Life is what you make it. The same holds true for a career. That’s one reason why “Make your own McKinsey” resonates so deeply with so many MBAs from the world’s leading business schools. Home to 25,000 professionals in 120 locations, McKinsey is large enough for MBAs to quickly pursue their passions. More than that, they are given control over their career path – and the support to achieve their goals.
That’s what Aston Hamilton found when he joined McKinsey & Company in 2020. A Wharton MBA who’d previously worked in tech, Hamilton marvels at the “Make your own McKinsey” philosophy in action. “The firm highlights the sort of autonomy and ownership that you literally get from Day 1,” Hamilton tells P&Q in a March interview. “There are so many opportunities that the firm will expose you to. Then it is up to you to self-select into the things that interest you and will get you where you want to go.”
THE MISSION: CREATING POSITIVE, ENDURING CHANGE
At McKinsey, Hamilton didn’t take that path alone. He points to his professional development manager (PDM), who helps him pick out opportunities that fit his development goals. He likens the staffing process to speed dating, where he’ll jump on 10-12 Zoom calls to better understand the projects and how they align with his priorities. From there, he’ll sit down with his PDM to focus on the bigger picture.
“There is a lot of matching that happens behind the scenes,” Hamilton explains. “After you find a couple of projects that are interesting and there is mutual interest, you go back to your PDM. She provides me with that thought partnership. She doesn’t just sign off on things I might be passionate about. She’ll go back to areas I’ve prioritized or where I want to get better. For example, there may be an interesting study on analytics, but she’ll remind me I’ve done analytics all my life and should maybe pick the finance study with conceptual problem-solving instead.”
Like recent McKinsey hires, Hamilton is focused on the here-and-now, pursuing a purpose knowing he has the resources behind him to make a difference. This distinction also led INSEAD’s Krati Tripathi to join McKinsey’s London office last year. “McKinsey’s purpose – to create positive, enduring change in the world – deeply resonates with me. I was inspired by the significant role that the firm has played and continues to play in solving the most challenging, diverse global problems. I wanted to learn, contribute to making a sustainable impact and collaborate with some of the most talented people while doing so.”
GET TO SEE WHAT’S COMING FIRST
That impact is only amplified by McKinsey’s scale. In a 2020 Vault survey of over 16,000 consultants, McKinsey ranked as the top consulting firm in Economics, Energy, Environmental Sustainability, Healthcare, Management, Operations, Pricing and Marketing, Retail, Strategy, and Technology & Media. And the firm ranked among five-best in the remaining six segments too. This level of expertise, coupled with the firm’s global footprint, made McKinsey too good to pass up for Kaleigh Killoran.
“When I began my research on consulting firms, I was immediately drawn to McKinsey because of its diversity in industries, geographies, and people,” writes the 2020 Harvard Business School MBA. “Specifically, McKinsey was the most global of the firms I was interested in, both from a client base and employee perspective. It was the most diverse firms in terms of industries it serves, ranging from significant public and global health contributions to private sector product design and transformations.
Such access also enables McKinsey consultants to enjoy something entirely rare: a glimpse into the future. That’s how Danielle Bozarth frames it. A senior partner and Northwestern Kellogg MBA, Bozarth heads up McKinsey’s Consumer Packaged Goods and Retail Practice on the East Coast. For Bozarth, one of the most exciting parts of McKinsey is watching transformations emerge in their early stages, long before they disrupt their markets.
“Clients hire us to work on their toughest, most intricate problems – and the places where they anticipate the most change in the future,” she told P&Q in March. “Luckily, in many ways, we get a unique perspective on where change is going to happen before rest of the market. That is something that is pretty distinctive we get from our clients.”
THE OLDEST, LARGEST, AND MOST PRESTIGIOUS OF THE MBB
She notes, for example, that clients have told her that digital has accelerated during the pandemic, with 10 years of growth squeezed into the past year. In response, the firm has added digital experts around the world who can help clients capitalize on this surge. This emergence has also required Bozarth to re-think areas like supply chains – and how enhanced digital capabilities could re-shape processes like distribution. In addition, McKinsey is a far-flung enterprise, which means it can witness – and act on –trends early. Bozarth cites innovations in the beauty industry in Southeast Asia as an example. Thanks to working with colleagues in the region, she has been able to take the region’s lessons to CEOs in the west to help them understand what’s coming.
“We see the same thing around payments and mobile technology in Africa,” she adds. “We continue to learn a lot from what other startup innovations around the world are doing and how they are likely to impact the United States as well. So there are a lot of areas where we have not only built real capabilities where we see the growth happening and also concurrently see the growth before it happens because we have colleagues who are immersed in that part of that world where there is that growth and innovation.”
Indeed, McKinsey is regaled as the oldest, largest, and most prestigious consulting firm. Some call it a “CEO Factory” – whose off-ramp to the c-suite has produced business royalty like Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman, and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. The firm can draw resources and expertise for nearly every country, industry and function. That gives McKinsey consultants and alumni lifetime credibility with the skills, experiences, and network to watch.
Along with brainpower and teamwork, McKinsey covets diversity in all dimensions. Among 2020 hires, you find MBAs like Karina Gerstenschlager, an art history major who excelled in category management before finding her passion in sustainability. “Before I attended Kellogg, I was responsible for Bedding & Bath businesses at Walmart eCommerce. I was proud of not only growing sales each year, but of also reducing the carbon footprint by an estimated 35 tons of carbon dioxide annually per product through packaging innovations.”
MAKING “MONUMENTAL IMPACT” IN A FIRST ENGAGEMENT
In contrast, Kevin Lubega’s current engagement involves asset management and operations strategy. Three years ago, this Renaissance man was busy revolutionizing how financing was being done across East Africa. “We built products that extended financial access to large parts of the population and transformed how small businesses operate,” writes the Stanford GSB alum. “In addition to that, helping influence policy that furthered financial inclusion was particularly meaningful.”
At General Electric, Kaleigh Killoran made a similar contribution in Africa. Her team worked with Kenyan physicians to help develop financial models and business plans. “This helped them raise $2M dollars to build two medical oxygen plants in East Africa that were estimated to save more than 80,000 lives. During COVID-19 this company, Hewa Tele, played critical role in Kenya’s preparations to tackle COVID-19 by scaling up oxygen supplies needed to keep the most critically ill patients alive. The founder, Bernard Olayo, was even interviewed by Bill Gates during his Heroes In The Field series.”
Ayesha Ahmed started her career as a medical doctor, even working as a hospital administrator and chief medical officer before pursuing her MBA at INSEAD. Her career change, she writes, was spurred by a desire for greater impact. She even compared medicine to being “at the bottom of a waterfall, dealing with a cascade of issues that can only be solved upstream.” At McKinsey, Ahmed adds, she was able to make a “monumental” impact in her first engagement with a public sector COVID client.
“It was a very fulfilling achievement for me, to be able to move the needle on the impact I always wanted to create. It felt like having come full circle with my reasons for leaving medicine, getting my MBA, coming into consulting at a time of a global pandemic and being able to contribute on fighting the pandemic. It made the whole journey all the more worthwhile.”
WHAT EXACTLY DOES “McKINSEYITE” MEAN?
The Class of 2020 adds more than stellar credentials to McKinsey & Company. They also bring their full selves – and all their values, quirks, and life experiences – to the culture. When Fernanda Pupe Colaço worked in graphic design, she devised the Brazilian ice hockey team’s full uniform. The best part: the team’s cap became a fashion hit – in Russia. Aaron Wilson, a Darden MBA, holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and once competed in the Junior Olympics. In a CrossFit competition, Kaleigh Killoran won the title of “Fittest in Kenya.” Speaking of Africa, who wouldn’t want to step into Karina Gerstenschlager’s shoes when she was volunteering for a Cheetah Conservation?
“I was living in the Kalahari Desert and tracking cheetahs with a team of scientists and local wildlife trackers by day, and learning the constellations of the southern hemisphere by night. My daily run included company from the camp dog, an Anatolian named Murphy, and the locals: a family of warthogs he would chase across the trail.”
“McKinseyite” is often the term applied to McKinsey consultants. What exactly does that term encompass? Over 17 years at McKinsey, Danielle Bozarth has interacted with thousands of McKinseyites. They are “doers,” she says. They roll up their sleeves and dig into the details; they want to understand the problem and be part of the solution. More than that, Bozarth adds, McKinseyites are “intellectually curious.” They crave variety, be it working with different industries or team members. Beyond seeking growth, Bozarth notes, they are always looking to make an impact.
“These folks are excited about helping other people. We’ve increasingly seen over time that they’re excited about making the world a better place. How we define the world varies for these folks, but they have big aspirations about their ability to have an Impact on the world. They believe McKinsey is a path, be it a long-term or a short-term path, to build the skills, capabilities, and experiences to help them amplify their impact over time.”
Page 3: In-Depth Profiles of 2020 McKinsey MBA Hires