Meet McKinsey’s MBA Class Of 2017

McKinseyites at San Francisco Pride Parade.


“As someone who graduated from Stanford and moved back to Cleveland,” I spent a lot of time explaining why I wanted to return home,” she recounts. “When I started talking to McKinsey folks, they were no longer asking, ‘Why would you want to move back to Cleveland?’ They just started helping me plan to make that happen. It made it feel as though I was bringing on a larger team that would help me develop and get to my main goal rather than just an employer that was determined to have me fit inside some wheel they were building.”

For O’Gorman, the McKinsey culture is encapsulated by the sense that everyone is in this together. This has fostered a certain fellowship in the ranks. In the Cleveland office, for example, everyone – even partners – make it a point to be on-site for a scheduled Friday lunch each month. Here, selected peers will stand up and share important bits about their lives, including their values and how they ended up at McKinsey.

“That was a very familiar type of thing when I think about TALK at Stanford,” where students do the same thing. That added so much to my Stanford experience, really being able to understand why people were excited to be here and what defined them. To see that in the Cleveland office just made me feel that much closer to my colleagues.”


McKinsey team selfie

Culture is often transmitted through such stories. When it comes to their “Most McKinsey Moment – an event or epiphany that revealed the values that encapsulated the McKinsey difference – the Class of 2017 had plenty of stories to share. Recto, for one, learned first-hand about McKinsey’s culture of dissent, where associates are encouraged – even expected – to speak up when client performance may potentially be compromised.

“I was in the middle of a meeting where I was the most junior member of the team,” Recto remembers. “The meeting was not directly related to my workstream, so I stayed in a corner of the room expecting to just listen in. The partner on my study moves his chair to the side and motions for me to join the circle. He also passes me a note encouraging me to speak up when I was comfortable doing so. That was a simple act that made a lasting impression on me and spoke volumes about this truly encouraging environment. People are inclusive and want to see you shine. Everyone has a voice, no matter your tenure or depth of expertise.”

The class’ interactions with senior management also taught them some key lessons. Near the end of his summer internship, Josh Durodola learned the value of humility and appreciation – from the CEO himself at a small reception. “[He] walked up to me and a couple of McKinsey colleagues and said to us: “Thank you, without you, we probably wouldn’t be here today, we wouldn’t even have our jobs,” recalls the Berkeley MBA.


Lostutter experienced a similar moment a few years earlier. “This stuck out to me, maybe because I’m on the recruiting side, but my very first hire eventually made partner at McKinsey. Before partner election results were announced, he called to thank me. He said, “You were such a driving force in getting me into the firm and been so supportive throughout this entire process.” That’s just another reason that keeps me here. It’s incredibly rewarding when you get to see those incredibly talented people get promoted.”

Others were surprised at how serious McKinseyites can cut loose outside the office. Youssef Rifi, a Dubai-based consultant who studied at the London Business School, struggled to reconcile how peers with “bulletproof reasoning” could spend the day solving the toughest problems and then play football together when it was all done. In Chicago, Milleman found herself rocking out to the McKinsey band during happy hour. “It made me stop and realize it doesn’t matter what the activity is or subject of discussion, someone around you is going to be amazingly and unexpectedly good in a really inspiring and energizing way.”

Teams meet for drinks after work.

And accessible too! That was the big takeaway for Franco when he reached out to partners over pricing and benchmarking issues. “The fact that all of us feel comfortable to express our ideas, independent of our tenure, is extremely motivating,” he asserts. “People are collaborative to the point that you can just shoot out an email to anybody in the firm to ask for a problem-solving session. I have talked with colleagues in Nigeria, America, Germany and Brazil. People you have never met make themselves available to discuss and contribute to a topic.”


What advice does the Class of 2017 for getting into McKinsey – and thriving once you arrive? Dilber urges MBA students to focus on their strengths during the interview process. “I was never going to impress McKinsey with my analytical skills,” she admits. “So, I got my case math to a passable level and then doubled-down on being crisp, clear, and calm in my communication—a skill that came far more naturally after years of teaching. Not only did my interviewers get a clear sense of the value I’d bring to my teams, but I also felt more confident throughout the day.”

Along those lines, Clarisse Liguori, a senior implementation coach operating out of the Sao Paulo office, advises candidates to be who they truly are – and let the rest happen naturally. “The personal interview is very important to express what you value most, how you see the world and what makes you tick,” says the INSEAD grad. “The personal interview also shows you what McKinsey values the most, how we see the world and what makes us tick. Being a cultural fit is as important as being a great problem-solver.”

For Milleman, the best path may be something she learned quickly as an MBA student at Booth. “Be willing to put your pride aside and admit when you need help,” she says. “Everyone in business school has an impressive background and a natural area of expertise. Depending on the class, you may be a rock star or you may be the person who feels like the only one hearing about a concept for the first time. Despite a little hit to my pride, I found I learned the most when I sought help from my classmates in subjects in which I had the least experience. At McKinsey, the pace of work is fast and the expectation to deliver is high – if you are struggling in a particular area, the sooner you admit it and ask for help, the more successful you’ll be.”


For read the profiles of newly-hired MBAs at McKinsey, including their advice on how to get into the firm, click on the links below. 

Name Office Hometown MBA Program
 Rafael Araujo  Sao Paulo  Salvador de Bahia, Brazil.  Northwestern (Kellogg)
 Farah Dilber  San Francisco  Atlanta, GA  U.C.-Berkeley (Haas)
 Molly Duncan  Charlotte  Greensboro, NC  University of Virginia (Darden)
 Josh Durodola  Atlanta  Jos, Nigeria  U.C.-Berkeley (Haas)
 Pedro Franco  London  Sao Paulo, Brazil  INSEAD
 Clarisse Liguori  Sao Paulo  Belo Horizonte, Brazil  INSEAD
 Shaina Milleman  Chicago  Charleston, SC  University of Chicago (Booth)
 Kate O’Gorman  Cleveland  Cleveland, OH  Stanford GSB
 Alessandro Perrone  Paris  Rome, Italy  INSEAD
 Kat Recto  New York City  Manila, Philippines  Northwestern (Kellogg)
 Youssef Rifi  Dubai  Casablanca, Morocco  London Business School
 Ellen Sleeman  Chicago  Atlanta, GA  Northwestern (Kellogg)