P&Q: You won’t be heading to campus as much then?
DB: That is currently our plan. Obviously, that depends on how the world unfolds. If there are places where we can go to campus, we will be a part of that as well. But we are being quite agile at this point in time and we will see what campuses allow; obviously, a lot of the schools we recruit at have already said the students won’t be on campus in the fall, so we will be adaptive to whatever school situation is looking for.
Just to be clear: We’re going to recruit at our typical levels in the fall, even if we aren’t going to physically be on every single campus.
P&Q: In terms of virtual recruiting and getting to know McKinsey better, how do you see that working and what will you be doing to facilitate those types of relationships?
DB: I can give you a couple of examples of things I have already been involved with. I was at a major undergraduate campus a few weeks ago. We hosted a Zoom-based Get-To-Know-McKinsey session. There were, I think, 10 partners on the call and people were able to ask us questions. We had breakout groups on specific topic areas that potential candidates were excited about. It was a great way for many of us to get to know a broader set of people and answer a broader set of questions in a relatively short period of time. I think the virtual world allows us do an awful lot more than the traditional world. Before, there was obviously travel time and all the work it takes for me to get to campus. Whereas now, I can do multiple events in the same amount of time from a travel perspective. In addition, we can be a lot more targeted in making sure the people with specific interests are able to speak to people who are like them or working in areas that they are excited about.
P&Q: Did McKinsey have to pull back any offers or push back any start dates as a result of the pandemic?
DB: No. For example, this summer we honored all of our offers and everyone has more or less started at this time and having great summer experiences. There were a couple of folks who had trouble for VISA reasons. They were either international or had trouble acquiring social security numbers who weren’t able to start as a result of that. So we paid them for their full summer and hope they do great things in the world. For the vast majority of our interns, they’re here and they’re working in the virtual world. We’ve been surveying them and talking to them early and they’re having great experiences. We’re really pleased with how our summer is going so far.
Editor’s Note: McKinsey has also honored all full-time offers this year.
P&Q: In response to COVID-19, many companies had to go to the work-from-home model where employees operated online. Talk to us about the transition to online. How are we able to operate using existing tools? How has going online has actually enhanced productivity and boosted teamwork and client relations?
DB: We’ve been virtual since March, myself included. I think, overall, it has been a relatively seamless and good experience, not only for our consultants but also for our clients. Our client work continues to be very strong. We’re very excited about the impact we’re able to have on the client side as well.
Part of the reason it has gone well for ourselves and our clients is that, first of all, we’ve been working virtually already. We’ve used Zoom for a while and we were very active and regular video conferencers even prior to the pandemic. Obviously, our adoption has increased even further. We’re used to doing quite a few things with people on various locations. Relative to a traditional workplace, the level of change is quite a bit less.
When I’ve talked to my own team, meaning my associates – the folks immediately out of an MBA – some of the things that they’ve really enjoyed is that they’ve been able to be in different locations over this time period, with family or places they felt they would be more comfortable. As a result, they’ve been able to work more flexible hours in some ways, so they’ve been very excited about that. They feel that the connectivity that Zoom has actually allowed them to feel like they are part of a team, contributing and having a great impact.
P&Q: How have you been able to facilitate McKinsey’s cultural mores, particularly creativity and equality, through an online environment?
DB: One of the things that’s great about these digital video platforms is that everybody’s box is the same. Everyone’s picture is the same there and everyone is represented on the screen in the same way.
These tools that we’d been using before COVID-19 have some incredible features that really help us. This morning, I was on with the team and I was using the Virtual Whiteboard feature within Zoom. I was sitting there drawing a picture and a member of my team was actually adapting it. We use the breakout features quite regularly with clients that allow us to do that. There are people who are drawing pictures on paper and then holding it up to the screen. A lot of the creativity and problem-solving that we value tremendously has just been enabled in much the same ways in the virtual environment. Because everyone is virtual, it means that everyone is on an equal footing from that perspective.
It has worked out quite well. Our clients have also commented that they’ve been surprised. These virtual tools provided a lot of benefits to all of us, not only were their interactions better with us but also their interactions amongst their senior team. This came in terms of how everyone sits at the table together and how everyone is able to communicate and express themselves. They also talk about how much easier it is because, regardless of where people are, we’re all in the virtual room together as opposed to some people being on the phone or out of the room. This has actually made working a lot easier.
P&Q: How have client demands and even project types changed? What types of opportunities has COVID-19 and the economic downturn created for consulting firms (in general) and MBA students (in particular)?
DB: A great deal of our traditional work that attracts MBAs continues, such as our workaround strategy. Over the past few years, we’ve built out significantly our capabilities in digital, analytics, marketing, sales, and operations. Those functional-specific efforts are continuing. In the digital space in particular, as the world has gone more and more digital through the crisis, the demand for both our digital and analytics capabilities has continued to rise.
We also, unfortunately, have seen some of our clients – relative to the previous 5-10 years – experience more cash problems. Some of the work we’ve done over this period is helping our clients manage through the crisis and help make sure they are maintaining liquidity and making the right decisions in the near-term crisis to ensure they will be sustainable for the long-term.
We have spent a fair amount of our time working with clients on those sorts of topics. That is something, in a moment of economic downturn, where we provide more opportunity around.
P&Q: You’re heavily involved in efforts to recruit more women into McKinsey. What are some benefits that McKinsey offers that makes it so attractive to women?
DB: McKinsey is a great place for women to work throughout their careers. I came to McKinsey 16 years ago because I wanted to work with a wide variety of client environments. I had spent all of my time doing consumer products and retail work. At McKinsey, I know that I would be able to be constantly growing and learning. As I encountered different types of problems, I knew that I would have great team members and mentors who would help me grow over time. All of that has been absolutely true for me and it has been true for men too.
As I became a partner, I had three little boys. I was able to quite seamlessly make the choice between what I needed to do at home with three different maternity leaves and what I wanted to achieve professionally. And McKinsey has been incredibly supportive of me going out and coming back.
As a woman – and my woman peers at McKinsey often talk about this – it is really an unrivaled opportunity to have incredible client relationships and impact, helping them solve some of their toughest problems. At the same time, when you need it, you have the ability to make the right choices for your family. I can make my son’s baseball game at 4:00 on a Thursday afternoon. I can take great vacations and do other fun things like that. I think the flexibility that consulting allows is unparalleled relative to many of my good woman friends who have c-level jobs at major corporations where, frankly, they have a lot less flexibility. I think some of these transitions of going out and coming back in would be harder to do in a different company over time. McKinsey has been incredibly supportive of that and I’ve had great mentors and sponsors around me who have allowed me to have a great career and also a great family.