Name: Teddy Daiell
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Undergrad: Washington University in St. Louis, Olin School of Business
Majors: Economics & Strategy, Finance
Minors: Accounting, Political Science
Activities: Delta Sigma Pi, Teaching Assistant
1st Job: Bain & Company, Associate Consultant
2nd Job: Associate @ Charlesbank Capital Partners
3rd Job: Director of Strategy @ Canary Health
Grad School: University of Pennsylvania, The Wharton School of Business, MBA
Internships: Deloitte Consulting (undergrad), Headspace Inc. (MBA)
Personal blog: teddydaiell.com
Growing up, Teddy Daiell wasn’t mission driven, but that changed when he decided to be the author of his own story. Daiell wanted to pursue his passions, stay forever curious and find a path that satisfied his most innate desires. He graduated with a BSBA from Washington University’s Olin Business School, where he majored in economics and strategy in addition to finance. He interned at Deloitte and worked for Bain & Company as a strategy consultant before switching gears to private equity. Since then, he has worked for a variety of startup companies and currently works to instigate change in people’s lives through preventive health and wellness.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Brooklyn and grew up in a neighborhood called Midwood. I got to experience all the diversity, excitement and crowds of New York and then go home to a neighborhood opposite of that. My dad works as a tax attorney and my mom runs his office. He did a variety of corporate accounting jobs before opening his own practice. My mom was one of the first women to get an MBA from Columbia University. Now they’re a tag team supreme where he does all the tax attorney work and she leads everything else for the business. I have one older sister who would teach me fractions across the dining room table. My parents and sister are all incredibly foundationally supportive, particularly in terms of learning and growth. That’s both in pushing me to the next step, teaching me to be a better version of myself and leading by example and their own fields.
“My parent’s primary value was ‘Work hard, be happy.’ I am not saying that I agree with that entirely today.”
What kind of impact did your parents have on your career interests?
My parent’s primary value was “Work hard, be happy.” I am not saying that I agree with that entirely today. They saw the benefits of hard work in their own parents and I saw it in them. My paternal grandfather worked at the docks in the naval yards, as well as worked carnival games in Coney Island and my maternal grandfather was a used car salesman. I saw them benefit from their parents building that foundation and having the opportunity to do better than the generation before them. I always had this sense that I could find a path that was meaningful for me, but also pressure because I have been given such fortunate gifts and it was clear that I needed to do something with it. I had the mentality that I need to get after that next rung of the ladder.
As a child, What did you want to be when you grew up?
I don’t have an answer, if I am honest with you. I wasn’t mission or passion driven in my childhood. I was asthmatic, so I spent a lot of time indoors. I played low-impact sports like baseball, played video games and hung out with my friends. I do think that at one time “investment banker” seemed like a good career, but I don’t have a meaningful
reason for why.
What was your first job?
My first job was with a minor league baseball team called the Staten Island Yankees. At the time they were the New York Yankees short season single A farm affiliate, the lowest rungs of minor league baseball. I got the job through family connections my sophomore year of high school. The first summer I was a general intern, doing anything from pointing out where seats had bird poop on them to selling ice cream or getting food for the press box. During my second and third summer, I worked full-time in the production department doing AV work, helping control everything from the videos on the wallboard to the scoreboard, announcers and music.
How did you choose Wash U?
I was looking to do business generically, but lacked direction in terms of exactly what I wanted to do. It seemed like the right thing at the time and similar enough to what dad did. I had done well in high school, at the highly-competitive Stuyvesant High School, and had done very well on SATs. Even with good scores, I didn’t think I could get into one of the most prestigious schools based on my class rank. I narrowed my choices to the Olin Business School at Washington University or The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
When I did the campus visits, I felt like Washington University was a better fit for me. They were very customer-service oriented and I felt like they wanted me to have a good experience, whereas at Wharton there was an attitude that I should feel lucky they would even consider having me on the tour. My sister also went to Washington University and that made an impact on me, so the choice ended up being an easy one.
What activities did you do while you were at Wash U?
I spent a lot of effort on coursework and gave myself a lot of leeway outside of that. I didn’t feel the pressure to go and do nine other activities like a lot of other students at WashU. I served as a TA for a fair number of courses, including Quantitative Business Analysis 1 and 2, Introduction to Finance and Introduction to Accounting. I helped grade finance exams for an MBA class. For me, TA’ing was a way to give back, reinforce learning, meet people and make money — so it checked a lot of good boxes. I was a member of the co-ed business frat Delta Sigma Pi (DSP) and got a little bit of executive leadership there. Outside of that, I didn’t do much in terms of activities.
“It was during the MYBCS class that strategy consulting came onto the radar for the first time, and that became the beginning of a longer path.”
When did you start thinking about what you would do after Wash U?
I stumbled into a class called MYBCS- Managing Your Business Career Strategy, in the fall semester of my sophomore year. The class teaches the basics of writing a resume, creating a cover letter and tackling applying for jobs. It also hosts weekly panels featuring WashU alums in different fields. One week there would be a big four accounting panel, the next week it would be investment banking, and so on. You get to see five people each week who were just like you, only a few years removed. They told stories and painted pictures of different paths with stories from their real lives.
The class was my first real exposure to thinking about my future. I had a rough idea of what the jobs might be like academically, but the panelists made it more real. These people were alums who you could talk to and keep in touch with during your time in school.
It was during the MYBCS class that strategy consulting came onto the radar for the first time, and that became the beginning of a longer path.
“I told myself this story that I had to be part of the workshop and case competition to get the internship, but in reality the workshop served the prototyping purpose and I got lucky.”
What did your initial career plan look like?
In hindsight, I took some steps that I appreciated, but was not thoughtful about it in the moment. So, I don’t take credit for it. The first step was prototyping, and it was actually a coincidence or accident. Deloitte, in particular, was a heavy recruiter at Washington University. They would host workshops on campus that allowed students to do some work in that field such as run an Excel model for a strategy consulting project and spend time with people whose personality was attracted to it and see if it’s something you like.
Another way to prototype is through case competitions, where you work with a team on a strategy consulting case, do analysis and put together a presentation over a week or two. Case competitions are another opportunity to try out the job for yourself. Between the workshops and competitions, I found that I enjoyed consulting — how it flowed and that it leveraged my strengths. I also met more people that I wanted to spend my time with because they were like me. Accidentally, step one in the plan was prototyping, but really the plan was around getting the internship. I told myself this story that I had to be part of the workshop and case competition to get the internship, but in reality the workshop served the prototyping purpose and I got lucky.
As a result of earlier steps and that our team did well in the case competitions, I ended up interning with Deloitte Consulting in Chicago.
“A role in strategy consulting can be very different based on which firm you work with, so all of those variables are important to explore during that three-month internship.”
What did you learn during the internship at Deloitte and what impact did that have on your job search?
Most of the things I learned were practical, like what it’s like to live in Chicago on my own, be an adult, what it’s like to do strategy consulting and travel often, as well as be a part of a team. I got to experience the day-to-day activity and confirm if it was really a path I wanted to pursue. A role in strategy consulting can be very different based on which firm you work with, so all of those variables are important to explore during that three-month internship. I also learned that I had an intense need for external validation. I wanted to please the manager and my partner to make sure I got a job offer at the end of the experience.
“In the moment and being very judgmental, I thought the person who went to Bain was somehow smarter than the person who went to Deloitte…”
How did you approach your job search?
As I was getting the Deloitte internship, I had made up mind that Bain would be a better choice for me for a variety of reasons — both legitimate and illegitimate. At the time, Vault.com put out these rankings using quantitative data to rank different companies. Bain ranked higher, and since I didn’t really know any better, it became a driving factor in this decision to try and work there. Another piece driving that was seeing my peers, who were older than me and seeing where they went. One person who I love, respect and admire went to Bain. Another person who I love, respect and admire went to Deloitte. In the moment and being very judgmental, I thought the person who went to Bain was somehow smarter than the person who went to Deloitte, and again with the external validation framework, I want to be smart, too, so let’s join this ‘better’ consulting firm. In hindsight, it probably didn’t matter a ton, but in the moment that is how my mind was working.
From the moment I received an offer from Deloitte when I finished my internship, I was determined to see if I could land a job at Bain and what that offer would look like. Through various recruiting arms, I was able to get in front of the people leading the WashU recruiting efforts, explain my situation and ask for an interview. Bain had a standard recruiting effort, and then they had another path for people such as myself who had interned elsewhere and were seeking interviews.
- Step one, I had this offer from Deloitte.
- Step two, I had this internally created desire to get to Bain instead.
- Step three, I found a way to get myself in front of Bain.
How did you actually get in front of Bain?
On the Bain website, they had a web portal for WashU recruiting. I cold emailed the manager at the Dallas office who was leading the recruiting effort and asked for an interview. I’m sure there are better ways to do it, but it’s nothing sexier than that. I didn’t even go to the Bain information session the year before, which was a terrible decision, but it didn’t hurt me. I went to the recruiting page, found the person in charge, and my story was just good enough to get the interview.
What would have been a better approach than what you did?
A key thing in all of the steps — going to WashU, getting into private equity, landing a job at Bain, getting into Wharton, finding startups and getting jobs there — is to not just be a piece of paper, but to become a human being in the eyes of the decision maker. To succeed, you have to rise above the rest of the resume stack, and dear God, there is a large resume stack.
I would recommend networking broadly. Go to career information sessions and recruiting events. They allow an opportunity to meet the people who will ultimately decide who gets interviews and who doesn’t. In terms of even getting a shot, it is vitally important to be a human to the person in the eyes of the person making the decision on who to interview. Then, you have to interview, obviously, but to even get your shot, you have to be a human being in the eyes of the person choosing the interview and conducting the interviews.
“I learned more from hearing my partner’s case and responses, seeing their mistakes and giving feedback than I did from just rehearsing my own cases.”
How did you approach the case interviews; what were they like?
For strategy consulting interviews, it’s case interviews. I have two specific tips:
First, practice with somebody else, which is not novel, but is crucially important. I learned more from hearing my partner’s case and responses, seeing their mistakes and giving feedback than I did from just rehearsing my own cases. Teaching crystallizes the information that much more. It’s easy to skip over, but I wouldn’t have gotten to where I was without having a partner working with me.
The other piece of advice is to know when enough is enough in terms of preparation. It’s easy to work yourself to death in this interview preparation. Make sure that what you can control, like smiling, making eye contact, greeting interviewers and shaking hands are all on autopilot so you can focus on the interview question. The question will be hard enough that you will need to focus your mental energy on solving it, but you also have to leave a good impression on the interviewer and have a real conversation.
Is there any preparation that you wish you would have done or was not helpful?
There is one book I would recommend students read, an E-book by Ben Okon called Case Weights: Advanced Case Interview Preparation Techniques to Equip You for Even the Most Challenging Scenarios. The author is a friend of mine who was interviewing at Bain post MBA. The book is a skills-based approach to case interviews. It has a skills matrix you will encounter if you get a consulting job and you’re trying to improve in a variety of professional development areas. He breaks down the interviews into a set of skills with specific exercises to train if you identify any weak areas. If I were doing it again, I would use this and other resources that help target specific skills to help interview successfully.
“Being yourself is the best thing to do. If you get rejected for being yourself, probably a good thing, because there’s definitely a culture misfit.”
You said when you were in interviews you had two jobs: establish rapport and execute the case. In terms of establishing rapport, what did you do to differentiate yourself as a candidate?
It’s as simple as being a decent human being. Being yourself is the best thing to do. Be receptive to feedback instead of forcing yourself into whatever you think Bain, McKinsey or Goldman wants. If you get rejected for being yourself, probably a good thing, because there’s definitely a culture misfit.
Try to have a conversation. They want to see how you think and how you would perform the job. It’s not just about functionally executing a case, but talking through it in the way that you would talk to your manager or as if you were working with them. Be as transparent as possible, because even if a candidate “cracks the case,” if they don’t show their thought process, it’s harder to pass them along. That’s the point of the case exercise. I have interviewed students and yes, they got the right answer, but they didn’t give me a lot of visibility into the thing I was ultimately looking for – how they thought.
After the first round of interviews, what kind of follow-up did you do?
I was very fortunate in that the processes with Bain are very structured and there’s a specific timeline. The day of the interview, Bain would give you feedback, whether you passed and when they will follow up. There was never any worrying if you needed to reach out again. I do recommend writing thank you notes, because it helps create relationships that last longer than just the interview.
What were the second, third and final round interviews like and how did you prepare and approach them?
The first round for Bain, because of this rushed process, was done over the phone. The second and final rounds were both on a super day. Bain will fly candidates to the Chicago office to have four back-to-back in-person interviews in one day.
I had done enough prep work to where I was not ultra nervous. I created a condensed cheat sheet to refresh the night before and that morning. Then you just put on your suit and your game face and do your best. Because the first and final round interviews were the same in terms of what they were asking for, I just did more of the same prep work.
“I don’t think it hurts to ask or try to negotiate the initial offer, though, especially in terms of things like relocation.”
What happened next? Did you negotiate your offer?
When you interview, they tell you when they will call. I was at Buffalo Wild Wings on the way to Iowa City when I got the call from the Bain Chicago partner and I remember answering the call with barbecue sauce on my hand. I was ecstatic and accepted on the spot. Negotiation was not in my vocabulary at the time. Going in, I had an offer from Deloitte Consulting as a result of the summer internship. The point of the interview process with Bain was to see how the offers compared. It was asymmetrically dominant. Basically, in virtually every way, the Bain offer was better than the Deloitte offer. So while I could have tried to negotiate, they had almost all of the leverage and there probably wasn’t a ton of wiggle room. I don’t think it hurts to ask or try to negotiate the initial offer, though, especially in terms of things like relocation. It feels risky, but I don’t know how risky it actually is. Especially, you are talking with someone on the HR side, go for it because you have a little more distance between you and the partner. You might take a different approach, if you are talking with the actual hiring manager.
If a current student in a similar situation two offers, one is asymmetrically dominant, and they know they’re going to accept the dominant offer- to practice negotiating, do you recommend negotiating strongly with the inferior offer?
In my particular circumstance, there was nothing that Deloitte could have done to their offer that would have brought me there, within reason. If they had doubled the salary, maybe. Twenty percent more salary, I still would have gone to Bain. I had sold myself and drank too much of the Kool-Aid. I had too much momentum. That said, I really like what you’re saying in the sense that we really don’t know where these paths will take us. It is interesting the stories we tell ourselves about why we believe one is better than the other. If you can step away and be curious and playful and understand why A is better than B and then sincerely go to B, the firm making the inferior offer, and have an honest conversation with them, I think it would benefit both parties. If you come from a place of genuine compassion, honesty and vulnerability, it will be received warmly. I don’t see a downside as long as it’s conveyed in the right way.
How did Bain compare to your expectations?
Consulting varies so much based on what project you’re put on, so my answer also would depend on which case I was working on. It lived up to expectations in some ways, and it didn’t in other ways. In terms of the level of candor and the way that they treat people, Bain absolutely lived up to and even exceeded expectations. In terms of the actual experience, learning and growth curve, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. It was tremendous.
The quality of the team was on par. There were some people who you wondered how they got into their position or how they stay such as the partner who burns through team after team. There are definitely good reasons why they might stay, like selling work, but there were things that were sold to me in the original courtship process that weren’t quite as true when it came to specific personnel.
“There were jobs available to me at the age of 25 that I only had visibility to because I worked at a top three consulting firm.”
There is an allure of strategy consulting. Was the allure over, under or accurately hyped?
It was accurately hyped. You will be making decisions that will cascade for potentially the rest of your life. For example, some recruiters will only reach out to top three consulting associates. There were jobs available to me at the age of 25 that I only had visibility to because I worked at a top three consulting firm. If I had worked at Deloitte or Mercer, I wouldn’t have been on their mailing list. That doesn’t mean to say I couldn’t have gotten that job somehow. This is true for private equity.
The point is that there are very real impacts on life that are downstream effects of the decisions you’re making, so there are definitely elements to the hype. Also, the travel varies by experience. You will be on the road a lot, for better or worse. The learning curve, quality of teammates, and professional skills I took for granted are now massively helpful in terms of bolstering other areas. In the end, there are plenty of people who will go into it and it’s not what they wanted, but from a professional development standpoint, it’s accurately hyped at school.
In regard to first job, what would you do differently about your job search process?
I wouldn’t have put so much pressure on myself in terms of getting the “right” first step. I did get what I thought was the right first step, so I don’t know the counterfactual here. In the moment, I remember how I felt that so much was riding on me getting an offer at this firm. Yet, in reality, the life I would have lived would not have been different virtually at all whether I was at a different consulting firm or if I accept my other offer at General Mills doing a finance rotation program. Working in a different type of business role at the age of 23 would not have been that different relative to the rest of the world than it would have been had I chosen a different path, say as an artist or a monk. Coming out of WashU and having worked hard at all the different steps and getting all the right signals on the resume, I would have been fine. I did everything that I thought was “right” and for real periods of time, I wasn’t happy. Even if you think you know what’s right for you, you might not. It’s difficult to predict what you want six months from now, let alone two or three years from now. In hindsight, I wouldn’t have put as much pressure on myself.
“His perspective meant the world to me. He told me that Bain is a great place to work, but it’s not going to create a great life for you.”
What first made you want to move on from Bain?
A mentor. I had a mentorship coffee with a senior associate consultant who was a role model third year and just a tremendous individual. His perspective meant the world to me. He told me that Bain is a great place to work, but it’s not going to create a great life for you. There are elements of your work that might be positive or negative as it relates to building that life, but the company’s interests — any company’s interests — are not necessarily fully aligned with mine. This was definitely a kick in the butt and revelatory for me.
It is so easy to stay on the consulting path, especially if you’re good. The inertia will carry you. But I wasn’t happy. I was brought up by my parents to believe that if you work hard, you’ll be happy and I carried that belief. But the truth is that I was working hard. I was at the “right” place based on all these external signals and I still wasn’t happy. The conversation was painful for me, but it was important to hear and was what I needed to hear at the time.
What drove your decision on what you decided to do next?
I was on my second case, so a little over a year into the experience, and I met a relatively senior person working the same case. He opened up my eyes to the world of private equity. There were all sorts of reasons why this seemed like a good next step for me, most importantly the external validation we talked about earlier. There’s also more money in private equity and you’re already working a lot. So you rationalize it in that you can work five to 10 more hours per week and make nearly double the pay. Finally, there was a scarcity component in that I could only get in the door on the opportunity if I did it before business school. I think this goes back to not having a mission growing up. I did not have a better vision than what this person painted. I was looking at more salary, more external validation and this is the only time I can do it. This sounded really good to me as a 23 year old.
My third case went really poorly. I was working a ton, and not at all happy when someone presented this alternative. I did all the recruitment, interviewing and commitment within a six month period while working on this case. I accepted in February 2011 to start in September 2012. I accepted the new job when I was in a valley during that specific case. It was in the heat of the moment. That’s not to say I wouldn’t have done it, but I was more than willing to make a jump and it felt like the right move based on the story someone, who I trusted, was telling me.
“Having a sense of purpose behind the things you do will make life more joyful.”
What do you wish somebody would have told you during your job search process?
I think having direction is most important. This links back to a few books. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl and Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. Having a sense of purpose for everything that you do will make life a lot easier and more joyful. If you are so fortunate to have that direction, vision or mission, being able to link your next steps to that purpose will make the experience different than thinking something is the means to an end without knowing.
At every stage of the process, I was means-driven, if I take certain steps it will lead to these results, rather than focusing on the end goals of being financially stable, learning a lot in my job and being around people I care about. That would have opened up more creativity in terms of what are the options available. This idea is borrowed from another book Getting To Yes written as part of the Harvard Negotiation Project on interests versus positions. It urges you to ask yourself what you truly care about and how it translates into the job, and then how to creatively find positions that might satisfy that. I wish I had done more work on direction up front and been more expansive in my thinking.
“For those people who might be telling themselves stories like I will only be worthwhile if I do XYZ, stop.”
You mentioned telling yourself a story and seeking external validation. What do you want current undergrads to know about that?
In terms of telling yourself a story, the advice I would give is to ask yourself how you can be aware of the assumptions you are making and then start to be curious about them. For example, I confused getting the offer from Bain with being happy and had linked the two together. I wish I had been more open about my options and holding up my self-esteem whether or not I got the job offer. So much of the job recruitment process is out of your control. I should have delinked my happiness from the outcomes of a random roll of the dice.
With the external validation piece, it’s going to sound simple, but it’s reminding yourself that you are enough. You don’t need X stamp on your resume to be you, to earn love, worthiness and esteem. This idea is borrowed from Tal Ben-Shahar, who taught a positive psychology course at Harvard for undergraduate students. It’s about unconditional self-esteem. You will be fine if you get this job or don’t get this job, and actually, you will be phenomenally well off. I told myself this story that I will only be happy or feel intelligent if I get this role. The stakes I created were too high for the situation. For those people who might be telling themselves stories like I will only be worthwhile if I do XYZ, stop. Be aware of that story you are telling yourself. Be curious, be playful and see if there are other paths.
Do you think there are any projects students should tackle, inside or outside of class, to help them figure out their purpose, to differentiate themselves and be more human?
I would suggest you do your best to put on paper what you think it is, then experiment and get experience. Through action comes inspiration. Start doing things and see how they feel. Do whatever you can to test those hypotheses. There also are exercises you can go through to lay out what you think your mission and purpose are. There’s a website called “Lessons From My 20s” by Ryan Allis with some exercises and advice along those lines.
Go prototype and go experience. Get the dirt under your fingernails. Through action comes inspiration. Get outside your dorm room. Go see if something feels right for you. If you want to do consulting, go to the consulting skills workshop, do the case competition, go find a small business owner and say, I am a young energetic WashU student that wants to give you free labor and here are a few projects I can do for you. This is essentially your internship, so do this before the formal internship to experiment and test your assumptions.
“Unless you deem yourself weird in many areas of consumption, you are probably living a suboptimal life.”
What other wisdom would you want to share with current undergrads?
There’s this blog post by a successful venture capital investor named Paul Graham called “The Acceleration of Addictiveness.” The idea is that we are very fortunate to have the opportunity to over consume in a variety of ways, whether it’s food, alcohol, video games, dating apps, etc. Too often, it’s the socio-validated norm. His idea is that in most areas, the accepted norm is probably more than what is good for you. His theory, which I believe, is that in most areas, the accepted norm is probably too much for you. Unless you deem yourself weird in many areas of consumption, you are probably living a suboptimal life. For example, this is a long way of saying I drank too much in college. I ate too much and didn’t exercise enough. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your environment. So I think it’s important to decide how much of a certain activity you want in your life and make sure that no matter what you decide that you are still serving your purpose. I was unconscious and going with what other people were doing. I could have designed my own life, rather than accepting the life of the average WashU guy in the Olin School.