FEELING DEVASTATED WHEN MCKINSEY IN PARIS AND LONDON REJECTED HIM
“I remember being broke as a newlywed. Every dollar Claire and I spent was borrowed from the bank. I remember the devastation of being rejected by McKinsey Paris and McKinsey London, then BCG, and then Microsoft. And then I remember the exhilaration of the offer from Bain, and then United Technologies, and Procter & Gamble. I went back to McKinsey and said, ‘By the way, I got all these other offers. Do you want to rethink those rejections from Paris and London?’ And I got an offer from McKinsey New York.
“I know what it means to have to work for your education because I paid for it myself. But most of all I remember the amazing faculty and the classmates and all the life options that it created for me. It was one of the best times and one of the most important times of my life and one of my sincere wishes and hopes that I am going to work for every day is to make you feel the same way that I felt when I graduated, that everything is possible.”
Joining McKinsey in 1989, Beardsley proved a fast rising rock star, elected partner in 1995 and senior partner 4½ years later – among the fastest to rise to senior partner. He became one of the firm’s experts in deregulation and privatization, helping telecom companies all over the world prepare themselves for market competition. Ultimately, he was given a key role at McKinsey to head the firm’s strategy practice. Over a seven-year period in that job, Beardsley helped to develop the next generation of ideas for clients. For the past five years, he led McKinsey’s learning and leadership development initiative for all of its employees.
‘MCKINSEY IS SUCH AN AMAZING CONCENTRATION OF TALENT’
He says it was both hard and easy to leave McKinsey behind. “In some ways it is very hard to leave your life long friends and an organization with such an amazing concentration of talent. McKinsey was wonderful to me. I am very grateful for my experience there. On the other hand, I felt that I had achieved everything I wanted there and I wanted to go out at my peak. I came to realize that the thing that gives me the greatest meaning in life is to help outstanding people achieve their potential. I wanted to be able to do that full time and it felt like the right time to start a new chapter.”
His desire to transition into a new opportunity may have been signaled by an earlier decision to pursue an executive doctorate in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania, a degree he gained in May. Beardsley says he intends to leverage the knowledge gained in that program in his new job, and it should be particularly helpful. He studied leadership transitions in higher education, particularly university presidents from non-academic backgrounds.
That will certainly come in handy. For Beardsley, everything seems possible.