The L.E.K. Consulting Pre-MBA Program is an opportunity for incoming MBA students to learn more about strategy management consulting as a career path. L.E.K. offers two program tracks — one for women and one for underrepresented minorities. Chicago Consultant Kajal Bains tells us about her experience participating in the Pre-MBA Women’s Program and shares valuable advice for women currently seeking out MBA programs and a career in consulting.

Tell us about your background and journey to L.E.K.
I grew up in Southern California and attended UC Irvine for undergrad, majoring in biological sciences. I’ve always been interested in making an impact in the healthcare space, so soon after graduating, I joined Johnson & Johnson in their medical devices sector. I really wanted to learn how big companies make an impact in healthcare, and I did that for a little over four years before enrolling at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. While Ross exposed me to diverse industries and thought processes, my career goals remained focused on healthcare and consulting.

Even before attending Ross, I had noticed that L.E.K. offered both breadth and depth in healthcare while also engaging in impactful work across various industries. It quickly caught my attention. I had also participated in a Forte event, and L.E.K. was involved in some of those sessions. Through those interactions, I gained more exposure to L.E.K. and came across the pre-MBA program, which I applied to.

What motivated you to participate in L.E.K.’s Pre-MBA Women’s Program?
It seemed like a great opportunity not only to learn about consulting but also to network. It was still months before I started at Ross, but since I didn’t have any background in consulting and this program was centered on women, it seemed like a great way to learn more. I thought it was amazing that I could quickly meet women at different levels, such as managers and partners, and both hear about their early career experiences and see how their career trajectory had evolved. I thought it was a great opportunity to get an insight into what a career in consulting would look like specifically at L.E.K. too.

How did the L.E.K. Pre-MBA Women’s Program help you gain insights into the world of strategy management consulting, and what specific aspects did you find most valuable?
As I touched on earlier, I think what was valuable was just hearing from a lot of different people. I remember that there were several sessions, including panels and overviews on casing and what L.E.K.’s unique value proposition is, as well as insights into leadership experiences, among other things. So, beyond just hearing from one webinar or reading on the website, getting this information live from several different people and understanding how people at the firm interacted was very beneficial.

Why are programs like this and our Pre-MBA Diversity program important?
That’s a great question. I think it’s no secret that consulting and business, including MBA programs, are still predominantly male-dominated. There’s a need for diversity and inclusion efforts to create spaces for women, underrepresented minorities, the LGBTQ+ community — the list goes on. These careers still lack adequate representation, making it crucial to provide individuals avenues to gain insight into these professions. If people don’t see individuals like themselves in these careers, they might not even consider pursuing them. Therefore, having spaces where people can learn about consulting firms and other business opportunities while being surrounded by others who share similar experiences is invaluable. This allows them to envision how they can thrive in such environments and also be open-eyed about the challenges they may face, knowing that there are pathways to success. Additionally, from the perspective of companies, there is always room for improvement in fostering diversity and inclusion, and these programs are a great avenue to do that.

What advice would you offer to other women considering L.E.K.’s Pre-MBA program and a career in consulting?
For the Pre-MBA program specifically, I think it’s definitely worth applying to. Getting acquainted with the world of consulting and connecting with peers who are also navigating the recruitment process are essential. These tasks require a time commitment, particularly during the summer, but gaining insights and branching out to meet people from other institutions is worthwhile. Once you’ve started the MBA, it’s crucial to lean on your program’s consulting clubs and resources. They have extensive experience and knowledge of the process, so start by utilizing their support. Focus on mastering the case process early on and explore different firms to discern what you truly want from a consulting career. While many firms offer similar work, there are nuanced differences in culture and industry focus that may align better with your aspirations. Engage with various individuals and attend events to gather insights. Be intentional about where you invest your energy. Lastly, don’t forget to take breaks from the intense recruiting bubble. It can become overwhelming when everyone seems to be on the same track. Stay connected with family and friends, indulge in activities you enjoy — the process is challenging, but it pays off. When interviews come around, preparation is crucial, but so is your ability to handle pressure. So, carve out time to recharge and reconnect with what matters to you. It makes a significant difference.