Beyond Booth: My Summer at Bain

I spent my summer interning at Bain. Through consulting recruiting at Booth, I was lucky to get significant exposure to the people I was actually going to work with as a Summer Associate in the Chicago office, as well as the 2Ys who had just been in my shoes. Between all the fall events and winter/spring meet-ups, I’d even been in the Bain office multiple times before my first day of work.

But despite Booth’s and Bain’s diligence to prepare our expectations, I still underestimated three aspects of the summer intern experience: the substance of the work I’d do, the fun we could have even back in the real (working) world, and how much my Booth network and first-year experience mattered.

The work
We had heard that Summer Associates (SAs) did “real” work, but I couldn’t help thinking that there was no way they left anything too critical to the intern.

The reality was somewhere in between.

This summer, I traveled Monday through Thursday, and my team worked hard on the road. For my workstream, I focused on a tough quantitative analysis we used as inputs for an essential client model. I also (not surprisingly!) built a lot of data slides.

There were nights the whole team worked late during crunch time. For me, those hours came from the push to deliver outputs, the quick pace of the job, and my own steep learning curve in Excel and the company’s graphics tools.

On more than one occasion, I doubted whether I’d be able to use the information we had to get to the inputs we wanted. But by the end of the summer– thanks to plenty of group whiteboarding sessions and support from my manager– I figured it out, and produced the cost benchmarks and analysis we needed to move forward with the model.

Was I make-or-break for the company delivering results? Probably not. Did I contribute something valuable that my team actually used to develop the answer with the client? 100%, and I learned a lot (quickly) along the way.

The play
While most of my time was spent crunching supply chain numbers, I was also “team fun czar” for my case, meaning I took the lead on planning dinners and after-work events.

On the road in Minneapolis, we explored the restaurant scene, played cross-case-team laser tag (cheesy, I know…), and rode the roller coaster at Mall of America (even cheesier). Between all our meals, case team events, airport delays, and daily snack/coffee fixes, I bonded with my team right away.

Most of the SA-crew, staying cool for the game on a Wrigleyville rooftop on a 98-degree night!

Back in Chicago, most of my 24-person intern class moved into MPP (the building many of us Boothies call home), and we maximized our weekends together with official and not-so-official SA fun. Bain treated us well (understatement of the year), hosting events every week, like a Cubs rooftop, my first Hamilton experience, and even a trip to Cape Cod…

Our SA class, pictured after beating the partners 3-0 in the annual beach volleyball match.

We also earned bragging rights beating the partners in beach volleyball, and out-singing and dancing the undergrad interns with an *Nsync rendition at the company’s summer off-site.

Outside of Bain, I had the chance to meet interns from all the other schools who moved into our few-block radius in the Loop. The “Summer MBAs in Chicago” GroupMe started buzzing early and often as we all made connections at our respective companies, and a group of Boothies hosted a kick-off BBQ on MILA’s terrace (building across from MPP) for everyone in June.

Who would’ve thought those ten weeks working could be as much fun as b-school?

The Booth prep and network
While I immersed myself in the work and the fun of the SA program, my summer felt like a very distinct experience from the rest of business school. But I know it was my first year at Booth that gave me the confidence, support, and (many of) the skills to succeed.

It wasn’t necessarily the classes. Who knew I would land on a supply chain case and definitely would’ve benefited from taking operations, or that my modeling class was great, but wouldn’t cover the same type of Excel I needed to use daily on the job?

But in other ways, what I took into the internship from my first year was crucial. LEAD reflections, case practice, and the Booth network played big roles in my experience.

First, the leadership style awareness I developed during last fall’s LEAD sessions resonated during my summer. I remembered my First Impressions Feedback (that I projected competence, but not the level of warmth I would’ve liked) as I developed relationships with everyone from interns to leaders at the office.

Meanwhile in Minneapolis, while we brainstormed daily in our team room, what I learned from watching videos of myself working in a group definitely helped. When it came time to present my analysis, I know I’m better off for having had to record, replay, and analyze my own public speaking in Audience Captivation Training.

Next, the problem-solving approach I learned in casing mirrored the job. For that, I’m grateful to the Boothies who spent hours teaching me to be hypothesis-driven, always ready with a “path forward,” and still coachable at the same time. Booth can be intense and regimented about consulting prep, but the kind of initiative with flexibility I learned in casing was the same approach I worked to demonstrate to my project team. Thanks, second years.

And finally, my Booth network mattered more than I realized, beyond just getting the summer internship offer.

Booth has an impressive number of female Principals and Partners at the Bain Chicago Office, and every single one of them reached out to me this summer. The leader on my project was a strong Booth alumna I’d met during recruitment, who let me know from day one that she was committed to helping me have a successful summer. I’ll be lucky to continue to have her and the rest of the Booth team mentors when I come back full-time.

Beyond the higher ups, I had all the other SAs from Booth there with me. Booth interns came in big numbers to our office this summer (we had more than double the count of any other school!).

It felt pretty good to walk into the first day of work with some of my closest friends– how many people get to say that? Those Boothies were the ones I pinged first on hard days, when Excel crashed for the fourth time, or when I just wanted to show off a new slide that’d taken me way too long.

What’s next?
All seven of us Bain Chicago Boothies signed full-time offers. This fall, we’ll team up to pay it forward to the next class as we help look for a new crew to represent Booth at the office. Until then, we’ll reminisce about how great it was to be an SA, and, of course, make the most of our second year of b-school before we really have to go back to the real world.

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