Welcome to our Females of Impact Series, where we peek into the exciting lives and journeys of our CDTM Alumnae. Today, we have the pleasure to present our interview with Josephine Kühl. Josephine currently holds a role as Consultant at Bain & Company, where she not only drives impact for Bain’s clients, but also contributes shaping Bain’s own culture. As a result of this effort, she was awarded the Spirit Bainie Award 2020 – a peer-nomination based award to celebrate individuals who stand out in making Bain & Company a great place to work for.
Bearing this in mind, we invite you to read her very personal story. A story filled with insights from her journey as well as motivating messages regarding the importance of selfless giving.
Can you shortly introduce yourself?
My name is Josephine. I work as a Consultant for Bain & Company in Berlin, focusing on our Technology and Cloud Services Practice. I studied Business Administration at the LMU and attended the CDTM as part of the Class Spring 16. Additionally, I spent one semester at Columbia University in New York City. During my studies I gained most practical experience as a working student and intern in Consulting firms in Munich and Shanghai. I would describe myself as someone who most enjoys doing things in company, e.g. hosting dinner nights or playing Squash with friends. If I find time just by myself, Yoga and creative work, such as painting, are my sources to recharge.
What is your personal mission?
My personal mission is to be generous with my time for others, build meaningful connections and be helpful for those around me.
What motivated you to start your career in Consulting?
I seeked a job that combined my passion for entrepreneurial thinking, working with motivated people and learning as much as possible. I found all of this in Consulting. Advising business executives and corporations in their decision making on complex problems requires an specific set of skills. It does not involve only strategic thinking, but also consideration of the impact on all individuals involved. I believe this is best achieved with a motivated team, a team that feels passionate about identifying the actual root causes and the best recommendations. Additionally, I wanted to immerse myself in a learning culture. Consulting works with institutionalized feedback systems. It also has a clearly outlined personal development track. An example of this is Bain’s offer to take a sponsored leave for an MBA, PhD or Social Impact Externship after working for two years.
What made you choose Bain & Company?
Initially, I joined Bain because of the opportunity to work in Consulting alongside my Master. This is possible since we have a pool of working students supporting case teams. Because I was able to experience the Bain culture for several years, I then also realized that Bain was the right place for me to start full time. Already during my time as a working student, many Bainies were committed to see me succeed. I also had colleagues turn to close friends. I was impressed how much time some people invested supporting me. They helped me by providing advice and connecting me with the right people for whatever problem I was contemplating. These included from data requests, full time interview preparation, to gathering the most comprehensive list of must-do’s for my semester in NYC.
What I love about Bain is that everyone is encouraged to contribute beyond the case work by taking over responsibility, e.g. for recruiting, training or within our affinity groups, such as our GreenTeam, Social Impact Group, Womxn@Bain or our LGBTQ+ network BGLAD.
What projects have you enjoyed the most?
Regarding cases at Bain, I particularly enjoyed cases around Tech and Digital topics for which I could build upon my hybrid education of Business Administration and Technology Management. In general, I love projects where I can be entrepreneurial, creative and bring people closer together. For instance, last year, I took on the class captain role for all Associate Consultants in Bain’s Munich office. My responsibilities were advocating on behalf of 40 consultants to our leadership, driving strategic internal initiatives and making sure there are enough possibilities to get to know each other. In a year in which many of us joined Bain only virtually, neither setting a foot in a team room nor the office, it required us to come up with new approaches and alternatives.
What are three things in life you are so happy you did?
Best decision during studies in hindsight: stretching Master to full three years to fit in my master at LMU, CDTM, semester abroad, working student position and extracurriculars.
Most life changing abroad experience: living three months in Shanghai including meeting one of my closest friends Yingxi, who joined the CDTM along with me.
Biggest interpersonal learnings: advocating and driving change for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in professional and semi-professional settings.
To what do you attribute your success?
On one side, luck and access to opportunities are and were big components of my success. I find it very important to differentiate what success factors you can control and which you cannot. In Germany, I wish we had an even more pronounced discussion about privilege, access to resources, education and money. This is necessary to move further away from the belief that we live in a meritocratic society. Furthermore, the achievements that felt like the biggest accomplishments to me, were never reached by myself alone, but as part of a team or with help and support from others.
On the other side, I am entrepreneurial with my own life. I actively pursue opportunities, initiatives and experiences that excite me and that I care about. For this, I find it helpful to think ahead and ask myself what I would want to have achieved, experienced or done looking back in some years. This mid-term view helps me to set priorities. It also pushes you to take action and to be determined even when things do not work out the first time.
What did you learn from failing?
Of course I made mistakes and have regrets. Reflecting about it helped me to become more self-aware and courageous to take more risks. In times, where one can publicly access many CVs on LinkedIn, it would be great to have a “LinkedIn of Failure” (let’s call it “FailedForward”). Imagine if everyone would list missed opportunities and lessons learnt the hard way. It would show that many are successful not despite, but because of failures. On my profile at “FailedForward”, you would see that I had applied to the CDTM twice. The first time, I did not speak to students to ask about their experience and tips for the process. This was one of those instances that taught me how valuable it is to proactively seek advice.
How did you handle adversity?
Adversity is one of my biggest teachers about life and its meaning. Crisis, hardship, and looking into fears can provide a lot of answers about priorities and values. It is fundamental to let hardship not turn us bitter, but more compassionate towards others and also ourselves. For me, several things were helpful. First, I try to reflect on what I can learn from the experience, what I can do better or should rethink. But there is a fine line between being too harsh with me or not enough. Thus, I find it very important and helpful to reach out to my support system to share, evaluate and get different perspectives. This taught me to open up more.
As I encountered adversity, I learnt that sharing and listening to these experiences can build very meaningful connections. This is a valuable source of learning. In general, there are many visions, dreams and ideas that are worth to be thrived for. Nevertheless, the path towards them means discomfort, set-backs and doubt. When I am convinced the vision or goal is worth it, adversity becomes a source of purpose and encouragement.
What is your message to students interested in developing their entrepreneurship projects or aiming for a high impact career?
Go for it! Reflect about what de-energizes and energizes you – and do more of the latter. Reach out to and unite with others, assemble your own board of supporters, experts, challengers, mentors and sponsors. Seek broad and diverse inputs, experiences and perspectives.
What does the world need more of?
Givers. People who provide support and help to others without expecting something in return and who put emphasis on contributing instead of competing – as outlined by one of my favorite authors, psychologist and Wharton Professor Adam Grant in his book “Give & Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success”.
Where should we follow you (Linked-in, Twitter, IG, etc)?
I am happy to connect over LinkedIn.
Stories like the one from Josephine are invaluable on bringing insights to our own journeys. It is important to become self-aware and remain open to the opportunities and possibilities around us. Specially in times of high uncertainty, like the ones we live right now. Josephine’s story is an example of this. She started where many of us currently are and her story is a source of inspiration for all of us!
Thank you Josephine for sharing your story!