Meet McKinsey’s MBA Class Of 2018

Paul Gabriel

McKinsey Office: Dubai

Hometown: Beirut, Lebanon

MBA Program: INSEAD

Undergraduate School, Major: American University of Beirut, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Focus of current engagement: Establishing a national fund for the development of culture.

Why did you choose McKinsey? At the risk of sounding cliché, it all came down to two reasons: impact and the ability to learn and discover. I wanted a career that would allow me to derive meaning from my everyday tasks and to positively impact those around me while constantly challenging and developing my mindset. Coupled with the fact that I didn’t want to specialize in a specific industry made McKinsey the perfect choice for me. The firm’s scale and global reach meant I could work on groundbreaking projects across all sectors and industries.

What did you love about the business school you attended? It’s hard to pick one element, but if I were to choose it would be the people at INSEAD and their diversity. It created a fantastic melting pot on campus, with endless opportunities to see new perspectives and discover new cultures. I was truly impressed by the speed at which a group of strangers from all over the world built such a tightly knit community. Plus, it really helps to know locals when you’re traveling!

What lesson from business school best prepared you for your career in consulting at McKinsey? Being honest with yourself and acknowledging what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. At INSEAD, I was often thrown out of my comfort zone, and I quickly realized it was OK not to always have the answer as long as you admit it and ask for help. At McKinsey, you’re constantly challenged by new and exciting problems. Sometimes you solve them easily, and sometimes you find difficulties and feel you’re stuck. In these situations, I’ve noticed that the sooner you reach out for help, the easier it is to get unstuck and the more successful you’ll be.

Tell us about an “only at McKinsey” moment you’ve had so far. It was week two of my first engagement. I’d just finished my first PowerPoint document and was reviewing it one last time. The partner walks into the team room and tells me he’s scheduled an impromptu meeting with the client’s CIO in the next 10 minutes and he wants me to present my analysis. 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.

What advice would you give to someone interviewing at McKinsey? Relax and don’t overstress. By the time the interview arrives, you’re probably ready enough and doing an additional case won’t help much anymore. Just be yourself with the interviewer and remember that she or he is genuinely interested in getting to know you. You won’t make a great impression if you’re just anxious to get out of the room so enjoy, ask questions, and show who you are.

Who has had the biggest impact on you at McKinsey and how has she/he helped you? I’d say my first engagement manager. As a new joiner at McKinsey, you face a steep learning curve and high expectations. He managed to smooth out the learning process by regularly taking time to coach me and teach me the ins-and-outs of the job. We’d frequently talk about my goals and ambitions and he often went of his way to create opportunities that would allow me to reach my ambitions. We remain very close to this day and I often call him to seek his advice for my next staffing opportunity.

My greatest personal or professional accomplishment is…helping manage a 400-student community school and turn its situation around to achieve financial sustainability and independence.

A fun fact about me is…I started a natural soap company roughly three years ago. I don’t play a very active role in it anymore, but still, give it a few hours every week.

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