Jenny Davis-Peccoud heads the Global Social Impact Practice at Bain & Company. Recently, she has been helping to launch two firm-wide initiatives, focusing on education and global development. “I make sure we have the right infrastructure and commitments behind those initiatives,” she explains. “I’m also leading our push into corporate sustainability and responsibility issues, developing intellectual property around that, cultivating clients and building a network of partners around the world.”
Jenny has a unique role at Bain, one she designed herself. She is both senior director of the Global Organization practice and head of Bain’s Global Social Impact Program. Although the dual role requires long days and intense commitment, she strikes a balance by being deliberate. “The job will control you if you let it,” she says. “You have to set boundaries, and signal which commitments are really important to you. You’re making a choice every day.”
Choice is a recurring theme with Jenny. Her current role is one she chose for herself after some deliberation. “Several years ago, I realized that I wasn’t getting enough time to invest in my charity clients, and charitable work has been part of who I am since I was young. I was also struggling with work/life balance, saying yes to things that were making me unhappy. I negotiated a change for myself, shifting to a less intense job with more stable hours, where I could invest my time in the nonprofit side of things. I found a role within Bain that is fantastic for the things I want to be doing.”
That kind of career entrepreneurship is an approach Jenny advises that others take as well. “There is a lot of room for creativity and blazing your own trail,” she says. “If the role you want doesn’t exist, create it. Find a company where you can get some traction, and look for opportunities to lead.”
Jenny studied French as an undergraduate at Georgetown, worked three years at Bain, and then left to pursue her MBA at Harvard. Business school helped her gain a network, and a manager’s toolkit and a bit more sophistication. “When you first start out in consulting, you’re working with clients directly on their most challenging problems. Through the case study method at Harvard, I gained a wealth of knowledge of real-world examples.” Post-MBA, she returned to Bain, but this time in the London office, where she is based today.
Jenny credits her commitment to nonprofit, cause-driven work to the way she was raised. Her parents prioritized church on Sundays and community events, like book sales and fundraising auctions. “It was part of what you did as a kid in my house,” she says. “I didn’t think about it. That was where I came from.” She has spent more than a decade with the Business Action on Homelessness, creating work placement opportunities for people without homes. She takes satisfaction in knowing that her work at Bain allows her to motivate others to have an impact.
Jenny suggests that young women just starting out think about building mentoring relationships. “It’s important to have someone who can coach you to build the skills you need.” She is frank about the fact that she, like many women, has struggled with self-confidence. “Over the years, I’ve learned to control my reactions a lot more. I try to help women on my team do the same thing, taking a look at themselves from the outside, and postponing their self-criticism so they can get a perspective on any feedback or roadblocks..”
Jenny also advises keeping your options open. “I think women are really good at keeping lots of different pots simmering: family, friends, work, personal interests. It’s a hard job to balance all of those things. You have to understand that you make your choices every day. If you’re too focused on one pot, and it’s keeping you from other things, you need to ask yourself if it’s time for a change.”