Meet McKinsey’s MBA Class Of 2017

Kate O’Gorman

McKinsey Office: Cleveland

Hometown: Cleveland, OH

MBA Program: Concurrent MBA/MPA at Stanford GSB and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government

Undergrad School: Barnard College, Political Science

Focus of current case: Internet of things strategy for an industrial client

Why did you choose McKinsey? Working on veterans’ policy in Washington meant I often saw great leaders and good ideas stalled by the inertia of organizations. I went to business school to understand when and how large organizations actually change. The cross-industry opportunity to explore this in consulting drew me immediately, but it was the intense curiosity of the people I met at McKinsey that brought me to the firm.

I remember early conversations where McKinsey colleagues would excitedly share what surprised them on their studies. That same curiosity brought to understanding clients’ challenges has helped me understand my experience and interests. I remember one team conversation in particular, where I mentioned my work on veterans’ employment. Suddenly we had 5-6 pieces of paper around us, thinking through the pipelines from the military to different sectors. That same curiosity surrounds me at McKinsey today.

What lesson from business school best prepared you for your career in consulting at McKinsey? Two lessons stand out from GSB. The first is remembering to sequence the work learned in my negotiations courses. Focusing in on what will mean most early rather than flooding the zone with every issue has helped in problem solving, and also in working with teams and clients. Pausing to plan this well has been hugely helpful.

The other lesson, from Stanford’s famous Interpersonal Dynamics, is that you really can’t know what another person’s experience is. It’s easy to guess about the meaning of others’ reactions and attribute it to your own behavior, but Touchy Feely helped expose that no matter how intuitive you are, you won’t know the whole picture. Instead, leaning in and asking questions helps to break that down.

Tell us about an “only at McKinsey” moment you’ve had so far. During my summer at the firm, the Cleveland office held an event for Midwest summer inerns. At dinner, I found myself agreeing to take a colleague over to the Cleveland Museum of Art early the next morning.

I’d been to the museum maybe 100 times. It’s Cleveland’s pride and joy, other than LeBron James. We wandered through the Impressionists, and an exhibit on Middle Eastern art. On our way out, we passed the large touchscreen wall the museum had recently installed. My colleague, a digital experience expert, lit up. We explored the museum’s full collection, peppered the docent with questions on the wall, the art, and how kids were excited about this part of the museum. I left the museum knowing a place I thought I knew well far better.

What advice would you give to someone interviewing at McKinsey? Spend time thinking through your experiences to identify the moments that make you want to do this work. It was helpful in interviews, and it also helped me be purposeful about why I wanted be at the firm. I remember being so nervous about case prep that I tried to fit into a model of what I thought McKinsey wanted. Other times, I followed others’ advice about the multitude of opportunities available, allowing my own interests to become secondary. It wasn’t until I sat with potential new colleagues over coffee and spoke about family, or moments of joy and failure at work, that I clicked back into my purpose and felt I could bring myself into the interview.

What do you expect to be doing in 5-10 years? A significant part of what is challenging us today is the loss of faith in many institutions, be they government, political parties, employers, or the media. We’ve lost faith because many haven’t yet responded to new or evolving needs. I hope to be working with institutions closest to people’s lives, such as those in healthcare or government, to be more effective and more responsive to the people they serve and represent.

My greatest personal or professional accomplishment is…In 2014, I worked on a campaign that resulted in new legislation and initiatives to combat veteran suicide. What I valued most was the chance to coach and support the veteran leaders who bravely spoke about their toughest moments. Seeing their continued leadership continues to give me pride today.

A fun fact about me is…As a kid growing up, I loved a wacky Halloween costume. One year, I was a peacock, another an alien, then a stop light. My favorite of all was the year I was a dirty fork.

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