At its heart, McKinsey is a learn-by-doing operation, an accelerated learning methodology based on intensive feedback and exposure to senior leadership from day one. In this apprenticeship culture, McKinsey stakeholders take the time to sit down to share the tips-and-tricks of the trade.
“I can confidently say you’re never going to get mentored anywhere else the way you will at McKinsey,” asserts Teichner. “It’s part of our culture, it’s who we are.” “We have formal programs that even start while people are interviewing by matching many candidates with a McKinsey mentor to help them through the process. The informal and natural tendency for our people to form mentoring relationships is even stronger and is what takes my breath away sometimes.”
A NEVER-ENDING LEARNING LOOP
Teichner isn’t alone in his assessment. “It does leave me speechless how many people at McKinsey have taken an interest in me, taken time to teach me, to advocate for me, and wanted what was best for me,” adds Jane Chun.
The formal mentoring doesn’t end after associates get comfortable, adds Strobel, who joined the firm in September. She has supplemented her formal mentors by seeking out like-minded peers. “For me, it was finding the people who are investing in my success here – and that’s been finding special interest groups, such as veterans, who understand my language.”
Training is also an ongoing process at McKinsey. The firm maintains a portal called Learn, online courses workshops that enable consultants to hone their skills in areas like digital proficiency. It also hosts Learning Journeys, week-long workshops where consultants can travel to sites like Tokyo or New York City to take deep dives into broad topics like leadership. Many times, such training occurs during key points in a consultant’s career path. One such milestone is EM College, an event for individuals who earn promotions to engagement manager.
“Even partners and senior partners who have been around McKinsey for a long time often cite EM College as one of their favorite times at the firm,” adds Teichner. “EM College, held in Cambridge, UK, combines a celebration and recognition of our engagement managers as well as further prepares them to lead, develop and grow.”
McKINSEY MOMENTS SERVE AS RITES OF PASSAGE
Not surprisingly, the Class of 2018 has already raced out of the gate. They are key members of teams working on merger integrations, distribution network redesigns, and portfolio management in industries like medical devices, luxury goods, and energy. Tabitha Strobel, for example, is helping a client spearhead a large scale, bottom up transformation that touches every inch of their operation. For her, the best part has been making an impact, working side-by-side with her client and then watching her contributions become integral and lasting. This dynamic recently hit home during a client strategy session.
“We sat down together and started brainstorming to tackle this messy problem,” she tells P&Q. “It was impromptu. We were trading ideas back-and-forth, going to the whiteboard and creating a sloppy but impactful answer on the spot. Not only were we thought partners, but it was great to see the other person so invested in the solution. We would pass the pen as we were grasping for answers. It was so energizing.”
Such points are affectionately referred to as “McKinsey Moments” in the firm. They are events, large and small, where joiners internalize the culture or come into their own. For Paul Gabriel, that moment came during the second week of his first engagement. After putting the final touches on a PowerPoint deck, a partner called with a special request: he needed to present his analysis to the client’s CIO – and he had ten minutes to get ready. “At that moment, I truly realized the extent to which McKinsey empowers its people. After the initial shock, I remember thinking to myself that I knew I was in the right place.”
PRACTICING WHAT YOU PREACH
As a partner, Warren Teichner doesn’t just savor one moment. Over time, he has enjoyed witnessing the same satisfying pattern repeat itself. “My favorite moment has been watching people I hired as summer associates join, develop, and ultimately become partners or even leave to do something new, meaningful, and cool.”
This supportive ethos permeates McKinsey’s leadership ranks, where managers are expected to personify the very best virtues of the company culture. Jordan Nelson, an engagement manager in the Chicago office, is one such role model – a leader who makes the job as rewarding as it is fun according to Tom Wichman.
“He embodies what it means to be selfless. In a lot of corporate roles, politics and hierarchy can influence leader behavior. At McKinsey, I’ve noticed a premium put on service: Service to clients, service to your team, and service to finding the best answer. Jordan exemplifies this service-first mentality ensuring everyone is successful regardless of their experience, role, or needs. It’s a refreshing look at leadership.”
SCALE = OPPORTUNITY
This leadership extends far beyond personnel. The largest and oldest of the MBB firms, McKinsey & Company stretches to 120 offices in over 60 nations. Its clients include many of the top Fortune 100 companies, with a 30,000 member alumni roll that features Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and author Jim Collins. The firm was also the pioneer behind disruptive models like the Nine-Box Matrix and the 7-S Framework. Chances are, several miraculous turnarounds profiled in the Wall Street Journal had its start on a McKinsey whiteboard.
Last year alone, the firm brought in 400 MBA summer interns, most of whom returned to the firm after receiving full-time offers. Overall, McKinsey added 1,100 MBAs to the employment rolls in 2018, ranking it among the biggest consumers of business school talent.
At the same time, the firm boasts a wide array of expertise – 23 industry practices in all. In the 2018 Vault Consulting 50 survey, industry practitioners ranked McKinsey as the top consulting firm in the economics, energy, finance, healthcare, management, operations, sales and management, retail, and strategy sectors. In other words, McKinsey wields a scale – in terms of a multinational footprint and business influence – that few organizations can hope to match.
“What’s really important about scale is that it translates into enormous depth, breadth and opportunity,” says Teichner. “Our people have the opportunity to work anywhere in the world – near home or on the other side of the world – and they can tap into a truly global network of experts and expertise, of research, of colleagues who work to serve clients and find the best answers to the most complex questions.”
NEVER BE ALONE OR THE “ODD MAN OUT”
This size enables newly-hired MBAs to leverage an encyclopedic wealth of knowledge for their clients. Lorelei Gertz, for one, touts the “culture of knowledge sharing across the firm,” noting that “any person in the firm is available for a quick chat at pretty much any time.” Even more, McKinsey consciously puts together diverse teams to bring the most wide-ranging solutions to the fore. In her first two engagements, Daphne Hemily’s teams were led by a human rights lawyer and a professional hockey player – individuals with different backgrounds who shared impressive communication skills and deeply-held values that made the transition between teams relatively seamless.
“I thrive in environments where each collaborator offers a distinct point of view, an interest to learn from new ideas, and an openness to debate toward a creative solution,” Hemily adds. “I have found this stimulation during team problem-solving sessions.”
This diverse team dynamic also fosters a sense of community. Yu Shimida, a Columbia MBA based in Tokyo, appreciates that McKinsey operates with teams that are more global than country-specific. As a result, he says, clients receive more inclusive solutions. For Tabitha Strobel, who considers her background to be “non-traditional,” this environment assured her early on that she’d never become “the odd man out.” Alas, there isn’t a particular “mold or profile” that makes a successful McKinsey consultant, says Warren Teichner. Instead, the baseline involves problem-solving and teamwork, with the latter’s significance rooted in “communication, relationship-building, and collaboration.”
Go to Page 3 for In-Depth Profiles of 14 McKinsey Hires