McKinsey Office: London
Hometown: Sao Paulo, Brazil
MBA Program: INSEAD
Undergraduate School, Major: Escola Politécnica da Universidade de Sao Paulo, Civil Engineering.
Focus of current engagement: Building a roadmap to improve bank employees’ advanced analytics skills.
Why did you choose McKinsey? I wanted to take the MBA opportunity to switch careers and geographies. After much reflection during the first half of my MBA, I decided I wanted to get into consulting and McKinsey became my target, given its global reach and the opportunities for meaningful work. I knew if I joined, I would constantly be challenged and get work on genuinely interesting projects.
In my first project I was responsible for developing a bottleneck analysis for oil production and extraction units, analyzing service contracts and designing a new operating model for an operation in West Africa. My second project involved designing a roadmap on how to build proficiency in advanced analytics within a European bank in the next two years.
Both projects were in areas I hadn’t worked before, and 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.
What lesson from business school best prepared you for your career in consulting at McKinsey? In the first four months at INSEAD, students are placed in groups of five or six with different professional backgrounds and nationalities – my group had an American, Australian, Greek, Russian, Indian, and a Brazilian. We went through the process of building a real working contract for our diverse group, setting up meetings, discussing cases, and going through an exam together. In this sense, the skills I gained from dealing with different personalities and understanding and respecting other people’s limits was important. This also helped me understand my own limits and I think this is what best prepared me for McKinsey.
Projects can be short and the teams are composed of people from different backgrounds and nationalities; the same way it happened at INSEAD. In the first session of the project, the team has a discussion about norms where we talk about our personalities, working preferences, learning objectives, and goals. For example, twice a week I try to be home early enough to have dinner with my kids and put them to bed. This is something I specified in my last two projects. This expectation was considered perfectly acceptable and, most importantly, has been respected by my colleagues. Being able to set reasonable limits and not feel guilty about them has contributed to a sustainable work-life balance for me.
Tell us about an “Only at McKinsey” moment you’ve had so far. I am impressed by how horizontal and truly global McKinsey is. During my last project, I had calls with partners from around the world to discuss contract pricing and organization benchmarking. The fact that all of us feel comfortable to express our ideas, independent of our tenure, is extremely motivating. 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 that will ultimately help a client.
What advice would you give to someone interviewing at McKinsey? First, make sure you really try to understand McKinsey. Read the website and reach out to people at the firm to understand what the work is about. It’s important to know what you are getting into, and have an idea if you are going to like it.
Second, practice cases but don’t overdo it. From my experience, you should aim at practicing 15-20 before first round interviews. I saw many people start to practice cases in the first months of the MBA. Most managed to make it, but those who started a couple of months before recruiting season were equally as effective. The MBA is supposed to be fun as well, so don’t miss out on the travel, the epic parties, or working on cases for classes.
Third, the personal experience part of your interview is equally as important as the case study. Think carefully about what you want to share and take time to sit down with others to refine your stories to make them interesting and genuine. I spent many hours thinking about my stories and running them through my wife and five different colleagues. Spontaneity is good and should still be there, but remember you are competing against hundreds of people for a spot and you have one chance to stand out.
What do you expect to be doing in 5-10 years? I don’t think I can plan too far ahead. Three years ago, if someone asked me where I would be today, I wouldn’t have guessed I would be based in London and working for McKinsey after having completed an MBA.
This is one of the great lessons I learned from my MBA experience: anything can happen. I will prioritize working with people I enjoy spending time with, whom I can learn from and in areas that interest me. McKinsey is somewhere that gives me the opportunity to tick all these boxes. My background is in banking and now I have been working in projects that touch completely new subjects with a new way of working.
I hope in the next 5-10 years I will benefit from the experience gained from working in completely different industries and apply them in an industry or function in a McKinsey context.
My greatest personal or professional accomplishment is…Managing to successfully move together with my wife and then two-year-old twin boys, which was coordinated (as a family) from Brazil to Europe for INSEAD. Both my wife and I attended MBA as students in the same cohort and neither of us felt we were giving up much. When we started planning, back in the second half of 2015, we wanted to change jobs and gain international working experience, but we gained so much more.
Apart from moving with my entire family and getting an MBA done in-between, both of us had to go through the application process, study for the GMAT, write all the essays, be accepted in the same school, and find nurseries and housing. When the MBA was ending, we both had to apply to companies in the same city, plan our definitive move from Brazil, and (again) select new schools for the boys and find housing. The whole process was an emotional rollercoaster with many ups and downs. Success for my wife sometimes didn’t mean success for me and vice-versa but, as a family, we got to know each other even better and grew stronger from this experience. I must mention that the boys helped us a lot –they were superstars at adapting to new schools and learning local languages.
A fun fact about me is…At the age of 15, I wanted to become a surgeon so my Headmaster booked me a visit to a hospital and med school in Sao Paulo. I watched a coronary bypass and spent a day with doctors doing rounds. But I changed my mind when 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. This just didn’t appeal for me… and a few weeks later I decided I was going to become an engineer and learn how to build bridges and tunnels instead.