Audrey Hepburn was fond of saying, “Everything I learned, I learned from the movies.” Chances are, MBAs absorb plenty from cases, projects, extracurriculars, and networking. Based on the ongoing popularity of this story, movies can bring the most important business lessons to life. Even more, they give them a certain urgency – or what Anthony Burgess, author of A Clockwork Orange, calls color.
“It’s funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you watch them on a screen,” Burgess once wrote.
Published four years ago, the story was a contribution from Aditya Singhal, a serial entrepreneur and P&Q reader. A stripped down throwback, the story follows a simple formula: a short paragraph outlining the lesson and a pull quote from the movie. The result? Call it journalistic magic: a story trending towards a million page views by the end of 2019. From Wall Street to Citizen Kane, Singhal’s selections are a critical reminder of the long-standing truths that can sometimes be obscured by technology, ambition, and growth.
Who wouldn’t want to work in consulting? There is the exotic travel and the lavish pay. You avoid the hum-drum routines and learn something new every day. Yeah, consulting is an ego boost too, a chance to be an expert – a big shot – rubbing shoulders with company elite. That know-how and network makes for a smooth exit ramp to the c-suite.
Alas, every consulting firm has different tradeoffs. Those six figure salaries and coveted bonuses come with 80 hour work weeks in some organizations. In others, consultants are locked in place, with little mobility to move up. Let’s face it: for every firm that offers on-going formal training, there is another that simply toss their consultants into the ocean and pray they can navigate through the whitecaps (and Great Whites).
How do you know which consulting firms are best for you? That’s the motivation behind Vault’s Consulting 50, an annual survey of 17,000 practicing consultants that measures the leading firms in everything from prestige to practice areas to quality of life benchmarks. Not surprisingly, the holy trinity – McKinsey, Bain, and BCG – ranked as the top three firms (in that order). The real beauty of this piece is the explanations, as P&Q takes a deep dive into the data to show which firms are flourishing and floundering – and explaining the where and why behind it. Technically, the Vault 50 is a ranking. However, it also delivers unfiltered employee sentiment about their firms – and their competitors.
Anyone can tell you how to write an essay. Those lessons rarely sink in until you see an actual example. That’s exactly what P&Q delivered in 2017, when we posted successful essays from applicants in the Class of 2019. Pulled from Harvard Business School’s annual MBA Essay Guide, the story featured three examples, which came from an American soldier, a manufacturing engineer, and a healthcare consultant. Ranging from 937-1,358 words, the essays answer the most deceptively simple of all questions: “As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA program?”
Sure enough, each applicant approached the question in a different manner. The engineer, for example, opened up about his failures, outlining what happened before sharing what he learned and how he applied his lessons to later efforts. In contrast, the consultant laid out an example of how her leadership turned a fledgling project into a success. Two formulas, but the same result: an acceptance letter from HBS. As a bonus, the applicants revealed the process they used to write their essays too. Here is one example from the engineer:
“The essay took eight drafts over two months. I thought about what personal traits I wanted to share with the ADCOM and identified stories from my past that identified those traits. After two or three drafts, I’d figured out the right narrative and kept refining it, taking as much as a week to finalize each draft. My best advice is to be honest, start early, and have someone who knows what the ADCOMS are looking for to read.
Katie Brehm doesn’t really remember what happened on October 22nd. That night, she joined her Cluster A classmates at the Jane Hotel. It was supposed to be a celebration, a chance to blow off steam after mid-terms. After a Bulleitt Bourbon, the night became a blur for Brehm. Suffering a concussion after a fall – an experience shared by two female classmates – Brehm knew something had gone horribly wrong. Two days later, a medical exam confirmed her suspicions: she had been sexually assaulted.
Worse, her assailant was, she believes, one of her classmates.
It hasn’t been an easy time for Brehm, who came to Columbia Business School looking to transition into a luxury marketing career. Now, she has withdrawn from classes, risking her scholarship. While she has received an outpouring of support from classmates, the response from administration has been cautious and muted – a sign to her that the school may be more intent on protecting its brand than removing a sexual predator.
“In all likelihood,” she tells P&Q, “nothing will happen. It makes me want to try to change how rape crimes are investigated and prosecuted because victims are set up to fail.”
The McKinsey brand conjures up a lot of images. For most, it is the gold standard of management consulting, the birthplace of quantitative analysis and the training ground for CEOs. They are the oldest and most prestigious of the ‘Big Three’ consulting firms – and often depicted as the thought leaders where the Fortune 500 head for advice. Their secretive nature only adds to their mystique of power and privilege.
Behind the brand, you’ll find the people – some of whom are just starting out in their careers. They aren’t the buttoned-up contrarians you might expect. They hail from locales as different as San Salvador, Manila and Charleston – and studied disciplines ranging from neuroscience to chemical engineering to political science. Outside work, they’ve hiked Mount Kilimanjaro, chauffeured around Ludacris, and maintained an unquenchable thirst for…miniature golf. In a nutshell, they are the MBAs who joined McKinsey after graduating in 2017.
In March, P&Q profiled a dozen of these former students, covering everything from why they chose McKinsey to interview advice they’d give to prospective hires. Of course, they divulged their most “McKinsey moment” since joining the firm. The biggest takeaway: McKinsey is even more diverse than you might imagine – and far less top-down than you might be led to believe.
“No boss, no org chart, no problem,” jokes Farah Dilber, a Berkeley Haas MBA in the San Francisco office. “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.”