McKinsey & Company has been called the gold standard of management consulting. The largest and oldest of the “Big Three,” the McKinsey name is associated with prestige and expertise – the place where the top companies head for sure-fire organizational fixes from future CEOs. For many, a stint at McKinsey is comparable to earning a second MBA; it is an accelerated learning lab where consultants are exposed to the best minds in the widest range of industries and business models.
It can be an intimidating pace at first. The 30,000 member McKinsey alumni network, whose ranks run from Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg to Morgan Stanley’s James Gorman, is a veritable who’s who of business, academia, and even politics. Despite its reach, scale, and influence, it is the McKinsey culture – a flat, future-focused meritocracy – that made it a go-to destination for top MBAs from the Class of 2017 to McKinsey. On average, 95% of summer MBA interns who receive an offer from McKinsey ultimately join – and it’s easy to understand why.
“NO BOSS, NO ORG CHART, NO PROBLEM”
Farah Dilber, a Haas graduate who works out of the San Francisco office, positions the appeal succinctly: “No boss, no org chart, no problem.” In other words the job is, in some ways, a “Make your own McKinsey,” where consultants are only limited by their imagination and ambition. “Even as an associate, we’re encouraged to have an ownership mindset – to pursue our passions, build out leading edge capabilities, or start a new venture,” Dilber adds.
What makes a McKinsey consultant? By the looks of the 2017 class, it can be anyone, provided they possess the requisite intangibles: the curiosity to look beyond the simple solution; the passion to take on the biggest challenges; the tenacity to work through ambiguity and complexity; the humility to work in a team dynamic; and the courage to make an impact. You’ll find those virtues at McKinsey whether consultants hold advanced degrees from Stanford and Harvard – or majored in history or studied at a football factory.
The class may be bold and brainy, but they weren’t always dapperly-attired experts. Stanford’s Kate O’Gorman treated Halloween as a national holiday, decking herself out as a peacock, alien, and even a dirty fork. Molly Duncan, a Darden grad who works out of the Charlotte office, is a miniature golf aficionado; her idea of a honeymoon – a putt-putt tour – was nixed by her fiancé. Dilber had more than a brush with celebrity: she once served as the personal chauffeur for the rapper Ludacris. If you’re working in McKinsey’s New York office, consider it an honor if Kat Recto leaves a cookie on your desk. “I find baking therapeutic,” she says. “I have a secret recipe for chocolate chip cookies I bake for people I care about. If I bake for you, you must be special.”
FROM SCALING MOUNT KILIMANJARO…TO SURVIVING A CHICAGO WINTER
For many, business school represents a time to make a career change. Then again, INSEAD’s Pedro Franco has always been ahead of the curve. His first transition happened when he was just 15. Back then, he had his heart set on becoming a surgeon. While witnessing a surgery and shadowing rounds hardly dissuaded him, the final stop on his hospital tour gave him pause. “The dean of the med school decided to finish the tour in style: he opened a metal door in the basement and there, before me, were more than 30 bodies lying on tables, ready to be dissected by students,” he recalls. “A few weeks later, I decided I was going to become an engineer and learn how to build bridges and tunnels instead.”
….Or climb mountains. That’s one of Rafael Araujo’s passions. A Kellogg MBA, Araujo’s biggest accomplishment was hiking the legendary Mount Kilimanjaro. In April, Ellen Sleeman, one of Araujo’s classmates, will be running the Boston Marathon. Looking for leadership? Duncan spent her second year at Darden as the class president. Want impact? Dilber, a member of Teach for America before business school, takes her greatest pride in teaching a 4th grader how to read.
Then again, all of these accomplishments pale in comparison to what Shaina Milleman endured. “As a native South Carolinian, [it was] making it through five Chicago winters,” jokes the Booth grad.
A PLACE TO BREAK OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE – AND BLAZE A UNIQUE PATH
Currently, the Class of 2017 is busy on projects that run from optimizing supply chains to developing strategy on the ‘internet of things.’ What drew students to McKinsey? For Franco, it was a place to take calculated risks and grow. He notes that his first two projects involved developing a new operational model to break oil production battlements in West Africa and designing a strategy to help a European bank enhance its advanced analytics capabilities. Both came in areas where he had zero experience. ‘[They] placed me outside my comfort zone, allowing me to learn about subjects I had never heard of. That’s what I wanted – to stretch – when I came out of my MBA.”
Araujo doesn’t want to just stretch himself, He wants to upend the status quo entirely – a welcome sentiment in a traditional thought leader like McKinsey. “With the business world ripe for innovation and disruption, companies will be seeking help to develop strategies that disrupt the marketplace and adapt their business model to consumers’ changing behavior,” he explains. “McKinsey’s history and its efforts to develop capabilities in areas like digital, advanced analytics, and big data position the firm and our people really well for the days to come.”
For Sleeman, McKinsey exemplifies two fundamentals inherent to every great business culture: growth and freedom. By growth, she means the chance to spend time with “exceptional” talent who are “bright, passionate, [and] interesting beyond belief” – a benefit that is amplified by “best-in-class” training and development programs. At the same time, Sleeman believes the firm is large and diverse enough to enable her to blaze her own path. “With the resources of McKinsey, the possibilities are endless,” she observes. “You can’t find this level of control over your destiny or this breadth of opportunity anywhere else.”
INFORMAL NETWORKS CREATE OPPORTUNITIES TO FOLLOW PASSIONS
In a February interview with Poets&Quants, Kristin Lostutter, manager of U.S. MBA recruiting at McKinsey, echoed Sleeman on the appeal of the firm’s deep resources. “Because of the scope and scale, we have a huge advantage. Students are coming into one of our 22 industry practices. We’re working in every business function, including digital, marketing, and the social sector. Beyond that, they’re also able to go into these growing areas of the firm like technology. Not only are students able to come in and take advantage of those opportunities, but we’re able to bring more to our clients to create that meaningful impact than ever before.”
Many times, these resources are available through informal channels. That was one of the biggest surprises for O’Gorman when she arrived at McKinsey’s Cleveland office. Due to the firm’s spread out structure, she wondered if she could really connect with peers who shared her interest in state healthcare systems and Medicaid. Within months, she explains in a March interview with P&Q, she had already plugged into a tight-knit subnetwork that stretched from California to New Jersey.
Go to Page 3 for In-Depth Profiles of 12 McKinsey Hires