Building Relationships In Boston

I spent my summer interning at the management consulting firm Bain & Co. in Boston. Between case work and a host of networking and social events, the 10 short weeks flew by. The internship kicked off with a global summer associate training session on Cape Cod.By day we learned the basics of the job, the approach our firm takes to cracking cases, and some of the specific tools that our firm employs.By night we had the chance to meet, greet, and socialize with our counterparts from around the globe.I had the opportunity to hang out with my Booth (Booth Full-Time MBA School Profile) classmates who were headed to different offices, get to know my fellow Boston-office colleagues, and also mingle with folks who were heading to offices around the world, including Singapore, São Paulo, and London. It felt like orientation week at Booth, except this time we were all from different schools and conversation often started by comparing notes and trading stories from our different MBA programs. One thing that became abundantly clear is, regardless of the school, we're all learning from the same canon of cases. While the approach and the logistics (around cohorts, class size, lecture vs. case discussions, etc.) differ, by and large, we're having similar experiences. At the end of the week, we bid one another farewell and dispersed to our home offices as case work would begin promptly on Monday. First Weeks Most IntenseMonday came and I got my case assignment. My team was amid a five-month project, and I was joining in for months three and four. Our case was a growth and expansion strategy for a national retailer (ah, perhaps a sign that we are going to emerge from this recession, after all). My first project was a profitability analysis of a specific product category. Here, I should note, however, that no two cases this summer were similar. Each of my colleagues employed very different roles on a vast spectrum of casework. Thus, our workloads ebbed and flowed on different schedules, and we each met unique challenges in finding our way through our cases, case teams, client interactions, travel schedules (if at all), and the firm in general. For me, the first few weeks were the most intense. There was a lot of data to aggregate, crunch, and then comb through. There was a firm-specific way, which I was unfamiliar with, to create slides that displayed the relevant insights, and there was an entire two months of case background information and insight that had occurred before I joined the team. The learning curve was steep: the tools we use, the process that guides our work plan, and the roles that each team member filled was all foreign to me. So too were the acronyms. In the beginning, it felt a little bit like Lost in Translation. Then there was the relationship piece: a case team dynamic to understand, folks from different levels of the firm who were reaching out to get to know the summer class, and of course, opportunities to bond with the other summer associates. If juggling all of this wasn't enough, we were being judged on our every move, which kept each of us on our toes. Respect for Hard WorkFortunately, however, there were plenty of people throughout the firm who were dedicated to helping "the summers" learn the ropes. Luckily, too, the people were incredibly smart, curious, thoughtful, deliberate, and down-to earth. They had a willingness (O.K., often, a tendency) to poke fun at themselves, and they were overall a pleasure. My summer associate class was comprised of MBAs from a sprinkling of top-10 MBA programs. We met with mutual respect for the hard work and preparation that had gone into landing our internship spots. We bonded over lunches, dinners, a whitewater rafting trip, a softball win against the partners, and our similar tendencies toward extremes: work hard, play hard. We shared tips, shortcuts, and insights we gathered from our case teams. We asked one another the silly things we didn't want to admit to not knowing. And, we leaned on each other for support and suggestions as we navigated through our casework, and the summer. As the weeks rolled on, I started to get the hang of things and I began to feel like I was making progress (even if it was only a slow crawl) along the learning curve. By the end of the summer, with the help of my case team leader, I got the hang of the way the firm approaches cases, created slides that were presented to our client's board of directors, learned some shortcut keys on our custom software, and even learned some of the firm lingo. Written in the StarsMy case team provided endless opportunities to push toward an answer, learn from one another, think through the outcomes of different approaches, challenge one another's hypotheses, pitch a hand when someone was being slammed, laugh at each others' quirks, and most important, to purchase swag (to celebrate team members' weddings, babies, and birthdays). Luckily, my case presented only limited opportunity—just two overnights in 10 weeks—to travel. Overall, I really enjoyed my summer. The program was incredibly well-structured so that we got a view for the different industry specializations of the firm, interacted with people at different levels (from associate consultant intern to partner), and had the opportunity to share and learn from the experiences of our fellow summer classmates. There were formal feedback, review, and mentoring processes, each of which was logical, thoughtful, and taken incredibly seriously. After my summer experience, which in many ways seems to have been written in the stars, I'm looking forward to returning full-time next fall. However, in the meantime, I want to enjoy my second year of business school. Something tells me it's going to be a lot less stressful than the first. I hope I'll have the wisdom to appreciate it.

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