Meet McKinsey’s MBA Class of 2020: Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson

McKinsey Office: Atlanta, GA

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

MBA Program: UVA, Darden School of Business

Undergraduate School, Major: University of Virginia, Commerce Business

Focus of Current Engagement: Diversity & inclusion for a retail client

Why did you choose McKinsey? There were multiple layers that led me to choosing McKinsey. I heard about the prestige and strong skill sets developed at the firm. However, it was the time getting to know McKinsey firm members and them getting to know me that made me choose McKinsey.

I was inspired meeting different McKinsey members with different personalities and backgrounds, but all bright, focused, and structured in their thinking. The leaders at McKinsey were extremely knowledgeable and passionate about their work, but were even more passionate about the next class of associates to help evolve the work of the firm. My interactions with these members made me confident McKinsey could help build and hone my unique assets and thinking to realize my full potential.

What did you love about the business school you attended? There isn’t enough emphasis on the power of 1) case studies and 2) the relationships you can build with your professors and classmates.

First, the case study was more than reviewing past business cases and solving the problem – it included bringing diverse professional backgrounds to the table to explore different perspectives of solving the problem. Not to mention, it was a chance to brush up on your hard skills to provide support of your proposed solutions.

Second, I had never had the opportunity to bond with my professors and faculty at the level I did at Darden. It is not everywhere you can play basketball with your marketing professor one day and grab dinner with your ethics professor the next day.

What lesson or skill did you learn from training (formal or informal) at McKinsey and how has it helped in your role?  Before my training at McKinsey, I thought good work was all about coming up with structured ideas with supporting data. However, now in my approach to building documents and leading meetings, my thought process has changed to the following: 1) What do I want my stakeholder to know?; 2) What do I want my stakeholder to feel?; 3) What do I want my stakeholders to do? This makes a difference when it comes to driving fast moving impact.

Tell us about an “only at McKinsey” moment you’ve had so far. In my first project with McKinsey, I worked alongside executive leadership for a well-known consumer client. As I drove by one of my client’s retail stores with a friend, a sense of pride came over me for the positive impact we were driving for both the employees and customers for that company. However, I had to keep those details confidential but it became an “only at McKinsey” moment for me all the same.

Tell us something you’ve learned about yourself or something that brought you closer to teammates or clients during the COVID-19 pandemic? Without the daily human interaction, it is difficult to know what is going on in your colleague’s life outside of the planned meetings. Now, more than ever, it is important to be a little more open and vulnerable because your teammates can be there for you. None of us have to go through this difficult time alone.

What advice would you give someone interviewing at McKinsey? Don’t forget the people interviewing you are humans too. Tell your story in a structured way that you would tell your friend. Bring the same enthusiasm and curiosity when going through the case and PEI interviews; we want to know what it would be like working with you.

Who has had the biggest impact on you at McKinsey and how has she/he helped you? Darius Bates, one of the partners at my home office. From day one, he has been supportive of me and the rest of my associate class. He has unwaveringly been supportive on a professional and personal level, ensuring we are in a position to succeed. I love that he provides tactical advice – actions to take to ensure structure and growth on every client project – beyond theoretical words of inspiration (which are also great). Furthermore, he serves as a role model, making the path toward success at the firm more clear.

My most meaningful achievement (professional or personal) and how it made a difference is… Back in high school, my team was in a close football game with a few seconds left against our rival school. I was playing quarterback on the possession, so the game was dependent on my execution to make it happen. I felt the full force of the pressure, but I harnessed my internal faith and confidence to hone in on the goal. Eight seconds later, we won the game with my last second touchdown throw. That experience was a meaningful achievement for me because I understood the pure joy of achievement with a team after facing adversity. Whenever I am in a position, either professional or personal, where I am feeling adversity and pressure, I stand confident focused on the end-goal.

A fun fact about me is… I am a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and participated in the 1999 Junior Olympics. Maybe one day I can open up a gym and/or studio!



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