Current and former Bainies share their Global Development externship experiences

The Boston chapter of Bain’s Global Development Network (GDEV) has been growing its Brown Bag Lunch initiative, a series of presentations and panels to promote ongoing discussion on development-related topics. As part of this series, GDEV Boston hosted a panel in the spring featuring both current and former externs from three development organizations. Bain’s externship program offers Associate Consultants the opportunity to leave Bain for six months to work at a company or organization of their choice; this allows ACs to apply their skill set in an industry of interest, whether retail companies, nonprofit organizations, or startups (learn more about externships here). During the recent GDEV externship panel, Byron Lichtenstein from the Gates Foundation, Alina Gatowski from the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), and Kat Benesh from the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) shared their unique experiences.

Byron worked as a Strategy Officer in the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Discovery division. His undergraduate studies in Biomedical Engineering and interest in global health tied together well with the skillset he had gained as an AC at Bain, as he spent most of his externship creating an investment strategy for research into child malnutrition and growth stunting. Alina engaged in work with the Elimination of Pediatric HIV group at the Clinton Health Access Initiative. During her externship, she worked with CHAI team members across the globe to support strategy and proposal development for pediatric HIV prevention and treatment in five of CHAI’s partner countries. Kat externed at the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency, where she developed a cost/benefit analysis to increase productivity of a native Ethiopian crop. She was also involved in coordinating a pilot farmer scale-up program and organization training initiatives.

Though the panelists came from very different organizations, they all agreed on one thing: Working at an externship is very different from working at Bain. All three externs emphasized the importance of adapting to a new work setting and culture. This was especially important for Kat, who worked on the ground in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Challenges ranged from the occasional language barrier (which at times required the services of a translator) to telecom services that weren’t always reliable. Byron spoke about how his work at Gates differed from his previous Bain case experiences, as his Gates projects were spread over longer timelines. Alina shared her transition from working on big teams at Bain to working on a smaller team for her role at CHAI. Some of these differences stemmed from working in the non-profit/public sector versus at a for-profit, while others were a result of the diversity of projects and tasks at these organizations. All panelists agreed that they gained valuable new perspectives while working in different settings for six months.

The panelists also offered advice to audience members who are thinking about future externships. Regarding the externship search process, Kat recommended taking a proactive approach to find something you’re really passionate about. Externships are a great opportunity to explore an organization, industry, or cause that you’ve been interesting in but haven’t yet gotten a chance to pursue at Bain. Panelists also had advice for ACs toying with the idea of working at a non-profit: don’t let the “non-profit” part constrain you. There is a huge diversity of opportunities available; depending on your particular role, experiences at large foundations may feel similar to a private corporation, and smaller organizations could match the excitement and energy of a startup. The important factor isn’t whether it’s public, private, or non-profit sector, but whether the organizational feel fits your working style and what you really care about.

– Colin Custer and Michelle Lee, Associate Consultants, Boston

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