Engineering Degrees Easily Applied to Consulting Jobs at Bain
Keith Bevans was just named as Bain & Company's Global Head of Consultant Recruiting last month!
Keith Bevans jumped right into a career at worldwide management consulting firm Bain & Company after earning two Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) engineering degrees. Nearly 17 years later, Bevans is a Chicago-based partner at Bain and, last month, was named Global Head of Consultant Recruiting.
Bevans holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, but Bevans said his success at Bain is largely related to his engineering background. The problem-solving skills that he learned during his time as a graduate and undergraduate engineering student are invaluable skills for any engineer looking to go into consulting, he said.
We caught up with Bevans to hear about his own engineering background at MIT and his tips for engineering students who are looking to gain a business edge!
Why did you choose electrical engineering?
I’ve been involved in computers and computer science-related work since I was relatively young. I was able to take that and network my way into any internship at AT&T in high school. When you grew up in New Jersey in the late 80s and early 90s, AT&T had a lot of great programs in the area. I was doing circuit design in high school, which made it a fit for me to ultimately decide to do a program at MIT.
What were some of the highlights of your time at MIT?
Some of the most memorable experiences were spending the late nights in a lab trying to get a circuit, a program or a computer working that I was designing working and really trying to finding creative ways to solve the problems that I was facing, not unlike the things I do now at Bain. Problem-solving and being creative are big parts of the role. In addition to the classroom setting, I was a varsity track athlete at MIT and I also participated in a few leadership activities trying to improve the community on campus in terms of academic programs or different diversity groups on campus. Getting involved in the community and having other activities and outlets is something that continued to stay with me. Doing those things is what it takes to be successful as a consultant because the well-roundedness and the leadership skills from the outside activities help you work more with clients. The things that turned out to be the most memorable experiences at MIT turned out to be the best training grounds for the things I am doing now.
When did you start thinking about consulting?
As much as I liked the analytics, I also liked interacting with people and thinking about some of the higher-level problems. So in addition to thinking, “How can I get this circuit to do what I need it to do?” I would think about, “How can I solve the problem that the company is facing, not the just problem that the product team is facing?” The more I thought about that, the more I thought that my skillset was more than just focusing on circuit design and problem-solving, but really thinking about broader business issues. Using my analytical skills and layering it with business skills on top of them was a better fit for my long-term professional goals.
How has your engineering background helped in your consulting career?
At Bain, we solve our client’s problems. We solve the things that executives can’t solve on their own; it’s the things that they lose sleep over. The training that I got from engineering was all about solving problems, finding creative solutions to those problems and really putting in the effort and the energy that it takes to come up with an answer that other people haven’t come up with before. It’s one of things our clients love about hiring Bain consultants is that they bring that type of tenacity and problem-solving energy to the table and they crave that. That’s one of the reasons we’ve been so successful over the years.
What advice would you give to engineering undergrads who want to get into consulting?
Continue to thrive in your engineering program. The skills that you learn in terms of problem-solving and in terms of analytics, there’s no substitute for the way you learn those as an engineering student. I would also say is to get involved in the community and round out your leadership and your team skills. The most successful people that we hire at Bain are the people who have that analytical background as a foundation, but they build on top of that with great leadership skills and communication skills. That’s really the recipe for success at Bain and professionally in the long-term.
How often does Bain hire engineering graduates?
Bain has been growing tremendously for the last several years and we go to a lot of the top schools in the world. We love when we get engineering students who are interested in the type of experiences and the type of skillset that they can gain at Bain. Whenever we find those students, we do everything we can to reach out to them, to network with them and to get them into our recruiting process.
We certainly hire a lot of engineers, which includes engineers coming out of undergraduate or graduate school like myself. A lot of those people are coming out of business school, but have engineering backgrounds either in their undergrad experiences or their professional experience. We have a good mix of all of those backgrounds at Bain and we’re always thrilled whenever we find those engineering students.
Are there any areas of consulting that engineering grads are more suited to?
The way I think about engineering is it’s about problem-solving. It’s about “How can I get this mechanical system to do what I need it to do given the constraints that I have?” Those are directly analogous to the types of problems our clients have. They have customers that expect one thing, they have manufacturing plants that can do another thing and they have shareholders and employees that have other expectations. You need to run a successful company given all those constraints. There’s not a particular type of consulting that engineers are best suited for. Problem-solving is the type of consulting that Bain does, and so engineers are absolutely suited to solve the types of problems that Bain consultants solve within a business context in the same way they’ve been training to solve technical problems in an engineering context.
Why should engineering graduates think about a career at Bain?
I think that students that are coming out with an engineering degree really should think about consulting the way Bain & Company does consulting. We take the business training that frankly is the best foundation that you can have to start a business career and we layer that on top of the strong background they have from an engineering perspective and that combination is really powerful. And I can’t overstate how important that is when you think about what the workplace needs and what the business community needs on a global basis. And so if I were coming out of school now, I’d be thinking about taking my engineering foundation and engaging it at a place like Bain so I can learn the business skills I need to be successful in the long-term. That’s not something I was thinking about at MIT, but the more I learned about Bain and the more I learned about what it can do for me professionally, the more excited I was and it’s been a great career.
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