Kara Gruver

Partner

Location: Boston, MA

"Your needs are going to change over your lifetime and your career, and you need to be willing to ask for what’s going to work for you."

I joined Bain & Company’s Boston office right after graduating from college in 1986. Six years later, after a stint in business school, I had risen from associate to consultant to manager, a promotion I received while pregnant with my first child.

I loved Bain for the people, the intellectual stimulation and the firm’s flexibility. But when my husband was placed at a hospital in Chicago for his residency, it seemed inevitable that I’d have to leave my job. Bain didn’t have any offices around Chicago, and with my first child on the way, I felt my priorities shifting. When I told my supervisors my situation, they stopped me. Bain didn’t have an office in Chicago, but was opening one soon. Instead of leaving the firm, I was offered the rare opportunity to become one of the founding members of the firm’s new Chicago office.

I knew helping to build a new office would be difficult, especially with my new and growing family. I didn’t know how I was going to feel as a working mother, but I knew that I wanted to try it rather than giving up on it. I liked what I was doing at Bain. I felt I was good at it, and I couldn’t imagine losing a career that helped define a large part of my identity.

My lean in moment came when I took the offer and we moved to Chicago, where I worked on building both an office and a family. I took a few months off after my son was born, and once I started back at work, I don’t think I ever looked back. Once I got back in there, it felt right. It was fun and very energizing. It was very clear to me that it was working – not that it wasn’t hard, but it was working. Today Bain Chicago is the sixth-largest Bain office in the world, serving Fortune 1000 companies, as well as small-to-midsized firms, throughout the Midwest. My two children are ages 17 and 20—and they’re doing pretty well themselves.

At every step, I have focused on balancing my family while pushing my career forward, taking on a variety of part-time and full-time roles to fit different times in my life. Today, I’m a director at Bain & Company, and the head of the Boston office, the firm’s headquarters, where I started my career in 1986. I can’t imagine working anywhere else.

It’s important to actively manage your career. Your needs are going to change over your lifetime and your career, and you need to be willing to ask for what’s going to work for you. It’s not just about making the right choices. It’s about defining what’s going to work for you at each stage, and being creative about creating those opportunities.