When Poets&Quants called Sajal Rohatgi to chat about his internship experience at Bain & Company and asked him how he was doing, his response was simple. “I’m living the dream,” he told us.
Rohatgi was born in India and lived in London and Hawaii before his family settled down in Virginia when he was four years old. This year, the senior will be graduating from the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce before moving to San Francisco in September. In one of the most important moves of his life, Rohatgi will be joining Bain & Company at their office in San Francisco as an Associate Consultant, a position he earned after standing out during his summer internship last year.
Rohatgi’s path to Bain began with a fourth-year panel he attended when he was just a freshman at the University of Virginia — before enrolling in McIntire’s two-year program. Rohatgi says he found himself being the only first-year student listening to seniors talk about the different careers in finance, consulting, marketing, and more. When a senior described Bain as a place where every day was different and presented new challenges and opportunities to grow, Rohatgi says his interest was piqued.
“I went and looked at Vault’s 2015 Consulting Rankings in which Bain was ranked No. 1 and I knew I wanted to experience it for myself,” he says. “I knew nothing about consulting at that time but it became an automatic target for me. I knew that Bain would provide me with the best resources and experience in the consulting industry. That’s what being number one meant to me.”
A YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR
Rohatgi did not always know that he wanted to be in business. His mother is a beautician and entrepreneur who manages her own salon in Virginia and his father works with an IT consulting firm. In elementary school, Rohatgi says he wanted to be a fighter pilot. Or Batman. It was only a few years later he decided it wasn’t practical for him to dream of saving Gotham City and began taking note of what he loved and what his strengths were.
“I loved to sell as a kid,” Rohatgi recalls. “I was also not a big, science-y person, but I loved talking to people, and because I set up tiny businesses even while I was in school, people called me a businessman.”
In third grade, Rohatgi traded his animal crackers for a $20 bill with a girl in his class. He got in trouble with his parents and when they found out, he had to return the money. But that didn’t stifle his entrepreneurial spirit.
As a fifth grader, he established a market for “good behavior raffles.” Rohatgi says his teacher handed out raffle tickets for good behavior as encouragement. These tickets were put in a raffle box for a lottery every Friday where students could win king-sized chocolate bars, toys, and more. “All the hot stuff,” Rohatgi says, and he wanted them. When he realized that not all his classmates wanted to win the raffle like he did, he began bringing in all the candy he disliked to trade for raffle tickets and eventually progressed to doing acts of service to earn tickets from his classmates. From lending out a pencil to filling up a classmate’s water bottle for them, Rohatgi says things were going well. Until they weren’t going well when his teacher became suspicious after he won the raffle three weeks in a row.
Later on in high school, Rohatgi started an iPhone case business and then began developing his managing chops, running a tutoring business where he employed 10 tutors. Those experiences led Rohatgi to search Google for the “best business jobs” one day, and when banking came up, he began dreaming of becoming an investment banker in New York City, like he frequently watched in Hollywood and Bollywood movies. But Rohatgi says that in his second year at Virginia, he began feeling like the Big Apple wasn’t so much for him due to the fast-paced lifestyle. So, Rohatgi thought, maybe he should check out the more laid back pace of the West Coast.
THE ROHATGI THREE-PRONGED APPROACH TO CATCHING BAIN & COMPANY’S EYE
Rohatgi soon targeted Bain & Company’s San Francisco office as a potential place to work. According to Rohatgi, he took a three-pronged plan to get himself “Bain-ready.” Those prongs were talking to “Bainies,” doing case prep, and working on his self-growth.
Networking was the first step for Rohatgi to understand what the day-to-day life of a Bain strategist was like. The experience, he says, allowed him to get an understanding of the culture and how Bain was different from the rest of the consulting firms.
“During my second year, UVA’s career center had a ton of resources such as VAM — Virginia Alumni Mentoring — where they would pair me up with alumni at companies or careers I was interested in,” Rohatgi says. “I also leveraged the network my friends had who might have known Bainies. Thus, I would use a combination of these resources to understand and learn about the culture of Bain.”
In August 2017, Rohatgi says he began working on at least eight cases a week with a close friend. For almost two months, they worked together and got ready for the interviews that would lead to their dream careers. And to make sure he was prepared to present his authentic and “real” self at interviews with the prestigious consulting firm, he began working to learn about his strengths and weaknesses.
After submitting an internship application online in late September, Rohatgi notched an interview in mid-October. His first round of interviews with Bain happened on campus at the University of Virginia, where he worked through two thirty-minute long case interviews. His second and final round was held in San Francisco in late October, where he traveled to and took part in two full case interviews. Rohatgi says that Bain paid for all the travel and hotel expenses and also provided him with a food stipend for the interviews.
“I can remember the exact time and day I heard back from Bain,” Rohatgi says. “It was October 30th, 2017 at 11:15 p.m. I almost broke my phone because I freaked out when I saw the San Francisco number and almost dropped my phone in the kitchen,” Rohatgi says about the moment he received his internship offer. “I literally had tears in my eyes. It was one of the most exciting moments of my life.”
For ten weeks in the summer of 2018, Rohatgi worked at Bain’s San Francisco office. It was his first time in the city but he says his colleagues were fantastic tour guides and even better friends.
“The first thing that pops into my mind about Bain is that the people are amazing. They give specific feedback on your development and ask about your personal goals and how they can help you grow,” Rohatgi says. “I met with my supervisor every week, and attended team meetings every morning. And at every chance, people were asking how they could help me reach my goals. They care.”
While it’s normal for interns to receive feedback from supervisors, Rohatgi says he was surprised when his supervisor asked for feedback on his work and efforts, complete with pen and paper in hand. “I was shocked by this as I didn’t think it worked this way in the corporate world,” he says.
THE BAIN INTERNSHIP EXPERIENCE
To help him grow, Rohatgi says he received in-depth documents about his strengths and areas of improvements halfway through his internship and at the conclusion. With specific examples and moments to help him move forward, Rohatgi says the document allowed him to “perfectly understand” what his supervisor and other team members were referring to.
Rohatgi says his days began at 6 a.m. with a workout before heading to Bain’s office around 8:30 a.m. At morning team meetings, Rohatgi says each person discussed what they were working on that day, if anyone needed any help, and if so, who could provide it. Next, he would meet with his supervisor to discuss his workload for the day based on the roadmap set out by the team earlier.
“Every day was different at work, even though we had a routine,” Rohatgi says. “I had a continuous project with a construction goods company that was getting activist pressure to improve their results and my work involved getting numbers on how much they could increase prices in the next few years.”
To do his job on the project, Rohatgi says he spent the main part of his days working on research that could help answer the main question and occasionally helping colleagues when they needed help. On top of conducting internet research, Rohatgi says he used Excel data from the company in consideration alongside external factors to project out numbers that he later presented with evidence.
One of the best things Rohatgi says about his time at Bain was the mentorship he was given. In the beginning, he received frequent guidance on which way a project he was working on should go. As his first foray into strategy consulting, he worked on delivering to the expectations. But towards the end, Rohatgi says he was given more autonomy. And to develop his own skills and knowledge, Rohatgi met a colleague on the team for coffee or lunch every week.
“Each day, after meeting with my supervisor, I could do what I wanted with my time. If I wanted to go for a walk or spend time on other projects, it was up to me,” Rohatgi explains. “There was a trust that if we had arranged to meet up, I would have my work done. There were some afternoons where we went on team lunches and bonded in a non-professional setting.”
Rohatgi says he was also able to build relationships with his colleague as they explored the city together, went on boat rides, and even visited a trampoline park. He usually left work at about 6 p.m. and added that the company also held a number of professional and social events for the interns every week, such as the Alumni panel, Bain leadership panel, Bain Extra 10 activities, and more. The events were designed to ease interns into the Bain family and help make sense of everything going on at Bain.
Rohatgi says that his most memorable experience with Bain was offsite, where they gathered in Napa Valley and “Bainies showed their talents by doing a concert, dance, and much more.”
“At the end of the day, I felt I could be myself and trust the people around me. I was so happy to be where I was and felt so jubilated,” Rohatgi recalls. “The offsite reiterated the fact that Bainies are amazing people individually, and actually care about each other.”
ADVICE FOR FUTURE BAINIES
For now, Rohatgi is back at McIntire and finishing up his final year. With a full-time job at Bain & Company lined up, he says he has chosen to take courses to help his self-development on top of finishing up his business courses. His current course list includes meditation classes, venture capital and private equity classes, as well as a class on how to motivate employees.
As an associate consultant, Rohatgi expects to be doing work at Bain in private equity, diligence, and strategy consulting, and when asked what he thought was a key characteristic that the company looked for, he says it was communication skills.
“If you’re interested in Bain, practice your communication skills on structured problem solving. It’s about thinking of solutions, presenting it, and then going off and solving it,” Rohatgi says. “The other thing is showing flexibility with learning. I don’t think anyone can learn everything they need to know at Bain in school. For example, it’s tough for someone to learn how to price future products in school, so it’s important to display an ability to learn on the spot.”
For high schoolers who already know Bain sounds like the place for them, Rohatgi says the best advice he can give them is to figure out what their passions are and be able to talk about what they bring to the table when they interview with the company. “Many people have a resume checklist, but I don’t think that’s it. Find your passion and talk about what you love and how you’ve been involved,” he advises.
Before joining the company in September, Rohatgi says he’ll be taking a monthlong trip to Thailand and Malaysia, after which he will spend another month in India, meeting up with relatives that he hasn’t seen in almost a decade.
“In five years, I hope to be happy. I’ve quit thinking too much about the future, and just want to be challenged, learn, and be happy,” Rohatgi says. “Bain has already helped me grow so much by investing in me, and the biggest thing I think about these days is how I can keep giving back to the people around me and investing in others.”