Meet McKinsey’s MBA Class Of 2018

Matilda Narulita

McKinsey Office: Jakarta

Hometown: Yogyakarta, Indonesia

MBA Program, Concentration: University of Michigan – Ross School of Business, Strategy and Emerging Markets

Undergraduate School, Major: Universitas Gadjah Mada, Chemical Engineering

Focus of current engagement: Procurement diagnostics

Why did you choose McKinsey? McKinsey fits with my personal and professional aspiration. When deciding between offers, I looked at three major criteria: people/culture, diversity in projects, and international exposure.

People/Culture: McKinsey and the people are compassionate and inclusive. I’ve been very open about my condition as a cancer survivor since the beginning of my job application. Instead of seeing me as a burden, the interviewers and people I’ve been working with embrace my situation and help me navigate my McKinsey experience.

Diversity in Projects: McKinsey offers not only a wide variety of industries and functions I can work in and learn more about but also a strong energy exposure I can focus on.

International Exposure: McKinsey allows me to work with people from multinational backgrounds and in international locations, especially since I joined in Southeast Asia. During my internship, my teammates came from six nationalities. I continue working with people from diverse backgrounds and now I have an exciting study lined up for me out of my home country.

What did you love about the business school you attended? The people, the hands-on experiences, and the strong American football culture!

Recruiting is an important aspect of our MBA journey and, most of the time, we compete with each other to get into the available spots. However, it amazed me that our camaraderie was strong and people were excited to help each other succeed through the peer-coaching system. It was only at Michigan Ross where I got the chance to work with a North Korean organization and a rural India-based company to solve their most challenging issues. Growing up with zero knowledge of football, my American friends often invited me to their football-watching parties and helped me understand the game better; it really allowed me to connect with them on a personal level.

What lesson from business school best prepared you for your career in consulting at McKinsey? The best lessons come from the projects I did, some of which resemble real projects at McKinsey. When I worked remotely with a North Korean client with bureaucracy challenges and lack of access to information, it taught me to think on my feet, have a very structured and clear idea on what the problems are, and propose potential solutions. This way, I can make the best out of the opportunity to talk to the client. During my trip to visit a client in rural India, my team and I, who initially didn’t know each other, had to adapt our personal and working styles in a very short time and build connections to ensure we could collaborate well. At McKinsey, I will work with people I haven’t met before, who come from diverse backgrounds and bring their own perspective plus potentially going to place we’re not familiar with (which can be great fun too). I can apply what I learned from my India experience and now adapt quickly to new people and environments.

Tell us about an “only at McKinsey” moment you’ve had so far. When I was on my 6th week of my internship at McKinsey, I had to undergo surgery out of the country for a tumor and it freaked me out. It was probably my only chance to get into McKinsey full time and being sick was not part of the plan. I was so afraid to tell my engagement manager about my situation, but it turned it was out the best decision I made. He quickly communicated to the Partner about my condition and they talked to me personally about a similar situation they went through. I felt supported and accepted, especially since many of my cancer-fighting friends got laid off after their employers found out about their illness.

There were two things I learned the most from my teammates: “Don’t suffer in silence” and “Here, everyone wants you to succeed”. They are applicable not only to personal adversities but also during the challenges we face in our work. If anything, I feel privileged to experience this situation, so I can understand first-hand McKinsey’s supportive culture. On the day before the surgery, the clients bid farewell for me and told me they couldn’t wait to see me again in their office after I recovered. My teammates gave me a present that always reminds me of the amazing time I spent with the amazing people. And what was most exciting was when the Partner called me to let me know I got the return offer and encouraged me to not see my adversities as weaknesses, but as opportunities to grow.

What advice would you give to someone interviewing at McKinsey? Before the interview, make sure you understand what McKinsey is looking for and how your past and current experiences fit into it. Practice both the case interview and the personal experience interview and connect with McKinsey consultants in the office you want to join to understand consulting life better. Recruiters will always be glad to help you connect with other McKinsey people to get to know the firm better.

During the interview, do the case interview as if you were discussing it with a real client, be genuinely curious about the challenges they face, and bring your personality to the table.

Who has had the biggest impact on you at McKinsey and how has she/he helped you? Although I still have a short tenure at McKinsey, my personal and professional development in the past few years has been heavily influenced by McKinsey consultants and alumni. Specifically, I look up to Phillia Wibowo, the Managing Partner of the Jakarta office. She started as the first local graduate McKinsey hired in Jakarta and has worked to become the first female partner in Indonesia. When I was deciding between offers, Phillia took time to talk to me and shared an important insight: a consultant has the privilege to connect different parties that otherwise would not connect or work together and create long-term impact. I’m eager to learn more from her and understand what it takes as a woman leader to influence people and inspire them to grow.

My greatest personal or professional accomplishment is…When I decided to fight through cancer stage 3B and continue thriving in life. I got diagnosed with cancer in 2014, during my most productive age, and was forced to rethink how I would make use of my remaining time.

Throughout my 12 chemotherapy sessions, I created a work plan to help me prepare my application and adjusted my schedule to the patterns of chemo’s side effects; easy tasks like administrative stuff during bad days and more difficult tasks like writing an essay during my good days.

In the end, I was awarded a full-ride scholarship to pursue my MBA study in the US. In the first year of my MBA, I received offers from the top three consulting firms, which was something I didn’t have the courage to dream of. “That which does not kill us makes us stronger”, Nietzsche famously said. Cancer has taught me to change stumbling blocks into stepping stones. My experience reinforces my passion to create impact for other people, especially cancer fighters and survivors, and encourage them to fight because there is hope after a cancer diagnosis.

A fun fact about me is…I won a 5,000-mile flight lottery from a local U.S. airline last year. I was supposed to sit in the window seat, but someone in the middle seat insisted that he sit on the window one. I usually defend my seat, but I was too tired since the flight was delayed until almost midnight. I then took the middle seat and slept for half an hour, until I woke up with the flight attendant and many passengers clapped at me. Turned out, my flight had a lottery in one of the seats, and it was in my middle seat! It was so satisfying to smile back at the person who took my seat and lost his lottery. (I remembered him every time I used the mileage to visit places in the States like Miami, Las Vegas, and Alaska).

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