th St, having been whipped into shape by a morning spin class. I live in Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn, but I like to go to the gym classes near work so that I can beat the morning rush.

8:45 a.m. – Arrive at the office, check email and review the news alerts from the day before. I like to keep track of how the client, their products and the industry in general are moving day-to-day. Grab some breakfast from the Bain cafeteria on the 16th floor – I love the fresh fruit smoothies, especially if I’ve made it to the gym in the morning.

9:30 a.m. – The second-year associate consultant I’m working with, Chris, stops by my desk for our check-in. We set up in a meeting room to go over the sales force sizing model he’s been working on. We’re analyzing the sales force needs for the product launch. We have a meeting at 4pm with the client team to walk them through the working numbers. The challenge for us is that another part of the team is defining the patient populations that will need this new product, even as we are modeling sales force needs to target those potential populations. It is pretty remarkable how our team is able to work together to react quickly to changes as the thinking evolves.

10 a.m. – Chris leaves our meeting to pull through some updates to his model, and I settle in to review the working materials for the 4pm meeting. I’ve been thinking through how to frame the different decisions the client team will need to make as the product launch date nears, and I had a new idea on the subway this morning that I want to get onto paper. After a quick draft by hand, I put together three PowerPoint slides structuring the decisions and send them through to my manager to get his thoughts on my approach.

12 p.m. – Grab my coat and meet my manager in the elevator bay to head down to Haru for a sushi lunch and de-brief. This work is challenging, and Bain keeps you slightly out of your comfort zone and pushing to the next level on every project, but my manager is a great support system. Over lunch I am able to bounce some ideas for my workstream off of him and he helps me think through the bigger picture strategy for our client. Talk then drifts to future goals and career plans, and what the best lunch spaces near the future office location in Bryant Park will be.

1pm – Back at my desk, I pull up an email from Chris with the revised sales force numbers and his model and start to look through the changes. Once I’m comfortable with the numbers, I loop them into our working materials and email them out to the manager and partner.

2pm – Chris and I head over to the partner’s office where she and my manager are wrapping up another meeting. I’ve booked time to walk her through the work Chris and I have pulled together on sales force numbers before we take it to the client. I take her through the working materials and she challenges me on a couple of points around how the proposed sales force numbers will translate into ROI. Once the partner is happy with the numbers, I leave with a few changes to make to the key “decision-making” slides and time to prepare for the client presentation.

3:30pm – My manager, Chris and I take a quick taxi over to the client office.

4pm – I present, with the support of my manager, the preliminary sales force structure and numbers to the client working team, including the head of the sales organization. We’re working towards an update for the project sponsors at the end of the week, and today’s meeting is a key moment to get the input of the working team on where our analysis is heading. We have a great discussion around the numbers, their implications, and the options on the table, and the client is happy. We agree to run a focus group with sales representatives to test some of the key assumptions driving the investment and return analysis for this new product, before we present the sales force recommendations to the project sponsors for a decision.

6pm – Back at the office after a successful meeting, Chris and I debrief on the logistics for the focus group. Chris is going to take the lead and run the discussion, so we talk through the key questions we want to test and how they’ll fit into the analysis so that he can pull together a discussion guide.

6:15pm – After a quick update email to the partner on how the meeting went and next steps, I review my overall workplan and meeting roadmap. One of my teammates is headed to Miami next week for New Consultant Training and I am going to take over some of his work while he’s gone. He’s sent me his latest set of materials and analysis, so I spend half an hour reading and thinking through the problems his workstream is aiming to solve, and jot down some planning notes for myself so that I am ready to go next week.

7:00pm – Head out the door for dinner with a mentor who I worked with in Johannesburg. He has left Bain to take up a leadership role at the Clinton Health Access Initiative. My longer term career goal is to work on increasing global access to medicines and healthcare, and I’m really excited to hear how he’s finding the new position. I’m also looking forward to a nice meal out in my new home city.

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Comments (12)

Comments
  1. Nice work if you can get it. Sounds like a fantastic way to make high wages and work few hours with leisurely lunches in between.

  2. I like her routine. One can say the hours are long, but I can see myself working this schedule for some time if the work is fun and challenging like this one seems to be.

  3. You forgot to mention the fight to get paid…most consultants without a brand marquis like Bain routinely spend 20% of our our time collecting oru fees.

  4. Granted, if you haven’t lived it, this day as described sounds leisurely. It’s not: at the start of the day there’s no presentation; at 4pm the presentation has to be ready to go; and there are multiple rounds of review going on. Any glitch – a missing data point, an analysis gone wrong, a phone call from a key client with a point of view that had not been been considered, could derail the whole process. In reality, this day could border on frantic, depending on the level of the client meeting at 4, and lunch with a mentor could be anything but leisurely.

    Also, it largely takes place at the office. Often, a consultant’s life is spent either schlepping from one place to another in a hurry, or in client meetings in an effort to understand and navigate an unfamiliar and quite possibly dysfunctional political environment among the affected clients.

  5. A very leisurely day. Sounds like about 3 hours of work actually occurred.

  6. Forgot to add the following tasks in between her one client project she is working on – developing a client proposal due the next day by her partner, time recording and billing, submitting expense claims, maintaining sales plan for ‘opportunities’ to pursue, developing some thought leadership material, reworking old power point presentations into new ones for your client, and getting bombarded with emails about articles/reports to read. Add these and it becomes a little more accurate!

  7. Seemed to be rather unrealistic to me, even in the industry side, I have not seen such a leisurely working day.

  8. she should have mentioned going back to the office after dinner

  9. I would think that a Bainee would know that “off of” is never grammatically correct. Three hours of work and the rest is dog and pony B.S.

  10. Sounds more like an Intern’s schedule. I do more work intwo hours than she did all day.

  11. “Arrive at the office, check email”……….who does that anymore……..haven’t we all already replied to them BEFORE we get to work!!

  12. Completely unrealistic, even for a low-travel office like NY.
    She forgot to mention that after dinner she works until past midnight on most days.
    Also forgot to mention that she regularly works on the weekend (one or both days).

    Maybe she IS actually speaking the truth but then she would be an exception.
    99% of top-tier strategy consultants will NOT have that lifestyle.

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