Meet McKinsey’s MBA Class Of 2017

Ellen Sleeman

McKinsey Office: Chicago

Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

MBA Program: Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management

Undergraduate School, Major: Harvard, Psychology & Cognitive Neuroscience

Focus of current engagement: Consumer decision journey for a large financial institution.

Why did you choose McKinsey? Two main reasons: growth and freedom.

Throughout recruiting, I was consistently impressed by McKinsey consultants. Every person was exceptional — bright, passionate, interesting beyond belief — yet completely down-to-earth. I knew working with and learning from such an inspirational group of colleagues would be both an intellectual challenge and an unparalleled growth opportunity. Additionally, I recognized that McKinsey’s training programs and people development processes are best-in-class.

By freedom, what I mean is this – at McKinsey, you create your own path. Stay in Chicago and build a local network, or pursue a once-in-a-lifetime international opportunity. Explore different industries via a ‘random walk’, or specialize in your area of passion. With the resources of McKinsey, the possibilities are endless. You can’t find this level of control over your destiny or this breadth of opportunity anywhere else.

What lesson from business school best prepared you for your career in consulting at McKinsey? In business school, every student comes with their own individual set of experiences. This is one of the most valuable aspects of business school – the collaborative nature of the coursework and the interactions you have with your peers are as pivotal to the learning experience as the lectures. The same is true with consulting at McKinsey – the diversity of backgrounds and variety of interests among your colleagues are the most powerful sources of knowledge available. You will learn from every person, on every team.

Tell us about an “only at McKinsey” moment you’ve had so far.  In the Wall Street Journal this fall, a photo in the business section caught my eye – there was Dom (Dominic Barton, the global managing partner of the firm), sitting with Sheryl Sandberg, featured in an article about women in the workplace and the road to gender equality. McKinsey has been at the forefront of the business world driving awareness around gender parity, undertaking research, partnering with Lean In — I remember feeling immense pride in the firm scanning that article. Only at McKinsey is the firm not only delivering impact for clients, as consultants do, but driving toward change on critical social issues.

What advice would you give to someone interviewing at McKinsey? First, be your authentic self during your interview (albeit, the most structured, insightful and intelligent version of your authentic self). There is no one formula that gets you to McKinsey, so let your personality shine through. Treat your interviewer as though they’re the partner on your case, and you’re live problem-solving in the team room. Engage them, as if you’re working through the problem together.

Second, get to know the firm, and have a handle on why McKinsey — and why consulting in general — is the right place for you. Be diligent in learning the nuances of different firms, and push to uncover the true differentiators rather than building impressions from the stereotypes you’ve inevitably heard.

What do you expect to be doing in 5-10 years? I expect to be solving interesting, challenging problems in an intellectually stimulating environment – and working on something for which I have a genuine passion. I want to be learning every day, and having fun every day. Based on my McKinsey experience thus far, there’s a definite possibility that I’ll still be at the firm… but who knows.

My greatest personal or professional accomplishment is…getting hired at McKinsey. Only kidding (…kind of). I’d say my biggest accomplishment is the fact that I’ve been able to successfully maintain balance between my personal and professional lives – one result has been qualifying for the Boston Marathon, which I’ll be running this April.

A fun fact about me is…I have a tenuous relationship with ‘fun facts’, and have never landed on the perfect go-to. For today, I’ll go with this – if I could try any job for one day, I’d want to put together the highlight reels that play before and during big sports games on ESPN.

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